I realized that, because of the small printing HUNTING THE CORRIGAN’S BLOOD got when it came out in 1997, and the fact that it sold through its initial printing in about four months and then was never reprinted, even most of the folks who read my other books have not had a chance to read this book.
So even though it’s a reprint, I’m going to treat it like a new release, and give you some snippets from it over the next several weeks. And when I bring it out on the multiple platforms with its new Afterword and the first chapter from WARPAINT included, I’m also going to give my readers a 99¢ intro price. The book won’t stay at that price, but if you’re signed up for my list, you’ll get the release date and the “price good until” date.
Cadence Drake is my personal favorite of all the many, many characters I’ve written, and she deserved better treatment than she originally got. So this time I’m going to do what I can to give her a chance to keep her ship flying.
So, meet Cady as I met her, as she introduced herself to me on the first draft, on the first page I wrote of Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood, which I should have back in print plus Kindle, Nook, and iBooks in early July.
Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood is © Holly Lisle. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The corpse’s left eye squinted at me from mere centimeters away. Decomposition lent her face an increasingly inscrutable expression. The first time I’d regained consciousness, when I found myself tied to her, she looked like she had died in terror. After a while, she started leering at me, as if she had reached the place where I was going and took perverse pleasure from the thought that I would join her there soon. Now, having had her moment of amusement at my expense, she meditated; beneath thousands of dainty auburn braids, her face hung slack, bloated and discolored, the skin loosening. Threads of drool hung spiderwebbish from her gaping mouth. Her eyes, dry and sunken and filmed over beneath swollen lids, still stared directly at me.
For a while, when I’d been hallucinating, the corpse had talked to me. She’d whispered that they would come back and throw me out an airlock, into the hard vacuum of deep space; that my vile mother was stalking me; that I could never run hard enough or far enough to find freedom–that death would be my only freedom. But my mind was clear now. No hallucinations. No talking corpses. Just me and horrible pain and aching, tantalizing thirst and a stench that even several days of acclimatization couldn’t minimize; the stink of decomposition, of piss and shit, of the gangrene that I suspected was starting in on my right leg. Me … and all of that … and the body of the young woman who had waited on me during my business dinner with Peter Crane in the members-only club Ferlingetta.
I think it’s important not to overlook her. She and I, after all, were sisters of a sort. Kindred spirits. She was dead, and I was almost. We were bound together by our plight, and by flexible moleibond-braid wrist restraints that had been spot-grafted to our skin. And I figured we were where we were because we had something more than that in common. I didn’t know what, but something.
I guessed that I had been without water for almost three days. I could see the shifting of the station’s light cycles through the slats in the narrow metal door against which my rotting companion and I leaned. I recalled two separate spans of darkness and two of light. Two days that I knew of, plus whatever time I’d spent unconscious, and that felt like a lot. The gag in my mouth–permeable to air moving in but not to air moving out, so that I wouldn’t suffocate as long as I could exhale through my nose–didn’t prevent my tongue from turning into an enormous ball of hot sand. The worst thing was that my thirst didn’t distract me at all from my pain.
I hurt–but such plain words cannot convey the depth of my agony. Fire stabbed through my right side, a fire that burned hotter and more horribly with every breath I took. I’ve had broken ribs before, and I had them again. Whoever did this to me had fractured most of the bones in my right ribcage. My right hand throbbed, and when I tried to move it, the fingers didn’t respond. Perhaps my attackers jumped on it until they felt the bones give way and grind themselves into pulp. If that wasn’t what they did, it was what it felt like they had done. A million needles buried themselves deep in my thighs; my lower legs throbbed as if they had swollen beyond the capacity of the flesh to stay together and as if they would now burst. My left leg was bent so that my knee jammed into the metal wall behind the corpse, while my broken right leg twisted backward at an angle so acute the shards of my lower femur poked forward from above where my kneecap should have been like fingers trying to claw their way out my swollen, tattered flesh.
I wondered if Badger would ever find me. I didn’t think he would find me alive. Not anymore. But I didn’t want him never to know what had happened to me.
I beat my head against the metal door jammed up against my right side, and listened to the booming echoes thundering away into a cavernous, uncaring silence beyond. The first time I came around, I’d pounded myself into a stupor trying to get free or to get someone’s attention. But whoever had grabbed me had made sure I wasn’t getting out on my own … and equally sure that no one would wander along and rescue me.
My attempts at screams for help came out as throaty little whimpers, my thunderous head-banging left nothing but unbroken silence in its wake, and finally, with my head throbbing and flashing lights whirling behind my eyelids, I gave in and let darkness descend.
Giggling woke me.
The corpse was staring at me, but now she was awake, too. The warmth of our tiny cell hadn’t done her any good.
“You’re dead,” she told me. “Just like me. Now that we’re both dead, they’re going to come back and break your bones and suck out your marrow. They’re going to eat your body, and drink your blood, and beat drums with your bones.”
Delightful. It was so nice to have company.
“Nobody’s going to rescue you,” she told me, and her grin grew wider. “It’s too late for that. You and I will never tell our secrets.”
I knew all about my secrets; I hadn’t planned on telling them anyway. But I did wonder what hers were. I tried to ask her–subvocalized around the gag, but she just laughed at me.
“That’s why we’re here. We had such juicy secrets.”
I hated being dead. I hadn’t wanted to die, and I really hadn’t wanted to die at twenty-eight, beaten, shoved into a locker with a snide corpse, and deprived of the chance to make twenty million rucets.
That money would have let me pay off the loan on my ship, a refitted single-crew fantail corsair with a full-sized cargo hold and berths for twelve, a ship I’d named Hope’s Reward.
And all I’d had to do for the money was find a missing yacht, Corrigan’s Blood, that had belonged to Peter Crane, the owner of Monoceros Starcraft, Ltd., and bring it back.
The corpse flashed a wide smile; it kept growing wider as her face started to rip. The bones bulged out, and her jaws came at me, teeth gnashing. I heard them whirring and clicking and thumping … clicking … thumping … whirring …
I beat my head against the door again. Pounded it hard, trying with all my strength to break free from the hungry, grinning corpse, fighting with everything in me …