>Excerpt: Drum Mage

>Have an excerpt. This is from one of the works in progress that’s kind of low on my priority list. I’ve done some work on it, and I’ll get around to finishing it, eventually. The chapters follow the Wheel of the Year, and this will be the last chapter, which I think will be novella-length.


It had been a good night at the club. I could tell that the place was packed. The air was thick and sticky with cigarette smoke, stale sweat, and cheap beer fumes. It was hot, and I’d stripped off my shirt at the beginning of the second set, to the cheers of the girls down front. We’d be called for another week here before too long, if the approval of the crowd was any indication.
It had been a really good night, and more so because the last night of any engagement always rocked. Mary’s vocals had been tight and dead-on, and I’d nailed mine. The drums had been hot tonight, like something alive, and I’d felt the beat deep down in my core. I loved it when the drum energy just started moving like that. It was… primal. Alive. Finishing felt like coming down off a really great high. I heard Maxie sign us off, and the applause, and felt around by my feet for my shirt. Gone.
“Hey, Mary!” I called out, “C’mere for a minute.”
“What’s up?” I heard her picking her way around the drum kit.
“Can’t find my shirt. You see it? I thought I put it under my stool.”
She rested her hand on my shoulder as she looked, “Nothing there. I think you lost another one. Stevie, you really need to leave your shirt on. You might go home with it more often.”
“Now where’s the fun in that?” I teased. She laughed and kissed my cheek.
“Well, I know one person who isn’t going to complain. He’s off in the back corner.”
“He’s here?” I hadn’t expected him back until tomorrow.
“Got in as we started the second set. You going to need help?”
“Mirage knows how to find him. Go have fun.” I grinned. “Is my jacket still around?”
“They probably didn’t know it was yours,” she said as she passed it over to me and I slipped it on. “See you next week?”
“Friday night. When do we rehearse next?”
“The Tuesday after. My place.”
I nodded and whistled, holding my hand out. A moment later, a cold wet nose was sniffing at my palm – my seeing-eye dog, Mirage. She whined, and I laughed, finding the harness and standing up, “I know, baby. Too loud. Sorry, they don’t make doggie ear-muffs. Come on. Forward.”
She started moving, and then stopped when we reached the stairs that led off-stage. No railing, as usual, but I managed. And at the bottom, we were surrounded by a gaggle of giggles. Slightly drunk giggles. No, make that very drunk giggles.
“Hi… umm…. can we have your autograph, please?” one of them managed to get out. They sounded young, and I smiled while making a note to talk to the house manager about fake I.Ds.
“Sure.” I let go of the harness with one hand, and reached into my back pocket with the other. And nothing was put into my hand. Instead, I heard more giggles, and the soft sound of fabric sliding over skin.
Ah… that kind of autograph.
Even after almost a year of playing in clubs like this, I found it hard to believe that none of these girls ever noticed Mirage, or the cane I used occasionally. Who exactly was the blind one here?
“Ladies, I really don’t think you want me to sign you there… with this.” I held up the thin plastic Braille punch and metal stylus that I usually used when I signed autographs. “Might be painful. Got a pen?”
They did. Naturally. And the giggle managed to stand still long enough that I could scrawl something illegible on her chest. Although she did sway a bit. Kind of like she was stuck in a very hard, extremely slow-moving wind.
They all thanked me, and several others wanted their own autographs, so I was stuck there for a few minutes (one of them actually wanted me to use the punch. Either very drunk, or… well, I said no). Then they wanted me to come to their party.
“It’ll be a lot of fun. Some drinks, a few other people….” One of the girls wheedled as she tucked her arm into mine. “Come on. We’ll make it worth it.”
y, I unwound her arm and found Mirage’s harness, “Thanks, but no. I already have a date, and he’s waiting for me.”
They made varying sounds of disappointment, but they did eventually get the hint, and I finally got through.
“Mirage, find Nick,” I said, and felt her tug me forward. People got out of our way as we moved through the room; one of the benefits of having a seeing-eye dog is that people do tend to get out of her way. A couple of them complimented me on the show and on the drums. But no one stopped us, and Mirage finally came to a stop in a slightly quieter corner of the club. I reached out, found a chair, and sat down.
“How long have you been here?” I asked.
