Excerpt from Coffin Box

I didn’t want to get any closer to the dark aura, but I had a job to do. Not only was Marjorie expecting us to do an appraisal; now that we knew there was a dangerous magical object involved, we had a responsibility to Sorren and the Alliance to figure out what was wrong.

“I don’t think the problem is with the desk itself,” I said finally, letting my hand hover above the hand-rubbed, teak surface. The piece was beautiful, and despite its age, well cared-for. Setting a value on it wouldn’t be difficult. “But I’m getting a second-hand disturbance, like something that’s in or on the desk is causing the problem. Until we know what it is, I don’t want to touch the desk myself.”

Teag opened the upper right-hand drawer and found the cigar cutter. He brought it over to me, and held it while I passed my hand an inch away, testing the vibes. I shook my head. “Sometimes a cigar cutter is just a cigar cutter,” I said. “No mojo.”

We both turned to look at the humidor. Good cigars are expensive, and I was betting that Peyton Stedman smoked the best money could buy. Aficionados didn’t want their smokes to dry out, so humidors were storage boxes that kept the humidity just-so to preserve those pricy stogies. They could run from a few hundred bucks to tens of thousands, and looking at the one on Stedman’s desk, I figured it had come in on the high end of the estimate.

“Brazilian rosewood,” Teag murmured, looking closely at the burled, rich wood. The lid and edges were beautifully inlaid. The hinges were gold-plated. It was a work of art, and as hot as a bookie’s ledger.

“Strike one,” I replied. “That’s a protected wood species—not supposed to be able to cross international borders. She can’t legally resell it.”

Teag pulled out a pair of white curator linen gloves from a pocket. He put them on, and carefully opened the lid, standing off to the side just in case something unexpected popped out. We both exhaled when nothing happened.

“Strike two,” he said quietly. “Cuban cigars.” I peered over his shoulder. Nestled next to the Gurkha Black Dragons—the most expensive cigars on the market—were a tidy number of Montecristo grand coronas. Sure, the Montecristos made in the Dominican Republic were legal in the U.S. But I was pretty certain a connoisseur like Stedman would want the real Havanas, and they were still embargoed. Which made the humidor a double problem for Marjorie.

I inched closer, and willed myself to stretch out my hand. Teag stood behind me, intent on not letting me fall again. There was no way around this. I had to do it, but I didn’t want to.

The instant my fingers touched the rosewood, stone-cold evil curled up my skin. The vision hit me like a train wreck.