DUTCH by Madhuri Pavamani
E-Original published by Swerve
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
“Full of sex, magic, and turmoil…poetic and utterly beautiful. I can’t remember the last time a book made me stop and think, wow.” –Meredith Wild, #1 New York Times bestselling author
DUTCH is Madhuri Pavamani’s first book in a stunning new, suspenseful urban fantasy series that will take you on a wild ride full of danger, love, sex, and magic.
I’ve spent years holed up in the deepest, darkest parts of the city, fighting to keep Death and her Poochas from crossing the dead back to the living. My skill with a blade is bested only by my menace, my despair, my anguish – the strongest weapons I yield.
Then I meet Juma Landry and it all goes to hell.
She is beauty and love and sex and light, everything I am not. And she makes me want things I haven’t desired in years. But the monsters of my life, the evil lurking in the dark corners of my soul, those places craven and vile, bind me to a past I cannot shake free. As the most skilled Keeper for the Gate, nothing and no one can prevent me from excelling at a job I never wanted. I do it because it is my legacy, a fate I cannot outrun, but when Juma becomes my next assignment, each of her nine lives to be ended by my hand, I must decide: the legacy I never wanted or the love I don’t deserve.
“Ms. Pavamani’s DUTCH is the perfect melange of poetry, fantasy and rebellious raunch. Absolutely addictive!” –Helen Hardt, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author
“Dark. Sensual. Unputdownable. I devoured this book and can’t wait for the next!”–Kate Baxter, author of The Untamed Vampire
Madhuri Pavamani is the author of the paranormal romance trilogy, THE SANCTUM. A Southern girl with Northern sensibilities, a slight twang, and who still uses the word y’all, but never fixin’, she has an affinity for writing twisted love stories and dark poetry. A graduate of Barnard College, and incapable of leaving the bright lights of New York City, Madhuri works in Manhattan, but rests her head in New Jersey. She loves whiskey, tattoos, Bukowski, and yoga.
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I was eight years old the first time I rode an elephant.
I was visiting my grandparents, and the local zoo’s specimen had given birth to a dwarf, so everyone in the household wanted to witness the freak. They rustled up the whole lot of us, waved down some auto-rickshaws, and off we went, zooming toward the unimaginable feat of nature.
I took one look at that dwarf and knew it was scared. I also knew it was a complete bore.
The mom was much more interesting and already back to earning her share, offering rides to any souls brave enough to climb atop her back. My cousins needed no invitation, and before anyone knew what was happening, grandparents included, they scampered up the poor beast’s back and were raring to go.
I stood off to the side and watched, shy and somewhat quiet, still a bit ill at ease in my new environs. It was not every day I was shipped halfway across the world on a bird in the sky, and summarily deposited with two elderly souls I barely knew and certainly did not trust.
The elephant was a good move.
I was warming up to the two brown people smiling while their eyes flashed back and forth in rapid succession from me to the brood atop the grey beast. My grandmother clucked warmly in my direction, offering some words of encouragement as the mahout waved me over.
He was awfully scrawny and rather filthy, and I shot him a foul look. No fucking way was he controlling anything if that grey monster decided to stop taking anyone’s shit. But I was eight, and I was curious, and it was an elephant, for fuck’s sake. So I stopped putzing around on the outskirts of the action and leaned in
Which was enough for Mr. Mahout. Faster than I would have ever assumed he could move, he grabbed me by the nape of my neck and hoisted me onto the dwarf’s mama.
Not on her back, with my cousins
but right behind her ears, on what seemed to be her neck, my hands resting on her head.
She was just like the old man who swam laps at the YMCA every Monday and always bent over to lotion his legs, providing me the perfect view of his ass—hairy and wrinkled and grey.
The mahout settled in behind me and gave his signal, but the old girl wasn’t going anywhere. She bobbed her head side to side, and he yelled something in Tamil, all of it unintelligible since I didn’t speak a bit of anything from the motherland.
At least not then.
He yelled again and gave her some swats with his whip, but she didn’t give a shit. Instead, she lifted her trunk into the air, pushed it about like a show-off, raised it to her head, and sniffed my hands.
I froze, for a second worried I might piss my pants.
I did not want to piss my pants, sitting there high in the air, because I did not want to soil her neck, but really I did not want another excuse to be the laughingstock of my unruly gang of cousins. So I let her do whatever she needed to do, praying all the while her trunk wasn’t full of tiny teeth that could suddenly inhale my hands and then my arms and then my head to chew me up and feed me to the dwarf.
I had not flown halfway across the fucking globe to wind up as dwarf fodder.
So I shut up
and homegirl sniffed me up
and eventually she started walking, doing a slow rotation of the park, giving us kids the ride of our lives.
I was eight, and it was magical.
I am now thirty-seven, and let me tell you, this world is anything but magical.
My name is Dutch Mathew
I kill for The Gate
and I am a Keeper.
I was five years old when I died
and ooooooh god
did it hurt.
The pain is what I recall most, even more than the blood and the fear, the panic in my ma’s eyes as she begged my da to drive faster, the strain in my da’s voice as he emphatically insisted his child would
Louder than any of that was the pain, the searing shock and burn of my throat as the bullet missed its mark, entered my neck right below my left ear, and exited slightly lower on the right side.
It had been a normal summer day in Atlanta, hot beyond all get-out, but by late afternoon with a storm on the horizon, the heat had relented a bit, providing some respite from the cramped boxes of our apartments in the Shamrock complex
North Druid Hills Road
Hardly glamorous but hardly the hood, kind of a socioeconomic in-between land, rather nondescript and average.
The complex was full of families with kids everywhere
in the pool
on the courtyard
down the street.
A jumbled, excited, energetic mix of brown and black and white arms and legs, ponytails and braids, Mohawks and fades. We played outside, unsupervised, because there were so many of us, a mass of pint-size humanity, running wild.
Until the day I died.
The sky was clear and a bird sang,
which was so strange because usually the heat killed any motivation for creating sweet music. But not that day and not that bird. She was singing her heart out that afternoon.
I like to think of her as a “she” because that song was so damn pretty, so clear and melodious.
Until it wasn’t.
The shot rang out in all of that summer perfection, ruining our fun and scarring our childhood. Those kids I ran with when I was so, so small, they forever remembered that shot. I, on the other hand, forever remembered the pain.
pain like fire
too much for a tiny human to comprehend and contain.
The taste on my tongue, filling my throat until I coughed and sputtered and felt like I could barely breathe.
or I tried at least.
It came out gurgly and thick
so strong and certain clutching me
and being airborne
high above the others
everyone was screaming
and over all of them was the lilt of my ma’s voice.
Through the haze of my pain and blood loss and trauma, she talked to me. Rubbing my head, begging me to keep my eyes open
But she could not ease the pain, damp the burn. Her voice could not soothe my misery, act as a salve, a poultice for the gaping holes in my tiny throat. Nothing could stop the fire that threatened to rip me in half.
That pain remains to this day. It hid in the dark places of my body, lingered in some of my light, and made certain I never forgot it. I might have worked for Death, that sexy mistress, but the pain was my lord and master.
I just didn’t share that with Death. Not then, not ever.
My da was chief of something at the hospital in town. He ran in like he owned the place, I came to learn much later, and started going about the business of saving my life. Until he was pushed away and told to “wait right there!” so they could go about the business of saving my life. But it did not matter, they could do nothing. None of them, neither the doctors and nurses nor my da the chief, because that day, July eleventh, was to be my last on this earth as Juma Landry, daughter of Rufus and Mimi Landry.
Because on that day, July eleventh, I died and became Death’s Poocha.