Archive for Belfire Press

A Murder of Crows (Part Seven of Nine)

Posted in Archive with tags , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by cairnwood

An excerpt from Descendant
Available now from Belfire Press

SEVEN

Martin Crowe was smoking a cigarette and watching the National Guard set up their roadblocks around the Logan city limits. FEMA and CDC agents in their yellow environmental control suits were putting on a show for the news media that had descended on the small Ohio town. The lie was in full force. Crowe wasn’t sure of the particulars, something about a chemical spill or some such bullshit. Selina had a knack for this sort of thing, developing a story that served to cover up an event like this and keep everyone at bay. Martin’s expertise lay in other areas. He flipped the spent cigarette butt into the street and entered the Hocking County Sheriff’s Department.

The majority of the townsfolk were alive and well and they’d been evacuated and most hospitalized for observation. The possession was ended pretty much when he’d separated the scarecrow’s head from its shoulders and those under the influence of the damnable malediction seemingly had no memory of the events that took place while they were hapless vessels for the Nameless One’s resurrection. But there was one who remembered. One who was not an enfeebled victim. Walking down the long hallway toward the isolated cellblock within the Sheriff’s Department, Martin Crowe was prepared to reacquaint himself with the monster who had set all of this in motion.

“Release me, insolent swine.”

“Well, hello to you too, Mrs. Potter,” Crowe responded.

Elspeth Potter was frothing at the mouth, raging against her captivity. Her prison was not the bars of her tiny cell, but a magical circle, carefully drawn out on the cell room’s floor. It was made up of two concentric bands filled with arcane sigils that encircled a binding rune. The frail looking grandmother of Brian Potter threw herself against the eldritch entrapment with a strength and power that belied her appearance.

“These markings will not hold me forever, you pathetic cur,” she growled. Her eyes were wild and filled with a burning hatred.

“They’re not meant to,” Crowe said. He removed the Desert Eagle from the shoulder harness under his coat and chambered a round. “I’ve got to tell you, Elspeth, it came as a real shock to my partner and me when we found a couple of snowbirds huddled in their basement instead of soaking up some Florida sunshine… especially when that basement has been converted into a ritual chamber dedicated to ancient gods that are really best left undisturbed.”

“Go to hell,” she spat.

“Been there. Bought the t-shirt,” he responded. Crowe slid the cell door open and stepped inside. The image of seeing Elspeth Potter kneeling in the floor of her basement, her husband, Lyle Potter, laid out before her with his chest ripped open, his heart removed and replaced with the corpse of a black crow, was etched in his mind. Bringing her in had not been easy, but they’d done it. Now Selina was poring over the grimoire they’d found in the place and connecting the dots, while he was preparing to do what he did best.

“I’ll rip you to shreds, boy, and feed on your heart.”

“No,” Crowe said, calmly, “you won’t.” He raised the Desert Eagle and fired. The .50 Action Express punched a hole right through her face and left a splatter of blood, bone, and gray matter splayed across the rear wall of the cell. “Tell your dark god that I’m still here, alive and kicking, and that if he really wants a piece of me he needs to quit sending the junior varsity to do the job.”

Martin Crowe shouldered his weapon and left the carnage behind, stepping back out into the chilled October afternoon. Happy fucking Hallowe’en, he thought. Lighting a cigarette, he motioned for the waiting clean-up crew to get to work and sat down on the steps to wait for his partner to come pick him up so they could get the hell out of this godforsaken town.

 

Return here next week for another Wicked Wednesday installment of
A Murder of Crows

Chapter Eight will be posted on October 19th

A Murder of Crows (Part Six of Nine)

Posted in Archive with tags , , , , , on October 5, 2011 by cairnwood

An excerpt from Descendant
Available now from Belfire Press

SIX

Selina Wolfe was not happy. Wiping away the blood from around the small nick right along her hairline, she mulled over what had happened to her as she searched the Paranormal Operations Division’s database from the comfort of the Grand Cherokee’s onboard terminal. As she’d expected, Brian Potter was a distraction. First, inanely rambling about his civil rights and a lawsuit he planned to levy against the FBI for illegal and unwarranted confinement until he finally fell silent. That’s when all hell broke loose.

She recalled her excitement as ‘the Monster Manual’ deciphered the Mommet inscription, doubly so once a connection was made between it and the occult rune below it. Mommet was a colloquial term used in England, particularly around Devonshire and Somerset, to refer to a scarecrow, while the rune itself was a stylized hanged man that had been in use in the same area in the seventeenth century. Chalk one up to modern technology, she’d mused.

That’s when Potter started rambling again, though this time it was not more of his misunderstanding of law enforcement procedure or his civil liberties. No, Brian Potter was muttering in an arcane tongue, and then she was surrounded by the sounds of flapping wings and the chaotic squawks and screeches of seemingly hundreds of rooks as they descended on the SUV. A quick glance into the rearview mirror and she saw Potter’s malefic face, eyes rolled back and drool trickling down his chin as his voice rose in crescendo, merging with the cacophonous cries of the murder of crows. Then there was a flash of light, powerful and all consuming, growing with an inane brilliance until she blacked out.

