Home > Bell, Book and Scandal

Bell, Book and Scandal
Author: Josh Lanyon


Chapter One



I scowled and sucked on the slice across the pad of my thumb. I didn’t taste blood, the papercut wasn’t that deep, but my tongue tingled with the flavor of…


I picked up the letter opener, slit open the envelope, and several glossy black-and-white photos spilled out and slid across my desk.

Black and white? Who took black-and-white photos these days? Who took photos these days? That’s what phones were for, right?

I reached for the nearest photograph, studied it curiously—and dropped it as though it had burned my fingertips.

A man and woman locked in naked—very naked—embrace.

I didn’t recognize the man, though the large tattooed pentacle on his back indicated maybe I should.

The woman was my sister-in-law. Jinx.

I drew in a deep breath.

Well, this was…unexpected. And unwelcome.

I bowed the envelope to check for a letter. I was anticipating something with misshapen letters cut from magazines and spelling trouble, but there was nothing. Just the photos.

Not that that wasn’t plenty right there.

I rested my fingertips on the photos, closed my eyes, concentrated… To my surprise, there it was. The scintilla of the arcane. Magic.

I opened my eyes.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Was there any possibility this wasn’t a threat? That the intent was…what? Hey, here’s something you might want to keep an eye on? I considered that theory hopefully, but I couldn’t quite convince myself that these photos had been sent with anything but ill intention.

To what end, though?

Money, right? That was the way these things usually worked. Not that I had any practical experience of blackmail.

Yes. Blackmail.

It wasn’t a complete surprise.

Or rather, yes, it was a surprise—especially given that Jinx seemed to be the target—but we weren’t the first family in San Francisco to get one of these poison parcels. John had been losing sleep—a lot of sleep—over the past month with the discovery that the city’s high society appeared to have fallen prey to a well-connected extortion ring.

John is John Galbraith. My husband—but more importantly, in this context at least, SFPD’s new police commissioner.

The plot had only come to light because one of the victims, the Rev. Canon Angela Tzeng had had the guts to go to the police and report an attempt to blackmail her. Tzeng was supposed to be consecrated October 1st as the first female bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, but her courageous move had been rewarded by the blackmailer releasing information about a teenaged pregnancy to the press. It was the Twenty-First Century. You’d think— But you’d be wrong. The revelation of Tzeng’s youthful mistake was damning information in the eyes of both the public and the diocese. Now Tzeng’s very future in the church was in question.

Needless to say, no other victims had come forward. Not openly. Not officially. But they were out there.

“Someone’s going to get killed,” John had said the other night. He was not a guy for kidding around, and he was not kidding then.

I considered the pile of photos before me. I couldn’t help thinking that choosing Jinx as a blackmail target was kind of a stretch.

Yes, these photos were revealing and embarrassing, but at twenty-five, Jinx was a grown woman. The fact that she was a sexually active grown woman would likely only come as a shock to John. She did not hold public office. She was not married. There was no reason I could see that she shouldn’t have sex with whoever she pleased, although I had to wonder about her good sense in choosing a guy who’d branded himself with the Sigil of Baphomet.

Jinx had been studying with the Duchess for the past few weeks, so she surely knew better. And if this guy was not a poser, if he was Craft, he ought to know better too. But this photo might be months old. When I’d first met Jinx, she’d been a little bit of an occult fangirl. Actually, she was still a little bit of an occult fangirl.

But I digress. As usual.

That the photos had come to me, made me wonder if Jinx had already been approached and had brushed it off. You have to care a lot about what other people think to make a good blackmail victim. When it came to what other people thought, Jinx had, in the mortal vernacular, zero fucks to give. In fact, there had been a time, and not so long ago, when I thought she’d have taken delight in appalling both John, who was twenty years her senior, and her mother, Nola.

And when it came to Nola, who could blame her? I felt the urge to appall Nola now and then myself. Not that I had to try. My existence was enough to keep my mother-in-law in a constant state of pall.

Which meant what?

That the real target was me? The assumption being that I would pay up to keep Jinx’s past from embarrassing her? From embarrassing me? No. From embarrassing John.

Of course.

Because John was the vulnerable one. As Police Commissioner, San Francisco’s first gay police commissioner at that, John was the one with something to lose. The news that the police commissioner’s younger sister was a devil worshipper (oh, I could already hear all the idiotic and ignorant things people would say) would certainly bother the hell out of John—and might even impact his political future. John was an ambitious man. A man with a plan.

So why not send this packet to John?

Oh, right. Because John was as honorable as he was ambitious. He would not be blackmailed. He would see Jinx burned alive—in the court of public opinion, that is—before he paid one cent of blackmail money.

The blackmailer was relying on me to pay up to protect John from himself.


If I had learned anything in the four months I’d been married to John, it was that honesty was the best policy. At least with John.



When I stepped out of the office, I found Blanche, my assistant, struggling valiantly to load a seventeenth century Nuremberg wrought-iron pirate chest onto a hand truck.

Blanche is a curvaceous fifty-something. She’s an expert on eighteenth century jewelry, makes the best vegan cheesecake this side of Sacramento, and favors Elvira Mistress of the Dark eye makeup. She is also Wicca, a loyal friend, and a great employee. What she is not, is a deckhand or a longshoreman. I rushed to her aid.

“What the—? Blanche, you’re going to throw your back out.”

She gasped out, “No worries,” but hastily moved out of my way.

I managed to redirect the chest’s landing so it did not topple over the tall and very narrow Italian Regency apothecary chest. Blanche leapt to save the gilt and violet SF & Co. water basin and pitcher rocking precariously on the nearby dining table.

“No worries? This thing’s nearly two hundred pounds.” I managed to shimmy the loading platform beneath the bottom of the trunk and leveraged it a few inches off the floor. Awkwardly, I maneuvered my unwieldly cargo through the obstacle course posed by plush carpet and fragile furniture to its new home by the large bay windows at the front of Blue Moon Antiques’ showroom. I lowered it to the floor with a little oof of relief.

“It is heavier than it looks,” Blanche admitted.

I glanced around the long, furniture-crowded space. Sunlight gilded old wood and fragile porcelain, glittered off a decorative string of benignly smiling jack-o’-lantern faces.

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