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Petit Morts #3: Moolah and Moonshine

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Moolah and Moonshine by Jordan Castillo Price

Series: Petit Morts #3
Length: Novelette - 14,150 words - 48 page PDF
Cover artist: Jordan Castillo Price - see larger cover
ISBN: 978-1-935540-03-8


Find Moolah and Moonshine at the following places:



Rust. Cabbage. A vague sour odor of spoiled milk. No, that’s not the smell of the dumpster behind Sweets to the Sweet—it’s Emmett Russo’s horrible house. Everyone told him a home was a great investment, but the market went bad, he discovered a bunch of hidden problems, and now he owes more on his mortgage than the old Kansas farmhouse is worth.

If that’s not bad enough, his best friend Rosemary just landed a fabulous new job…in Paris. The Paris. And Emmett doesn’t know if he can face his horrible house without her. Emmett longs to jaunt away with Rosemary, but how can he fly with his albatross of a house dragging him down?

Enter tall, strapping Sam Kowalski, who’s rumored to be “good with his hands.”  Emmett’s not accustomed to airing his stinky secrets to just anybody, but Sam seems determined to help him out…and together they discover there’s far more hidden in Emmett’s horrible house than a bunch of weird smells.




Here’s to your new life in France. Be sure to try the toast. And even the fries. But watch out for those ticklers.

With any luck, Emmett would not be called upon to make a toast. Lately, though, he knew better than to trust his luck.

Because Rosemary was traipsing off to her new job in Paris? Because he was stuck in a far-flung suburb of Topeka with a rickety old house that was falling down around his ears? Because he’d always assumed he’d visit Paris by the time he was thirty—and Milan, and Prague, and London too—but thirty had come and gone, and he’d never even applied for a passport?

What could you call that, other than the most rotten luck in the world? He loved Rosemary so dearly, and she was leaving him in Kansas to deal with the horrible house…alone.

If he really wanted to get out of proposing a toast, Emmett supposed he could try the tactic of distraction instead. Who wasn’t stopped in their tracks by the presentation of a gift? He knew he was. But what to get her for her big bon voyage. A bottle of wine was the obvious choice, but Rosemary had been a teetotaler since the Toyota-in-the-ditch incident, which luckily had only injured her wallet. Maybe a scarf, then. She loved scarves, but she never seemed to wear them. And besides, she’d spent the past few weeks giving away everything that didn’t fit inside her hot pink Samsonite luggage set.

Emmett scowled at the pompously overdecorated row of storefronts in search of inspiration. Handmade jewelry. Hand-dipped candles. Handcrafted everything, and all of it perfectly hideous. The human touch was clearly overrated.

Purchasing a dry cabernet, presenting it to Rosemary and proceeding to drink it all himself was beginning to look like the most logical course of action when the sound of a tiny bell registered on the threshold of Emmett’s hearing. He turned to look, and saw a shop he’d missed on his initial sweep of the street. A candy store.

The name Sweets to the Sweet was painted on the window in nearly illegible artistic scrawl. The building wasn’t quite as tarted-up as stores on either side. It was small enough to be “cute,” tucked as it was into the shadows of the hulking gingerbread-covered specialty boutiques.

Rosemary always said candy went right to her ass.

Chocolate, then. Perfect.

Emmett stepped in out of the wind, and the bell tinkled as he pulled the door shut behind him.

The smell was the first thing to hit him, a wall of dark, rich scent so powerful it seemed too thick to breathe. It was so tangible Emmett pulled off his glasses and buffed them on the edge of his sweatshirt, as if the aroma might leave a film on his lenses. It smelled of chocolate, yes, but beneath that, hints of other things lingered, strange things Emmett had no name for. In a way it reminded him of his house, the dilapidated thing that was supposed to be such a wonderful investment, but had turned out to have secret pockets of mysterious smells, odors released by various materials in various stages of decay, all of them contributing to the imminent demise of the structure that was supposedly completely sound when the inspector picked through. The inspector whose phone was then disconnected, whose office was now housing an after-school job program.