Selina discarded the towlette and hit the button that revealed the Jeep’s unique storage compartment wherein was housed the agents’ private arsenal. Within was an array of exotic medieval weaponry, high tech automatic firearms, grenades, smoke bombs, and electronic surveillance gear. She grabbed fresh clips for her Sig Sauer 9mm and the SPAS-12, an Italian made semi-automatic shotgun that had fallen out of favor with most agents due to its weight and complexity, but she knew her partner preferred it over the Benelli M3 that was currently in vogue. She buttoned up the SUV and joined Crowe at the edge of the cornfield. He was intent on the glow of a fire that had come to life deep within the field, and in the gathering cloud of black crows that circled overhead.

“Where better to find a scarecrow than in the middle of a field of corn?” he said, taking the shotgun from Wolfe.

“Yeah, well I’d feel a lot better about this if we had an idea of what we were walking into.” Selina drew her sidearm and chambered a round.

“What’s to know? We’ve got black magic, a medieval poppet of some kind, and a crow whisperer. My guess is that all this ends when I blow that little bastard’s brains out the back of his skull. And if not, I’m sure you’ll cook us up a little spell or two to keep things interesting.”

“You know it’s not that simple.”

“It never is, sweetheart,” Crowe said, a grin spreading from ear to ear. “C’mon, it’s chilly as hell out here. I’ve a hankering for warming myself by the bonfire Potter’s got cooking.”

“And if he’s not alone?”

“No worries. I’ve got plenty of shells to go around.”

The two agents spread out and entered the field three rows apart, headed toward the warm glow of the crackling bonfire, its flame licking up above the stalks perhaps as many as a hundred yards in. The uneven ground and pressing, claustrophobic rows made moving silently impossible as the dry and brittle blades crackled with their every step. As they moved deeper into the field, Selina got the sense that they were not alone. When the whispers began, she was sure of it.

“Martin?”

“I hear them.”

“I don’t like this.” Selina looked around her, trying to pinpoint the source of the baleful chatter.

“We’re almost to the party,” Crowe responded. “They’ll come out to play then.”

“Damned things, sneaking around,” she muttered, gun at the ready. She pressed on, even as the incessant clamor increased. Another step and a crow, black as night and hid easily by the dark shadows of the rows, took flight, its wing brushing her as it sailed up to join its brethren. “It’s the fucking birds,” she called out, unnerved as she noticed more rising up around her from the ink black. It was all she could do to not start firing at them.

“Selina?”

“What?” she barked.

“We’re here.”

Wolfe crept forward another dozen feet and peered into a clearing roughly fifteen yards in diameter. The crop circle was conjoined with another, equal in size, and within it raged the bonfire fueled by timber and the stalks cut down to form the unnatural enclosure. But it wasn’t the conflagration that drew their intention. Instead it was what towered above them to the fore. Looking down at them, its silhouette framed by the harvest moon beyond, was a truculent effigy. They’d found their mommet.

The agents moved into the clearing, seemingly alone save for the murder of crows that swarmed overhead and perched upon the head and shoulders of the frightful scarecrow. His fearsome visage did little to deter the creatures he was meant to intimidate. In fact, the rooks appeared to honor the unsightly figure, cawing in reverence to its aberrant semblance.

“That’s one ugly mother fucker,” Crowe said. Wolfe moved closer to her partner, positioning herself so that they were back to back.

“Not so, Agent Crowe. The Bodach-rocais is a thing of beauty, an earthly recreation of the one who bears no name, but is with us just the same.” The agents turned to see William Craft step out of the corn, flanked by Jennifer Cox and Brian Potter. “But soon, the Nameless One will walk among us and we shall rejoice as it feeds upon the weak and unrepentant.”

“Blessed Goddess,” Wolfe said, edging closer to her partner, gun raised and sighted from one figure to the next. “Look at their eyes.”

The trio were soon joined by others, dozens of local townsfolk, each with blank, soulless eyes. Selina recognized the sheriff among them, and others, like the local gas attendant from where they’d filled up as they entered town, a woman who had bumped into her on the street. Soon, it was as if all of Logan had descended on the field, all with the same vacant stare, all possessed by something altogether evil and malignant. As they moved forward, encircling the agents, the crows came down, one perching on each of the residents’ shoulders.

“Any suggestions?” Crowe asked.

“I’d say the birds are the key somehow, so short of picking them off one by one, I’ve got nothing.”

“How’s about we see what their Nameless One thinks about becoming the Headless One?” Agent Crowe raised his shotgun and leveled it on the scarecrow. He pulled the trigger, sending a hot slug ripping through the effigy’s head. It exploded in a splash of blood and gore as a dissonant cry rose up from the enraged crows. Their human minions began to stagger, tumbling into one another as the fowl took flight in a chaotic mass.

Wolfe began firing into the sea of black as the murderous crows dove at the agents, their beaks and talons drawing blood as they swarmed about them. Soon, she was flailing with her arms, desperately trying to beat them back as their dead began to litter the crop circle floor.

