Author Howard Hopkins
The Chloe Files #1: Ashes to Ashes Teaser:
My name is Chloe Everson. I’m blonde, 5’6” and, um, thirty-something. Oh, and please don’t judge me, but I’m also a stripper at the Red Lagoon, at least I was until a few weeks ago before...well, that’s a story I can get into later. Most of the other girls call themselves exotic dancers, like it makes taking off your clothes in front of a bunch of drunken idiots classier somehow. But I am a stripper. There’s an art to it, like those burlesque girls in the old days.
I never had a lot of control over what happened in my life. In fact, most of the time I just felt like everything was sweeping me along in a rush of black water. But stripping gives me some sense of control. I know exactly what I am doing and what I can make my audience do. Anyone who gets out of line, well, Arly takes care of them.
And I know what you’re thinking: I’m one of “those” girls. Well, I’m not. It goes no farther than the dancing and never has. I have never crossed that line and I wouldn’t. I just spend a lot of time naked and I don’t mind that. Guys don’t seem to mind, either, but it’s strictly look, don’t touch.
I hope what I’ve told you won’t make you think less of me. I ended up on my own early, and had to survive somehow. I had no real skills other than dancing and I made enough money to give me some sense of power over the things in my life I might not have had otherwise.
I’ve been through a lot over the past few months, especially back around Christmas when that whole Sisters of the Snake thing was going on. You can read about that in GRIMM. It’s now a matter of record since Arly decided to hire that author to report the things we’ve seen and experienced. I mean, who would believe it if we didn’t make sure the public was able to read about it? Arly didn’t even believe in the supernatural before Angelique Ficatier and her witches came into our lives.
Me, I just write things down in my journal. I’m doing that now, sitting here in my condo, with the boxes I’ve packed piled all around me (I had plans, you know, ones that now...) I was hoping maybe someday I would be able to show it to my children, let them see what a firecracker their mother was in her day. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Like one of those old movies I like to watch. The kind where the heroes always win and the guy gets the girl and everything turns out happily ever after.
But life is not always like that and I’m afraid maybe this time I’ve lost again, lost someone who means more to me than anything in the world. I’ve lost a lot in my life. My parents were killed when I was seven and I was sent to various foster homes. My sister...I lost her, too. I haven’t been able to find her since the day I saw a couple drive off with her and leave me behind. Arly was helping me look for her, but I already tried everything I could think of. Still, I cling to a little hope that someday...
Well, anyway, I guess that’s enough about me for now, because what’s more important is that I am worried. Sorry, no, I’m not just worried. I’m scared out of my wits. Because after what happened with the Sisters of the Snake I know there are things in this world that crawl out of the darkness and into our lives. Terrible things. Inhuman things. And I’m afraid something like that has happened again. To Arly.
He disappeared about a week ago. I’ve been looking everywhere, trying everything I could think of. But I’m not the detective. Arly is. He’s the one who knows how to find people. I talked to his friend, Detective Sturdevant, about it and he’s helping but hasn’t come up with any leads yet. I can tell he’s worried too, because before Angelique Ficatier he didn’t believe in any of that ghost and demon stuff, either. I think he does now, but he’s afraid to admit it. I can’t say I blame him.
Oh, dammit, it’s starting to rain. I can see the water streaking down the slider doors that lead to the patio. I hate rain. It just makes everything more depressing right now. Makes me more afraid and more lonely and I feel like I’m just going to come apart if I don’t do something, find some clue to what happened to him.
Even though it’s raining I am thinking of driving over to Arly’s cottage to look around. I’ve been there already a few times and found nothing, but just being in his house makes me feel a little bit closer to him, so maybe I’ll try again.
What else can I do?