A violent hiss startled Emmett and he flinched. The espresso machine. He put his glasses back on. A young, dark-haired man behind the counter smiled to himself as he filled an espresso cup, then he turned toward Emmett and said, “You look like you could use a drink.”

Emmett never treated himself to expensive coffee anymore. Not since the house had taken a nosedive, anyway, and taken his entire savings with it. But the brown foam on the top of the espresso clung to the porcelain, the tiny bubbles glinting rainbow-colored with dark coffee oils, and he figured a few more bucks wouldn’t matter one way or the other. He leaned across the counter, feeling suddenly middle-aged in the face of the shop clerk’s flawless youth, took the small cup he was handed, and said, “Thanks.”

The clerk was dressed in a chef’s uniform, with herringbone pants, a red bandanna knotted around his throat, a black apron dusted with cocoa, and a black chef’s coat with the name Chance embroidered in red over his heart. Emmett wondered who would name a newborn baby “Chance,” but maybe it fit him.

Chance’s smile turned slightly wicked, and Emmett realized he’d been caught staring. He looked down through the glass counter with sudden and profound intensity. “I need a gift.”

“You can’t go wrong with chocolate. Of course, I could be biased.”

“Got anything that’ll go right to someone’s ass?”

Chance laughed—a small breath, an exhalation—but it comforted Emmett to know that at least he was still amusing. “All of it.”

“Great. Give me something that would make a girl ‘ooh’ and ‘ah.’ And, uh, I’ve only got twenty bucks.”

Chance set a small black box on the countertop and placed a square of blood red paper inside to line it. “I sense a mixed message. Color me intrigued.”

“Oh, right, I see what that sounds like. It’s for…she’s my best friend.” Emmett stared harder at the countertop. The recessed can lights above threw perfect yellow circles onto the reflective glass, and before he considered that he was telling a perfect stranger something quite personal, he said, “She’s leaving.”

Beneath the reflected orbs of light, Chance’s hand moved between the chocolates, flitting from one to another and back again, as if it was of utmost importance he select the perfect piece. “You make it sound pretty final.”

“She’s going to Paris. The tacky little shoe store she manages got bought out by some French setup and they’re sending her to Paris, all expenses paid. Paris. The Paris. What are the chances she’ll ever be back?”

“If you’re so hungry for Paris, then why not go with her? Your friend won’t mind. Will she? I’m sure she’d love the company.” Chance’s hand hovered over a chocolate with a perfect whorl on top. Emmett whispered, “That one,” and it was plucked from the display and placed in the red-lined box.

Emmett stared hard at the spot where the chocolate had been. It was now a gap, a space, a place where something had once been, but now there was nothing. “That’s what she said,” he admitted after a long and very heavy pause.

Chance shifted the chocolates in the box, and when it became painfully obvious that Emmett didn’t plan to elaborate, said, “And?”

“And I can’t.”

“Allergic to airplanes? Go the old-fashioned way. On a ship.”

“No, that’s not it.” Of course the clerk thought he was afraid. Everyone else figured Emmett for a coward, so why not a total stranger? “It’s just…it’s complicated.”

“I see,” Chance said, in a tone that made it clear he didn’t, not at all.

Emmett could have given him a dozen grisly details about the house—a horrible place that grew more horrible with each new discovery: dry rot, termite damage, and of course, the smells….but he knew the more he explained, the more it sounded like he was making excuses. “My money’s all tied up in a house I can’t sell.”

Chance selected another chocolate, tucked it into the box, then looked at Emmett expectantly. “It needs too much work,” Emmett added.

“I think you should talk to Sam.”

“No, that’s okay, I…” the lie that Emmett was about to tell to deflect Chance’s concern died on his tongue—the lie he used so often that some part of him clung to as if it was true. That he was working on it. That he had a contractor. Yes, once upon a time there had been a contractor. And he’d done a great job on the rotting porch roof. But the estimate for shoring up the basement posts where the wood had gone so soft you could drive nails into it without a hammer—that five-figured number had been the start of Emmett’s stages of house-grief. Denial. Anger. Acceptance.

“I can’t afford to fix it.” Emmett said it so quietly, the words were lost in the hiss of the espresso machine.

Chance closed the box and slipped a red band around it. “He’ll be here any minute. What could it hurt?”