“Just over an hour. You sounded good.” It was wonderful to hear his voice again, deep and rough, with the tiniest hint of the Russian accent that he never really could quite lose. He’d been gone for a week, and I’d missed him. “What happened to your shirt?” he asked.
“Vanished again. I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.”
“I caught an earlier flight.” I heard him exhale, and caught the smell of the expensive cigarettes that he rarely smoked anymore. These days, he only smoked when he was stressed. And I could guess at why he was stressed this time.
“She wouldn’t let you see Natalie this time, huh?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said sharply, and changed the subject. “Quite the little following you have there.”
I groaned and leaned back in the chair, “It’s a status thing for them. Half of them just want to get with the drummer because it’s cool. And the other half think that they’re going to be the one to convert me.” I snorted, “Makes it sound like I can be a born-again het.”
That got a laugh out of him. “Must be one hell of a baptism.”
“Nick, that’s disgusting.” I shoved my chair closer to his. “I missed you.”
“I missed you, too,” he said, his voice softening. “That’s why I caught the early flight. What did you have planned for tonight?”
“Grabbing a burger and getting some sleep,” I answered immediately. Which he knew. I never went out if he wasn’t with me. The only other person I was willing to get in a car with was Mary, and she and Maxie usually had their own plans for after a show.
He leaned in closer to me, enough that I could feel his breath on my skin, “Feel like changing plans?”
That tone in his voice… my pulse was ringing in my ears like one of my drums, “I could be convinced. What did you want to do?”
In answer, he hooked one finger through the heavy silver chain that I wore around my neck, and twisted. The metal tightened against my skin, and I gasped. He pulled me in closer to him, and I could barely hear him speak before he kissed me.
He’d come right from the airport, and the car was parked across the street. I zipped my jacket up against the cold October winds, and let him lead me across to the car. Mirage went into the backseat, and I sat down on the passenger side and let him slam the door. He climbed into the driver’s side a moment later, and stopped me as I reached for the seatbelt.
“Hands,” he murmured.
Oh. It was going to be that kind of night. I dropped my hands into my lap and let him reach across me and cinch the belt around me, over my wrists. It was a token only; I could easily slip out from under it if I needed to. But it told me what to expect. And what the drive was going to be like.
He unzipped my jacket, and pushed it off my shoulders, further pinning my arms. The leather seats were cold on my bare back, almost to the point of pain, and I winced. And heard a click as he started the seat heater. Then he started the car, and we pulled out into traffic.
“Are we going straight home?” I asked.
“Maybe.” I heard him laugh, and then we turned. We drove for a while, making what had to be random turns that I knew had to be solely to confuse my sense of direction, and then getting on the highway. That was when I really knew we weren’t going home. So what was he up to?
After a little while, we got off the highway, and he pulled over and unclipped my seatbelt. I heard the glove-box open. “Move forward a bit and give me your hands,” he ordered.
I nodded, and scooted forward in my seat, turning to hold my arms out towards him. And something narrow was snugged over each wrist with a familiar zipping sound.
“I stopped at the hardware store. Shut up and put your arms behind your back.”
He was deep in dom-space, and after a week alone, I was more than ready to respond. I turned my back to him, and shifted so my arms were behind me. Another zip, and my wrists were secured behind my back. He pulled my jacket further down my arms, and ran his nails down my spine.
“Sit back.” He sounded very satisfied with himself. I resettled into the seat, and he reached across me and refastened the belt. Then we started moving again. I was starting to wonder where we were really going; maybe out into the suburbs. There was a lot of parkland out there that was easily accessible late at night. And it wasn’t like we hadn’t done this before. But the last time had been in May.
“Nick, isn’t it too cold to play outside?” I asked.
“I didn’t ask you,” he answered. His dom voice. Very harsh. Very stern, with more than a hint of that wonderful accent. And he knew it made me want to bare my throat for him. But there was also a certain amount of resistance that he expected.
I turned towards him, “I know. But can we please just go home? It’ll be more comfortable.”
He laughed, “Who says I want you comfortable?” He found my nipple with his nails, and I moaned. He knew what this did to me; I’d been hard before the second zip-tie. Even if it was too damn cold.
