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Blood Hound-James Baldwin

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Blood Hound
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Автор: James Baldwin,

Жанр: Городское фэнтези, Мистика, Триллер,

Серия: Alexi Sokolsky: Hound of Eden,

Издательство: Gift Horse Productions,

Язык: en

Magic, mafia and mystery come together in the first installment of the Hound of Eden Supernatural Thriller series. Recieve your complimentary copy of , a 150-page prequel to the series, when you sign up for the Mailing List here: If Alexi heeds the Gift Horse’s call, he stands to lose everything and everyone he’s fought and killed for. If he doesn’t, the world will be held hostage by whoever finds her first—and given that a demon-summoning murderous psychopath is in pole position, the odds are not in the world’s favor. When a high-ranking Sicilian Mafioso is murdered with demonic magic and dumped on Russian territory, the Russians blame the only mage they know—Alexi. Then a key contact in the lucrative cocaine trade disappears, and Alexi is the one sent to play detective. He quickly learns that every mage and his dog are searching for a Gift Horse, a mysterious creature rumored to be made of pure magic who carries the secrets of all creation in her flesh and blood… a creature who is calling to Alexi for help. Alexi Sokolsky is not your everyday hitman. Introspective, intuitive, and fiercely intelligent, he is also a mage capable of murder with nothing but his voice and the power of his will. However, arcane ability comes with a price: The same powers that make Alexi indispensable to the Russian Mafia also make him a social outcast, an object of fear and superstition.

      James Osiris Baldwin

      BLOOD HOUND

      Thank you for picking up Blood Hound! Join my mailing list and get your free copy of Burn Artist, the Hound of Eden Prequel: http://eepurl.com/ch_6Jn

Books in the Alexi Sokolsky series Available now from Amazon and Kindle Unlimited

      Burn Artist | Book 0

      Blood Hound | Book 1

      Stained Glass | Book 2

*** Please note this book has a hyperlinked translation guide. Click any word with a link to see the meaning. Foreign words without a link have the translation in the same sentence.***

      Chapter 1

      One of the first things every new mage learns about magic is that—despite your newly discovered powers over the universe—you are forever a struggling speck of krill in a very large, very cold, very dangerous ocean.

      I was just one of many sharks swimming beneath the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan, a single quiet voice drowned by the incessant, pounding roar of the city. Tonight, the sensation of surrounding pressure was intense. We were on our way to kill a man. The target was my boss’s oldest friend, Semyon Vochin, currently hiding out at his safe house on East 49th Street. It was a solemn affair: he was one of us. We thought we had known him well.

      Our driver, Nicolai, was as grim as a pallbearer at the wheel. He was Old Crew, one of the first muzhiki[1]{1} to come from Ukraine via Afghanistan and make a name for himself in New York, just like Semyon. There was none of the usual shit-talk and banter that usually went on before a job. Semyon was a friend to nearly all the old guys in the Yaroshenko Organizatsiya[2] as much as anyone in the Russian Mafiya could be counted as a friend.

      My partner for the evening was nervous. He wasn’t new to contract work, but I was the first mage he’d ever met and he was clearly uncomfortable. Every anxious shift of his ass on the seat prickled my ears with the sound of wool on leather, squeaking like little insect legs. His name was Mari, Manny, something like that… a Bulgarian, fresh off the boat, older than I by around five years. His face was pug-like and flat, like maybe someone had once smashed it in with a skillet. I’d been sure to look him in the eye when we were introduced: a mage can tell a lot from a man’s stare. What I’d seen inside this man was a flat, dull nothingness, a void of old anger and self-entitled spite. The whites of his eyes were yellowed from too much cheap vodka and krokodil;[3] he walked with a cock-swinging swagger and had tried to crush my hand when we shook. Unfortunately for him, he reminded me strongly of my father.

      “You cool, spook?” As if feeling the weight of my thoughts on him, Manny-Mari grunted the question aloud for perhaps the fifth time that night.

      I ignored him and continued gazing out the window. My stomach swooped giddily as I watched the orange streetlights caress the pavement past my dim reflection in the glass. I realized, with a nervous little lurch behind my ribs, that we were nearly at 49th.

      Naturally, he took my silence as a challenge. “Hey, Sokolsky. Shortass. I was talking to you.”