“He works here?”

“I don’t think he’s got the temperament to work for me.” Chance smiled to himself. “He comes here to sit, right around five thirty. And nurse a single coffee until close.”

Emmett glanced at the clock. Twenty-nine minutes after five, and his espresso was still hot enough to scald his tongue. He supposed it wouldn’t hurt to talk to this Sam person—a retired builder, maybe? Or a tradesman? Plumber? Electrician? He wasn’t afraid. If this Sam had a lot of time on his hands, maybe he’d at least have some bit of advice, some words of wisdom as to where Emmett could start patching up the awful house. That way, if the market ever turned up again, and he’d repaired the worst of the damage, he might actually be free of the place within his lifetime.

The bell over the door jingled, and Emmett turned with his espresso raised to his lips expecting to see “Sam” right on cue—white hair covered by a tall, stiff baseball cap, maybe in overalls, with a wrench in his hand—but instead, Mr. Tall, Dark and Twenty-Something ducked in out of the wind.

Emmett went still. The other customer might have been a bit plain by some people’s standards, but Emmett had never been impressed by showy guys with tanning bed skin tones and teeth bleached to the point of glowing in the dark. He liked a manly man, preferably taller than him—like this guy. Their eyes met briefly, then the other customer nodded and hung back a few steps, waiting his turn.

“Right on time,” Chance said. He poured a cup of coffee.


The Petit Morts Series

#1: Hue, Tint and Shade by Jordan Castillo Price
Yellow is as yellow does.

#2: Slings and Arrows by Josh Lanyon
It's a fine line between "secret admirer" and "stalker".

#3: Moolah and Moonshine by Jordan Castillo Price
If you ever go to France, watch out for those ticklers.

#4: Other People's Weddings by Josh Lanyon
Pulling off the perfect wedding can be murder.

#5: Spanish Fly Guy by Jordan Castillo Price
A new twist on liquid courage.

#6: Pretty Ugly by Jordan Castillo Price
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...usually.

#7: Sort of Stranger Than Fiction by Josh Lanyon
They always say to write what you know.

#8: One Less Stiff at the Funeral by Sean Kennedy
Chocolate makes everything better. Even a eulogy.

#9: Critic's Choice by Josh Lanyon
It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was.

#10: Wishink Well by Jordan Castillo Price
You can't get something for nothing.

#11: Happily Neverafterby Jordan Castillo Price
All's well that ends well.

#12: London Eye by Clare London
Give credit where credit is due.

#13: Spirits and Second Chances by Sean Kennedy
The past can come back to haunt you.

#14: Just Desserts by Josh Lanyon
Pick your poison.

#15: Loose Change by Sean Kennedy
If there's one thing you can always count on, it's change.

#16: Media Naranja (Other Half) by Clare London and Jordan Castillo Price
There's someone for everyone.

#17: Immortal Coil by Jordan Castillo Price
Love is more than skin deep.

Petit Morts



Well Read - "This was definitely the most bizarre out of the stories in the collection, but it was also perhaps the most optimistic and gratifying. In many ways the story is about former missed opportunities and future grasped ones."

Reviews by Jessewave - "Moolah and Moonshine had many unexpected twists and turns and I loved the reactions of Sam and Emmett as they fed on each other in deciding what to do with their new circumstance."

Two Lips - "In Moolah and Moonshine, the third of the Petit Morts, author Jordan Castillo Price tackles a subject near and dear to many of us: how to survive in a failing economy."

Obsidian Bookshelf - "I was intrigued by Moolah and Moonshine, which takes a startling detour from the contemporary I was expecting (complete with real-world details on home repair) into a fantasy."

Joyfully Reviewed - "Just when I thought Moolah and Moonshine was nice and interesting, albeit unusually normal compared to Price’s usual eccentricity, things become distinctively different. Moolah and Moonshine is intriguing, romantic, and has a fantastic twist."



A sweet, sad story of hope

Here's where it all started!

A Channeling Morpheus short
striking sparks
A PsyCop Novelette starring Crash
Hue Tint and ShadeHUE, TINT & SHADE
Yellow is as yellow does