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Bonus Content: Gannon's Last Morning

The below was written as the start of the hardcover bonus scene, but Zara decided that just focusing on Gannon’s last night was more exciting than seeing his whole last day. But after an awesome release day, we decided we wanted everyone to still read it.

The sounds of quick footsteps on the hardwood alerted the alligator awake. His weary eyes fluttered along the intricate swirls of plaster on his ceiling. That was too time consuming during the remodel for it to be that bland.

His dreams since claiming this manor his own were those that devoured him with a single gluttonous bite. He laid in bed letting the greedy monster in his belly chew away at his nerves a bit longer, after all he kind of deserved it.

The wallpaper began changing hues as the sun poured through his sheer curtains.

He could hear the teapot let out a shrill hiss, and his sat upright in his bed wiping the residue crust of nightmares from his eyes.

Today’s the day. Places to go, folks to meet.

The door to the house closed. The only indication he was now the only one awake inside was the long bouts of silence where there were usually the sound of his oldest daughter’s footsteps.

Though I doubt she’ll ever see me as her true father.

His trunk-like legs swung out to greet the floor. His tail thudded along as he did so. He plucked the suit jacket from its hanger in the closet then He wandered over to his vanity where his top hat sat. He put it on and flashed himself a smile in the mirror.

“Dazzling as ever, old chap,” he said to himself as he fastened the buttons over his growing stomach.

His eyes drifted up to a stack of papers that protruded from his evergreen notebook. “Oh, yes, those are gonna have to go with the others,” he muttered. He flipped through the papers reviewing the important bits of the latest letter he received from a carrier crow the night before.

The key will be delivered from its lock soon. Keep one eye open and the other on the locksmith.

As the gator turned, his thick tail swept along the wood. His tail was the reason he couldn’t have more decoration in his home. No matter how gentle and cautious he was, he was an alligator in a glass shop.

With one fluid movement, he picked up his bed by its frame and flipped it on its side so the room was now concealed from view. He could hear the shrill squeaks of the dust bunnies that fled for any nearby crack or crevice to hide in once more. He looked over his shoulder at his bedroom door to make sure no one was approaching. When it stayed closed, he averted his gaze to the floorboards. He ran a taloned hand over the floor boards. His claws didn’t help the gnashes in the wood from years of wear and tear.

With a single tap, one plank popped loose from the others. He quickly shoved the papers from his notebook into the concealed vault he had made just over a year ago. As he placed the wood back over the pit, he laughed to himself. Safe under lock and key? More like safe under bed, and guarded by dust bunnies.

He quickly flipped the bed back down. It landed on the old floor with a thump. He winced at the sound and waited in eerie silence for the footsteps of his other daughters, but the pitter-pattering sounds never came. He sighed a breath of relief and made his way to the kitchen.

He saw the ingredients laid out like they always where. He looked out the window and sure enough he saw the porch swing sway to and fro. He recalled the day he told his oldest that she didn’t need to prepare breakfast. As he cracked the eggs into the bowl and measured out the flour, the confused look she wore that day was still as clear as water in his mind. He stirred the ingredients together and then folded in the blueberries, keeping an eye out the kitchen window on the mouse clad in yellow. He flipped on the heat of the oven so the pan would be nice and hot for the flapjacks. The conversation they had that day was an ear-wyrm that had burrowed its way in and never left.

“You don’t have to be to make breakfast. I can do that,” he had told her.

“Then what do I do?”

“Go be a kid.” He had laughed.

Then she had replied, “Your laugh is so big, it’s gonna shake the beams in this house.”

The memories of days past faded away as he poured a little bit of batter on a sizzling pan. Between each flip of the flapjack in the pan, a second ear-wyrm began to sing the tune of another memory he carried close with him. Faint screams would play like they were on a record in his brain. He swallowed down that reminder in a large gulp as he started to plate the blueberry-filled breakfast for his daughters.

As the sweet scent of syrup and berries floated through the cracks of the ceiling, the sound of scampering feet racing for the steps brought Gannon back where he needed to be.

Back to the present.

Back to his daughters.

As the four other mice barreled down the steps he let a big, “Good morning, girls!” bellow out. The front door opened and his oldest came in. She sat in her spot at the kitchen table.

As they each sat down with sparkling eyes and hunger in their bellies, a warmth welled up inside of him. Then the cuckoo clock began ringing and the little mushroomling that lived inside it did a special dance.

“Oh no, Father, you’re gonna be late.” The words from his eldest were stitched with anxiety, when her mouth should have been filled with bites of breakfast.

She had her mother’s eyes, though she didn’t know it.

The comparison had made a buried image spring to life. One moment he was looking at his daughter, the next of her mother seconds before being ripped apart. Her eyes pleaded to take care of her children in her absence. It was the same look his mother had given him the day of her execution.

His jaw tightened.

“He’s the mayor. He can make his own rules,” the youngest cut in, bringing him back to the present again.

He looked over all of them and swallowed any remnant of the recollection down.

“I love you girls. Whatever you do today, do it well.” He walked to the door and his hand hovered above the knob. A grin spread on his face as he watched them bicker back and forth while they scarfed down the food. They all were so much alike, yet so different from each other. And they were his to protect. As he walked out the door, and pulled it shut slowly, still lingering.

Then his fellow villagers were greeting him.

