I'm happy to let you all know that I made it through another round of Karin Tabke's First Line contest. I'm one of the 30 left after the initial 100, and next week it will be whittled down to 25. Fingers crossed Mystic Taxi will make all the way to the final 5!
It's Tuesday, so it must be teasert time! The following is an excerpt from my steampunk urban fantasy WIP, Mystic Taxi:
The door to the apartment next door opened and a young woman Wanda didn't recognize poked her head out. "Gladys isn't home. Can I help you with something?"
"Yeah, um, I'm staying with your neighbor, Alva Snow? My name's Wanda and Alva's my aunt. I need to talk to Mrs. Stravinsky."
The woman narrowed her eyes. "What about?"
Busybody. "Do you know when she'll be home?"
"She had to leave town for a family emergency." The woman was petite, her light brown hair like a frilly cloud around her head. She was plain looking, but not unattractive. No make-up, no hat, no jewelry. She cleared her throat and stepped out into the hall. "I'm Mrs. Stravinsky's granddaughter, Eloise. I'll be house-sitting for her while she's away."
Wanda gave her a questioning look and jutted her chin at the apartment she just left.
Eloise offered her a tight-lipped smile. "It's vacant and the landlord gave me a key. I'm thinking about renting it so I can be closer to Gladys. To my grandmother."
She called her grandmother Gladys? Wanda wondered if it was common for folks in the city to refer to their grandparents by their first names. "Then welcome to the neighborhood. My aunt and I live on the third floor. Feel free to stop by any time."
The woman ignored her. When Eloise walked past her to Mrs. Stravinsky's door, Wanda detected a very unpleasant odor, like rotted meat. She looked down at the woman's feet and noticed her scuffed and faded shoes. Talk about old, and old-fashioned. The shoes were like the lace-ups her own grandmother used to wear. Wanda's gaze wandered up to Eloise's dress, an out-of-date number with faded floral fabric and a frayed hem. Had the woman taken over her grandmother's wardrobe as well as her apartment?
"I'm looking for a redwood box I lost in the building's basement yesterday," Wanda said to the woman's back. "You haven't seen it, have you?"
"No." Eloise stepped inside Mrs. Stravinsky's apartment and Wanda caught a whiff of sulphur mixed with stale cooking odors. "I'll keep an eye out for it." She slammed the door shut.
"Rude bitch," Wanda said. "And what the hell's she cookin' in there? Smells like spoiled onions and dog farts." She pinched her nostrils and marched down the hall to the stairs.