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Hue, Tint and Shade cover

Sleepwalker by Jordan Castillo Price

Series: Sleepwalker
Length: Novella - 40,153 words - 134 page PDF
Cover artist: Jordan Castillo Price - see larger cover
ISBN: 978-1-935540-14-4


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Daniel Weber ("Web" to his friends) was a promising young biology student on the fast track to a prestigious grad program. That was a year and a half ago. Now he's working a dead-end security job and living in his cousin's two-flat. Thanks to the mysterious George, he's got gaps in his memory too big for his pocket notebook to fill.

Jesse Ray Jones is the taxidermist who's trying to help the Faris Natural Sciences Center secure the MAHPS Grant, a funding that would keep the foundering organization afloat for a few more years. He looks like a skatepunk and talks like a science major, which pushes Web's every last hot-button.

It's lust at first sight…but hooking up proves difficult when a supervisor at the Center is found bludgeoned to death in the petroglyph alcove—and Jesse and Web are the primary suspects.



How much time actually passes in five minutes? Depends what you’re doing, I guess. Staring into the eyes of a guy you’re about to get naked with, five minutes probably seems like it’s there and gone in a heartbeat—but when you’re wandering through a hundred thousand square feet of dead animals and crushed dreams, five minutes can stretch to fill an eternity.

I checked my watch to make sure I hadn’t read it wrong, that George hadn’t skewed my vision, blurred something, scrambled the numbers. But no. Five minutes had passed. Nearly four hundred minutes to go until I could wander home in the cold, gray dawn. Fifty minutes until I allowed myself to take my “morning” break, which actually happened closer to midnight. No one would know if I took my break early…probably. Unless Luke or Bridget checked the security footage—and we were so understaffed, I couldn’t imagine they’d bother—but it’d be my luck that on the night I started to goof off, one of ’em would happen to click somewhere random on the playback and land on the precise second I cut myself a little slack.

Overnight lighting in the museum is low, but not pitch-dark. If tightwad Bridget could’ve figured out a way to leave the Faris Natural Sciences Center running on a single nightlight, she would have. But our insurance agents weren’t keen on leaving valuable artifacts, what few we owned, in the dark all night long. The Center could only afford a single night guard—which wasn’t nearly enough for a three-level facility—but at least that single guard wasn’t expected to have night vision. Not for $9.58 an hour.

Even though I could see in the low light, the bare minimum that Bridget could get away with and still retain our insurance, I hit every corner of the third floor display room with my flashlight anyway, then the locked emergency stairwell door and the gap between the display cases. The plexi bounced the light back at me briefly, until I shifted the angle so the beam fell on the inhabitant rather than the case. The Rock River Beaver stared back at me with his vacant glass eyes, and bared his long, yellow-brown teeth at me. Still not moving. Yet.

Though it was the biggest taxidermy beaver in North America, it wasn’t the size of him that was spooky. It was the expression on his face, something between a smile and a hiss. There was a gleam in his dusty glass eye that seemed to say, “Watch your step, buddy-boy. I can put my teeth right through your arm.”

“A full can of Pepper Shot says you can’t.”

I sighed. Another stellar moment for the security cameras to catch—me, talking to a beaver that’d been dead nearly as long as I’d been alive. Since George came to live with me, my impulse control just hasn’t been what it used to be.

I moved through to the pre-colonial section. The People of the Plains tended a cellophane fire. Not moving. Rocks and minerals of the tri-state region—hell, no one ever went in that alcove at all—not even us guards. I shone my beam at the floor and the dust was evident even by flashlight. The crap in the building generated dust like nobody’s business, but also, I suspected that Bridget had cut back on the cleaning crew in an attempt to squeeze even more blood from the turnip.

The Illinois Riverbed in dramatic cross-section. Nothing moving there, either. Fossils. Fossil castings. Diagrams explaining the fossils. And explaining the fossil castings. Not moving.

The broad marble staircase led down into the atrium, a big, hollow-sounding place where a live sycamore grew, spindly and stunted, reaching listlessly toward the skylights where daylight would begin trickling through in another four hundred minutes or so. My cousin Alex said that tree would be twice the size if it was outdoors as God intended. I probably then asked him where he’d gotten such cutting insight into what God intended, and then he’d likely clammed up, figuring it was some oblique reference to George.

When there’s a “George” in your life, suddenly everyone assumes everything you say is an oblique reference to it.

Second floor. I checked the Petroglyph Alcove, noted that someone with idle hands and a ballpoint pen had changed the lettering in the sign from “Cave Art” to “Cave FArt” yet again—and even though I’d seen it a million times before, it still made me smile. Not that it was all that clever, as far as vandalism goes. I supposed my level of amusement said something about my maturity, or lack of it. Even so, I dutifully made a note on my pad to let the cleaning crew know—if the cleaning crew hadn’t been laid off. In which case, I’d need to tell Bridget.

Administrative offices—locked. I pulled the keyring taut on its retractable tether, unlocked the door, then hauled it shut behind me. Once upon a time the pneumatic closer at the top probably worked, but like anything else non-essential in the museum, its repair wasn’t high on the list of fix-it priorities. The door led to a room that used to be a waiting room, but had since been repurposed into a break room with a mini-fridge, a water cooler and a microwave.

I suspect there was no need for a break room in the Center’s original design, since a food court had been envisioned in the atrium. What had looked promising on the drawing board and what actually came into being were often two different beasts. It’s possible they’d served hot dogs or frozen pizza once upon a time, but I couldn’t remember ever having eaten there. I couldn’t even recall seeing them with their roll-down window guards rolled up. One metal-accordioned window displayed the T-shirts for sale by the ticket counter, and another featured science projects from the Faris Middle School. Better than two empty gaps, I supposed.

At least the ad hoc break room itself was still in decent repair. It didn’t get the punishing traffic of the public parts of the building. Not that “traffic” was all that heavy, but you’d be surprised how much wear and tear the occasional field trip put on the building.

Although it was earlier than I wanted to take my break, I thought a sip of water might keep me going until it was time to put my feet up and take my pill. I went into the minuscule staff break room, held a mug under the water cooler spigot, and flipped up the tab. Or I tried to, anyway. The watercooler tab was taped down.

A note from Bridget hung from the cooler that read, “Use the sink. Water for guests.”

The sink? There was no kitchen sink in the ex-waiting room. The only tap was in the staff bathroom. Bathroom water.

More annoying still, it wasn’t even a hand-written note, something she could’ve dashed off in a sudden fit of extreme miserliness, but a typed and printed communiqué from her computer. She’d actually gone back to her office and typed something up to keep me from having a glass of paid water.

Oh, fuck you, Bridget.

My eye twitched. Down, George. It’s not worth it.

I glanced at my watch again and decided that the world wouldn’t end if I took my Neurontin half an hour early—with bathroom water.

I checked my watch. Ninety minutes down. Seven long, lonely hours to go. You’d be amazed at how long seven and a half hours can be.



Obsidian Bookshelf
Sleepwalker, which is not a paranormal, has much to offer, including black humor, a complex viewpoint character, an appealing love interest, a strongly midwestern American sense of place, and many quirky precise details placed throughout the narrative. read more...

Joyfully Reviewed
Sleepwalker is not what I expected, which is exactly what I expect from Jordan Castillo Price, and one of the reasons I love her work so much. Sleepwalker is full of suspense, anticipation, eroticism, donuts, and Mountain Dew. read more...


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