“Oh, yes, and a good morning to you as well, Mrs. Craic,” he called out as he gathered himself and shuffled off the porch to complete his daily route.

For every familiar smiling face that he came into contact with, there were double the faces of freckled ghosts of the folk-kind that had been erased. That he helped erase. The remorse pulled at his loosened heart strings.

Before Gannon knew it, he was already at town hall. He rushed through the doors knowing he was at least ten minutes late.

“Mornin’, Mr. Mayor,” the welcome desk intern greeted with a level of enthusiasm no one should have that early in the morning.

“And to you as well, Darcy,” he said as he swung a right and locked eyes with his office door at the end of the hall.

When he opened his office door a vivid yellow striped bag greeted him.

I wonder who dropped me off something from the Butterscotch Badger?

He had been meaning to make it there one day this week to try the newest item cream filled donut sticks. His tongue glided over his teeth just at the thought.

He took a seat in his wheeled office chair. He quickly opened the bag and pulled out his favorite guilty pleasure. The fresh maple icing glistened in the sun’s rays that poured through the windows behind his desk. Then Gannon noticed a scrap of paper at the bottom that read:

Tonight @ the Cat’s den -D

He then shoved the wax bag in a trash can he kept under his desk. Savorin the bites of his king-sized Kamme, he reviewed the stacks of paper that he had left out from the work day prior.

As the clock’s hands moved, he continued to look over request forms varying from “release of containment” to “demolition of rotted house.”

Gonna have to talk to her again about the matters of release. He rolled his eyes at the thought. That’s the third time this week I believe.

There was a knock on the door.

Then the smell of pungent musk filled seeped between the gap of the door and floor.

“Yes, come in,” he said absentmindedly as he stamped a no on the first form.

“My dear friend, I have a complaint.”

Gannon looked up from his paperwork to meet the gaze of one of his oldest friends, though he hasn’t felt like one in most recent years.

“You know I could smell ya before I saw ya, Crinkle,” he teased, immediately looking back at his desk cluttered with papers. Shifting through which one he should look over next.

The opossum fussed with his suit a bit and leaned on his staff to loom over the desk. “The matter is of the upmost importance.”

“That’s what everyone says,” Gannon grumbled as he rummaged through his desk drawers for his glasses. As the years caught up to him the fine print got harder and harder to read.

“Anyway,” the opossum spat, “you may want to reign in your littlest mouse.”

Gannon’s jaw tensed as he put the glasses on to read over another form.

Crinkle continued. “I heard her whispering on to the Grian about some secret club. A Historical Society.”

Gannon’s eyes met Crinkle’s again, and he could feel the silent storm brewing between them.

He splayed his hands out on his desk but stayed silent, holding the ‘possum’s gaze, hoping he’d keep digging himself into a ditch.

“I’d just like to reaffirm my place in this town, as any secret organization I would surely be made aware of.” The gem on his staff began to glow a crisp cerulean.

The alligator scoffed. “You’re all worked up over the musing of a child.” He returned again to stamping of official documents.

Crinkle stomped a foot. “She isn’t a child anymore. She’s on the edge of her fourteenth year.”

Gannon rolled his eyes and continued with his work.

“And if anyone would know that you were hiding something, it’d be one of your daughters.”

Gannon stood up, dwarfing the opossum, and leaned forward over his desk. “My daughters have no knowledge of whatever I decide to fill my time with.”

The opossum’s eyes narrowed. “Would hate to see her end up in some sort of trouble because of her innocent ‘musings.’”

Gannon’s hand twitched for a blade, but instead he continued with words. He was a different gator now. “You should be more concerned that fact the musings of an imaginative child seem to work you up into a state of such paranoia.” His tone was sharp and level. Like the sword he wielded so long ago that now hung above the hearth of his office.

Crinkle’s mouth turned down to a frown. “Oh, it’s like that, is it?”

“Good day, Crinkle.”

The opossum looked over the alligator one last time before leaving in a puff of smoke.

Gannon fanned an arm and coughed as it coated his throat. His office clock chimed.

That late already? He looked at his desk that was starting to get its own paper mountain range. Gannon sighed. My work is never done, it seems. He quickly scribbled a on a sheet of blank paper.

Something came up. Be home late. Leftovers are in the fridge. Don’t wait up.

He carefully folded the paper and walked over to the bird cage he had in his office. He slid the note in the Carrier Crow’s duffel bag. “Take this to the girls at home, okay?”

It let out a squawk followed by a nod.

Gannon opened cage, then the window, and watched the bird fly down the fire-lit street. Then he flicked the lights off.

To the cat’s den.

Down The Well by Veronica King book cover

Lore Deoradán wants to be happy when she grows up. But navigating her parents' mercurial moods, moving to a new town just two weeks before her high school graduation, and dealing with her beloved grandma's declining health all make that dream seemingly impossible. Will her new job be the first step toward happiness, or will it be yet another disappointment?

When she falls down a well into a magical world with talking animals that haven't seen a human for years, she must clear her name of the mayor's murder. Although, how anyone believes she killed a Herculean-sized alligator is beyond her. Now, her survival is tied to a mouse with a chip on her shoulder. There's also a cat who owns a pub where the animal patrons might be cannibals, a giant snake librarian who probably wants to eat her, and sentient lampposts who are never there when you need them.

Can Lore prove her innocence, help a newfound friend save the town from a dark and dangerous schemer, and find her way home?

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