Excerpt of the week: Ragnarök Willie

Since I finally made the fateful decision to start down the long and scary path of querying my mythica novel, Ragnarök Willie, I figured this would be a good time to share a couple of new excerpts, one below and another on my updated Ragnarök Willie webpage.

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Ragnarök Willie

C.R. Hodges

Chapter 6: Tack–Thanks

Ragnarök Willie dragged me outside into a stiff fall breeze, another cigarette lit before the door closed behind us. A ten-minute walk, fifteen by the time he lit and smoked two more cigarettes, past the gourmet café I had stopped at earlier, ending up at a seedy pub near the wharves, filled with inebriated sailors of multiple nationalities.

He ordered two beers, coffee forgotten. I was unlikely to be able to get a latte in any case. “Now tell me why the bloody ‘ell you are here.”

I launched into a refrain of the reporter spiel but he gripped my collar, pulled my face close to his, coughed twice, and repeated, “Why the bloody ‘ell are you here, boy?”

“I’m just a reporter for Corren. I do what Mist asks.”

“That isnae so bloody far from the truth. Let’s try again. Why would Mist be sending you?” he asked, the gravel in his voice more like rocks in a shovel now.

“She wants a story on your dig. In Abisko.” I couldn’t quite bring myself to say in Valhalla.

“Not exactly. She wants to know what I’ve found. Are you her spy?”

“Spy? I’m a reporter.” My first journalistic righteous indignation. If he hadn’t been breathing into my nose I would have been pleased with myself.

“You flunked out of the Chalmers archeology program; you took just a wee semester of journalism.” I blinked; he smiled. “I may be an old fart, but I do know how to use the internet, boy. You’re being manipulated by the woman who put Franco in power. I need to take a piss.”

He headed for the back door, a cigarette already in hand, before I could ask Franco who?

I wandered to the bar and ordered another round. But when the bartender brought back the beer glasses, he also set a chartreuse drink with a tiny umbrella in it before me. “I didn’t order this.”

“The lady in the corner bought it for you,” the bartender said, with a smirk.

Tack.” I tossed him a krona.

He left the coin on the bar.

I peered into the dark corner. A mane of white-blond hair and a pair of toned legs curving out from an illegally short skirt approached the bar.

“Uh, thanks for the umbrella, er, drink.”

“I am called Brynhildr,” she said, separated each syllable with Teutonic precision, her blue eyes fixed on me. She could have passed as Mist’s younger sister.

“Cool name. Like one of Wagner’s Valkyries,” I said, remembering Willie’s playlist as my eyes drifted down to her neon pink bandeau.

“Will you with me dance?”

“He cannae dance. Bad leg.” A cold hand fell on my shoulder, reeking of tobacco, as a shoe slammed into my bum ankle. Willie grabbed the beers in one hand and pushed me back to our table with the other. “Dance with her and you’ll be missing some private parts come morning.”

I turned to say goodbye but she was already surrounded by half of the Latvian navy.

“Skål,” Willie said, followed by a coughing fit.

I waited him out then raised my glass. “Skål.”

“Do you know the origins of that toast?”

“Sure.” Every Swede of drinking age knew that fable. “Skål means skull. The Vikings were said to have used the broken skulls of their vanquished foes as beer steins.”

“Exactly.” He drained his beer and called for two more. “Except the tradition predates the Vikings, who were public school weaklings compared to their Norse forebears. Your boss comes from a more direct lineage to those supernatural warriors, and her axe is far sharper than any Viking’s.”

He made a motion with the flat of his hand across his forehead and around past his right ear. “Beware Mist.” A hiss, the gravel subdued. “Beware the others.”

“Others?”

He glanced toward the bar, where Brynhildr was arm-wrestling the fleet.

I nodded.

“And Axe Axe Hammer isnae really a rock band. You get that too, right?”

“I get it.” A huge lie. I was confused, and a little terrified, as to what a bunch of mediaeval wannabees had to do with jack.

He looked at me thoughtfully. “Nae, I donnae think you get it at all.” He doubled over in a fit of coughing, green phlegm dripping from the corner or his mouth.

CR Hodges

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