Excerpt from The Final Death

I braced myself, and stretched out my hand. I felt a tingle when my fingers brushed the envelope. Then I jostled the ivory disk onto the table, and took a good look.

The yellowed disk probably came from a whale bone or an elephant tusk. Back in the 1800s, such things were legal. Sailors have been making elaborate carvings to while away the time almost since the first ships left sight of land. Some of the pieces are in museums. Modern scrimshaw artists work from materials that don’t come from endangered animals, and a slew of government agencies take a dim view of people harming protected species to make jewelry.

This particular piece looked very old. I was betting it was ivory from the rich patina. It might have been a button for a cloak, or even a pin. The carving was neatly done, and ink had been rubbed into the cuts so that the design stood out in contrast. “It looks like a very embellished ‘W’,” I said.

Teag nodded. “That would make sense. My friend said he was over at the Wellright plantation.”

I glanced at him. “The Wellright place isn’t abandoned.”

“You’re thinking of the ‘new’ mansion—the one built in the 1850s, just before the Civil War,” Teag said. “Ninja explored the old mansion—not much left now except the foundation and some old cellars. Burned down in the late 1840s. Lots of places did back then, with all the candles and lamps and cooking on open hearths.”

I had friends over at the Historical Archive and at the Lowcountry Museum. Once I’d handled the disk, I decided to do some digging on the Wellrights’ history. “Here goes,” I said, and closed my hand over the ivory disk.

I saw the scene through the eyes of the person who had worn the disk. She—I was certain the person was female—was running through the woods, in fear for her life. It was dark, and the branches tore at her clothing. My heart thudded in terror. I didn’t know what was chasing me through the darkness, but I was sure that if it caught me, I would die.

Looking through the eyes of the ivory disk’s owner, I could see glimpses of moonlight breaking through the thick canopy of trees. The path ahead was shadowed, and I kept stumbling on the uneven ground. I knew that whatever was behind me was getting closer. I was crashing through the underbrush. It moved noiselessly. It was faster than I was, but I knew the forest. I kept running, barefoot now since I had kicked off my shoes long ago. Sweat ran down my face. I gasped for breath. If I could make it to the edge of the forest, I might find help. I ran until I glimpsed a clearing with a well and a half-circle of tall trees. Almost there.

Behind me, I heard a growl, then something ripped the cloak from my shoulders—