      “And I was very carefully not listening.” I didn’t give him the benefit of a glance. All proper mages must know how to perfect an aura of impenetrable sourness, the better to discourage people from bothering us. Otherwise, they start on with the inane questions, like “Where does magic come from?” “Why do they call wizards ‘spooks’?” “Can you set this cat on fire?”

      “Iaz mi huia.”[4] My partner cursed me in Bulgarian. “Fuckin’ freak.”

      I blinked, once, and resumed my meditation. I’d been called worse things by better men.

      With these kinds of jobs, repulsiveness was the most important quality you needed in a good partner—the other requirements being religious fervor and an IQ less than a hundred. To my great relief, Manny-Mari ceased trying to get me to turn my head and settled for grumbling and cuddling into his new jacket. His suit was a better cut than anything he could have gotten in Sofia, but he was already ungrateful. America did that to people.

      I’ve tried to imagine getting off the plane or a ship from the old country the way my parents did, taking your first yellow cab through the mythic brownstone buildings and Art Deco monoliths of New York. As far as Slavs are concerned, America’s a soft carcass with all the organs you can eat, a place of unadulterated lust for thugs still stuck behind the Iron Curtain. But Nic had told me once that as hard as life in the USSR could be, the USA had its own kind of poison. The country corroded something inside you, and I’d bet anything that when the cabbie took off on you, spraying snow from the curb all up your nice new coat, and you realized he stiffed you because you didn’t know how much twenty bucks is really worth here… well, suddenly New York didn’t seem so romantic anymore.

      We turned the corner onto the silent road and came to a gentle stop in front of the apartments sheltering our target. Nic cut the engine and sat back, fingering the cigarette he’d stowed behind his ear. Manny-Mari dropped the seatbelt clip he hadn’t fastened and fussed with his hair, his belt, and his gun.

      “Hold your whiskers, tiger.” Nic’s terse, staccato Russian punctured the air of the cabin. “Briefing.”

      “Oh.” The other man dropped back into his seat.

      I hadn’t moved, save to look sidelong so I could watch Nic’s face in the rearview mirror. Nic was my Kommandant,[5] the captain who oversaw all the street teams working in Brighton Beach, Red Hook, and the Bronx. He was a dry, thin man with sun-weathered skin, heavily tattooed, and missing the tip of his left ring finger. His blue eyes were slightly cloudy with premature age, but even in his fifties, he was still as lean and sharp as a razor.

      “Vochin hired his own spook to do him up with some heavy magic. If you know what’s good for you, Moni, you’ll shut the fuck up and do what Alexi says. Anything he says. Whatever Sem’s got up there ashed the last two guys who tried to pay him a call. Hit Vochin and anything else alive you find. Make a scene, but not too much of a scene. Got it?”

      Moni—that was his name—looked sidelong at me and furtively licked his teeth. By the shift in his manner and the look in his eye, I knew what he was thinking before he said it: “And if the wife’s up there?”

      “Don’t leave a mess.” Nic’s flat voice turned a little stiff with distaste.

      Pig. I finally stirred from my seat and left the car, masking my own opinions behind a pleasant nothing-face. I put the wave of disgust aside with my first breath of fresh air. Fresh, at least, by New York standards. I could taste pennies on my tongue. The wind was metal-tinged, heavy and humid after the last summer rain, and ripe with magic.

      After you pierce the Veil for the first time and make the switch from ‘dabbler in the Occult’ to ‘mage’, something in you changes forever. You develop a sense of presence, of something else thinking behind your own thoughts. Many of the greatest mages describe it almost like another person, and it has many names: The Holy Guardian Angel, the Genius, Anima, Neshamah. I had never had the compelling relationship with this presence that other mages had described to me, but I could tell that it was less like an angel and more like a large, patient snake gazing upon a world of mice. As I tuned into the street, I could sense the Art in this part of town. Magic crept and crawled and waited in a thousand places. Some of it was old and ghostly, arcane architecture coded straight into the design of the city itself. Some of it was newer, still shining like spiderwebs. Burglar alarms, house-blessings, benedictions, curses, wards of all kinds. Wards are the most common form of magic found in cities: static enchantments written onto the energetic matrix of a structure, place, or object. Of those wards, most are really just simple alarms: they alert someone when the ward is breached.

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