by anita marie moscoso 

So as to not confuse you Dear Reader I should probably warn you this story starts at 

On the Doctor’s desk in the village of Ninebones Cross is the skull of a hanged man whose name was Lesser Thornapple.
Lesser was hung in 1864 for three murders and for a few that the people in the town of Bronson were pretty sure he did but couldn’t prove and for the ones they were sure he would commit in the future.
So Lesser went to the Gallows and they hung him as the sun came up, which is the custom in the town of Bronson and no one there expected this was the last they’d hear of Lesser Thornapple and they were right.
100 Years Later
The night that Doctor Stavesacre and her assistant took Lesser from his grave it was raining and she was in one of her moods that Lesser would soon call her ‘bad hair days’.
Only two things truly annoyed Azi Stavesacre.
One of those things was not getting her way. The other was anything that kept her from getting her way. Tonight both things were nipping at her heels and she wasn’t angry, she wasn’t furious she was mad.
Truly and strictly by definition: Mad.
As in insane.
“ How many of these things have we opened tonight Henbane?”
Henbane looked over his shoulder and let out a sob and said, “ a lot Azi, an awful lot.”
“ And this is the best we could do?” she asked as she pointed into the last grave.
“ Its all we can do Azi, the rest of the graves were empty.”
Azi Stavesacre, Dr Azi Stavesacre the type of Doctor you went to if you had a silver bullet lodged in you somewhere or a stake in your heart or you were burned or had been maimed and were about to die…yet again was not a patient woman.
In fact she wasn’t a woman at all.
But lets get on with Lesser’s story, shall we?
Azi jumped down into the open grave and then she leaned over Lesser and carefully
pulled the shroud back from his upper body. “ Geeze Henbane, they didn’t even bother to cut the noose off. Look it’s still there.”
Henbane looked down to where Azi was pointing and shook his head.” Now that’s just not dignified.”
Azi straddled Lesser’s chest and pressed her knees against his shoulders.“ People are pathetic Henbane. There’s no two ways about it.”
Then she cut off Lesser’s head.
Lesser remembered Azi taking him to a little place in a town called Duwamish Bay and carefully handing him over to a small dark woman with short black hair. The woman’s name was Ignancia and he saw at once that Azi’s little rough edges and her general
unpleasant personality seemed to smooth out at least temporarily as the two women talked.
Ignancia who was the owner of the Shop, which was full of curious items including a mummy and a three-headed cat in a jar, lifted him carefully up to the light and nodded. “Sure, we can clean him up I think he’ll do just fine for you Azi.”
“He’s a hanged man Ignancia.”
“ The condemned work harder, you know that Azi.”
“ But they buried him with the noose still around his neck.”
“ You don’t say.”
“ I just did,”
Ignancia lifted Lesser up to her face and her dark eyes looked down into his dead ones and she said; “ now that’s very curious. When he comes around see if you can get him to tell you why.”
Lesser sat on the Doctor’s desk for over 10 years before he said one word and when he did Azi told him to shut up, she was working. He saw that yet another Were creature had been skewered with yet another silver arrow and the Werecat the Doctor was treating had already clawed Dr Stavesacre down the side of her face and had chewed off two of her fingers.
It was a good thing Azi couldn’t bleed Lesser thought or the examination room would be full of those Vampires who were out in the waiting room suffering from Garlic Poisoning.
So after ten years of saying nothing Lesser finally made a sound, and that sound sent Azi to her desk, dragging the were-cat by its neck with her.
She opened her desk drawer and dropped Lesser into it.
“ Bite me.” She snapped
And from the drawer Lesser tried to do just that.
Ignancia came by a few weeks later with her sister to invite Azi to tea. It was a tradition. They pretended to drink tea and act like ladies and when they were done they were usually drunk and Azi’s hazel eyes would turn to their natural shade of yellow and they would all pretend like they had the flu for the next few days.
“So, how is Mr Thornapple working out for you?”
Ignancia’ s sister Akela asked who was Thornapple and Azi said, “ The ungrateful dead man I rescued from an eternity of solitary confinement.”
“ Oh, you cut off some poor slob’s head so that you could turn him into your own private guard dog.”
Rescue.” Akela didn’t chuckle or snicker. When she laughed she really put effort into it “ you kill me Azi, you really do.”
“ Well, he’s not working. That’s the problem. Lazy dog just sits on my desk and does he warn me that danger is near? Hell no. Let me make that clear to you ladies HELL NO. I had a Werecat go crazy when I tried to pull some silver out of it’s chest and look” Azi held up her hand, “ it doesn’t hurt when you loose them but it sure as heck does when they grow back. Then I had to deal with all those little beasts at the same time.
Damn kids.”
“ What they do?”
“ The Benandanti kids rubbed garlic all over the Hellebore’s shrouds and the Hellebore’s dropped Wolfsbane into the Benandanti’ s well.”
“ Kid stuff…”
“ Yes well, I had to deal with a bunch of rowdy teenage vampires and werewolves tearing my reception area apart as well as have an insane Werecat try to eat my arm
and does Thornapple say anything before Armageddon rides into my office?
No. Unless you count laughing as a word.”
“ He laughed?”
“ Loudly, very, very, very loudly.”
Ignancia lowered her voice, “ what did you do to him?”
“ Nothing…nothing. He’s in my desk drawer. Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t touch him. Really!”
Ignancia leaned back and nodded, “ I don’t believe you.”
It’s a fool who doesn’t know their own friends and Ignancia Guzman was nobody’s fool.

Azi was wrapped in a soft warm alcohol woven blanket when she stumbled into her office and pulled open her desk drawer. She reached in for Lesser and then dropped him down onto her desk from at least two feet up in the air and when he landed his teeth snapped together and then it was Azi’s turn to laugh.
“ I’m supposed to apologize.” She slurred imperiously.
Lesser’s black empty eye sockets seemed to be paying attention so she went on. “ It was wrong of me to dump you in the drawer, it was wrong of me to not even ask you your name. I’m sorry, okay?”
“ You robbed my grave.”
“ Oh, hell, there are worse things you can do the rob a grave like I don’t know, let me think…. oh yes here’s one Murder. That’s pretty darn bad too, isn’t it Lesser.”
Azi dropped herself into her chair and scooted it up to her desk. She reached for Lesser and when they were nose to, well, eye to eye he said, “ I never killed anybody Azi. I was innocent.”
He saw Azi sober up and felt her grip tighten around him. “ What?”
“ I was innocent. I never killed anyone Azi, but I know who did those awful things
and I never told the truth. I couldn’t.”
“ Damn it. That’s why you were down there still, you condemned yourself.”
“ I don’t know anything about that.”
“ Look, why’d they leave the rope around your neck. Do you know?”
Lesser didn’t answer and  Azi shook her head, “ People just mystify me Lesser, they really do.”
“ When do you plan on asking me about the graves Azi, all of those empty graves. You haven’t mentioned them once.”
“ I’m asking you now then, what happened to those graves. Why were they all empty?”
“ A friend of yours moved to Mourning Ridge, did you know?”
“ What friend?”
“ Delphine Heller. She’s back Azi and I’m pretty sure she was tearing that cemetery apart because she was looking for…”
“ Me.”
That one word echoed lonely and hallow in the dark office and Lesser was surprised because if he had to name a truly shunned creature it wouldn’t be  Azi Stavesacre.   
Lesser watched the face of the Witch Doctor and what surprised him was what he said next. “ Put me in the window Azi, I have work to do.”
And that Dear Readers is The beginning of my tale.