His hand dropped to my leg, “We’ll be there… holy..SH…!” His hand disappeared, and I heard the screaming of the brakes. The car fishtailed, and the seatbelt across my chest suddenly felt like it was made of steel, pinning me back against the seat. Then…. nothing. The car stopped, and I heard Nick cursing in Russian. But from a distance. I wasn’t really… there at that point. Instead, I was in a different place. A different car. Screaming brakes, a screaming woman, a sickening crash, and the last thing I ever saw – blood spilling over broken glass.
“Steven!” I could hear Mirage barking, Nick calling my name, and a note of panic in his voice. And I noticed that the seatbelt was gone. I shifted, and felt the zip-ties dig painfully into my wrists; I must have pulled too hard on them.
“Steven, talk to me. Come on, Styopa. You’re all right.”
I nodded. I was all right. We hadn’t hit anything. No one was hurt. No one died.
But I could still hear the echo of Maureen screaming.
That was when I started shaking. And the first thing out of my mouth was my safe-word, “Oatmeal.”
“All right, mily. All right.” The dom-voice was gone. Now he was talking to me like he would to his daughter, low and calm. I heard him rummaging around, and then he cursed softly, “Dammit. Steven, I can’t cut you out. My knife is at home.”
“What?” I could barely get the word out with my teeth chattering. He felt my face and cursed, then reached over and pulled my jacket up properly, zipping it up.
“I had to leave it home, because of the flight. I don’t even have a nail cutter.” I heard more movement, and then his smoke-scented jacket was being tucked around me, “Stay with me, Styopa. No going into shock. We’ll be home in soon. I will drive slow. We’re safe.”
He belted the seatbelt around me, and started the car. I shuddered as I felt it start to move, and jumped when he touched my leg.
“We’re going home. Are you all right? Talk to me. Did you hurt yourself?” When I didn’t answer immediately, he slapped my leg. Hard. “Talk, dammit.”
I nodded quickly, and regretted it, “Not all right. My back.”
“Shit.” It came out sounding like stuttering snake. “We’ll be home in a few minutes. I’m sorry, Steven. It was a deer. Came out of nowhere.”
“She’s fine.” I heard him laugh, “And so are you. Worried about that damn dog.”
I tried to shift my wrists, and felt the plastic dig into my skin, “Where are we?”
“Our favorite park. Last time I came running, I found a new path down to the clearing. Thought you’d like being dragged through the woods and tied to Fergus’ tree.”

Maybe in spring.” I was still cold, but the two jackets and the seat heater were helping. Now it was just pain. “How close?”
“Five minutes.”
Several minutes later, I heard the click of the garage door opener, and he pulled the car into the garage and stopped the engine. He got out, let Mirage out of the back seat, and then came around and opened my door. As he leaned in and reached across me to get the belt, he stopped and cupped my cheek in one hand, “Steven, I’m sorry. I just… it’s been a shitty week. I wanted…”
I nodded, “I know. I wanted it, too. But not now. Tomorrow. Right now, I need my drugs.”
The belt went loose, and his jacket fell away, “Okay, I’ll get them. Come on.”
He had to help me out of the car, and then hold me up when my legs didn’t want to work. I tripped and almost fell on the stairs into the house, which only made my back ache more. By the time he pushed me into a chair in the kitchen, I was ready to cry like a baby from the pain.
“Can you lean forward?” he asked. I tried, and almost fell off the chair. He sighed, “All right. Stand up.” I did, and felt something cold slip between my skin and the zip-tie. A moment of pressure, and then it was off. He cut the other wrist free, raised my arm, and kissed the wrist, “You are going to have bruises. I feel like such an idiot. I have got to leave a knife in the car.”
“Later,” I mumbled, trying hard to concentrate through pain. “Meds?”
“Right. Sit.” He pushed me back into the chair, and walked away. Pills rattling, water running, and then he was back, tucking two pills into my hand and putting a glass into my other hand.
Deliverance. Better living through chemistry. I swallowed the pain killer and the muscle relaxant, and the countdown started. They worked very well. And I was usually unconscious within twenty minutes. It would be less tonight; I hadn’t eaten since lunch. I told Nick, and he groaned.
“So much for even getting any conversation tonight. All right. Bedtime.”
I remember taking my shoes off. The rest was a blur that faded into quiet, dreamless dark.

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