Crowe aimed once more at the effigy, bearing down on its chest cavity, when it suddenly ruptured, the tattered flannel ripping apart and a wave of red eyed rooks pored out coming straight for them. He fired and ducked as this new assault sent both he and his partner diving for the ground. He swung the shotgun like a club and a crow exploded in a mass of feathers and blood.

“Selina!”

“Hang on,” she cried.

It was utter madness. The townspeople had now collapsed, writhing in some kind of unknown agony, while desperation gripped the agents. Crowe continued to beat at the birds with his makeshift club, while Selina knelt beneath him, fumbling under her shirt and withdrawing the charm she wore there, a replacement of the one she’d once received as a gift from the occult detective, Landon Connors. This talisman was of her own making, a symbol of her faith and charged with magicks that she’d labored over in the weeks that she was in recovery following her run in with the Grim Beast of Iaeger.

“Got it,” she said, even while hoping that it would work. She spoke the ancient words that would trigger the spell she had placed within the amulet and there was a rushing sound as if all the air had been drawn in close to them, then it exploded outward as a cascading blue fire rose out from their protective circle, consuming the crows in the preternatural illuminate.

Selina collapsed as the crows fell to earth like a heavy black rain of death.

Return here next week for another Wicked Wednesday installment of
A Murder of Crows

Chapter Seven will be posted on October 12th

A Murder of Crows (Part Five of Nine)

Posted in Archive with tags , , , , , on September 28, 2011 by cairnwood

An excerpt from Descendant
Available now from Belfire Press

FIVE

A harvest moon cast its baleful illumination over the forlorn cemetery plot while Martin Crowe worked diligently at unearthing what lay buried beneath him. The crickets had grown silent, their incessant chirping replaced by a mournful wind that rustled through the corn rows that surrounded the forgotten dead and the rhythm of Crowe’s shovel slicing into the freshly turned earth.

“Martin, I think I’m onto something here.” Crowe looked up from the deepening grave to see his partner hovering overhead, her face illuminated by the viewscreen of one of their handheld thermal cameras.

“Good,” he replied, leaning on his shovel. “I needed a break. What’ve you got?”

“I was trying to figure out a way to recover the markings on this headstone. They’re so badly weathered that they’re impossible to read and I thought there may be a clue there.” Wolfe knelt beside the gravesite and lowered the thermal down to her partner. “That’s when it hit me. I pressed my hands flat against the stone over the raised letters and let them soak up some of my body heat, then hit it with the thermal.”

Agent Crowe stared at the image captured on the screen. “What would I do without you?” he said. Starring back at him was a single word, resting above an obscured symbol. “Mommet?” He adjusted the settings on the device, filtering the colors to try and divine the symbol more clearly. “Doesn’t ring any bells,” he said, passing the imager back to his partner.

“Not with me either, but the symbol’s runic in nature. I’m going to fire up the Monster Manual and see if I can come up with something.”

“Good work, partner. You’re right, you just might be on to something.”

“I do try,” she said with a smile. “The only bad thing is that Potter kid will probably run his mouth the whole time. Maybe I should take him out of the Cherokee and cuff him to the bumper.”

“Or you could just shoot him?”

“Don’t tempt me.”

Crowe returned to digging. He was already at least five feet deep and he knew he didn’t have much more to go. Fifteen minutes passed before he struck something solid and another ten before he cleared a stone slab, roughly six by three feet. He lowered the lantern down from overhead to get a closer look at the cut limestone. The slab itself was broken in three places, and was carelessly reassembled. Bracing himself, he hefted up the smallest of the pieces, leaning it against the earthen wall of the grave pit. Within the stone cask lay a large black bird, a crow, with its breast bulging unnaturally. Martin reached down and picked the bird up and pulled at its sides. Stuffed inside its chest cavity was a human heart.

“Fuck,” he said, dropping the remains and backing away from the broken crow. He clamored up and out of the pit, wiping his hands on the damp grass. “God damn it I hate black magic,” he spat. He fumbled for a cigarette, unnerved by the handling of the vile fetish. Heading for the Grand Cherokee, he mulled over the possible ramifications of his find, but those thoughts were quickly extinguished when he saw the black SUV. A host of black birds sat perched upon it, a murder of crows cawing in unison at his advance… and in the passenger seat he could see his partner slumped over, illuminated by the fold down monitor of the onboard computer terminal, a trail of blood trickling down her face.

Return here next week for another Wicked Wednesday installment of
A Murder of Crows

Chapter Six will be posted on October 5th

A Murder of Crows (Part Four of Nine)

Posted in Archive with tags , , , , , on September 21, 2011 by cairnwood

An excerpt from Descendant
Available now from Belfire Press

FOUR

Wolfe and Crowe followed Brian Potter into his grandparents’ backyard. Lyle and Elspeth Potter were vacationing in Florida, having long ago leased out their surrounding fields to larger, more corporate-minded farmers. Selina was pretty sure that they’d be appalled by the state their property was in. The pool and surrounding patio was littered with broken glass, empty beer cans, liquor bottles, and enough general refuse to start a small landfill.

“As you can see, the party got kind of out of hand.” Potter kicked at a discarded bottle of cheap wine, its remnants splashing red onto the multicolored river rock that bordered the cement walk that encircled the pool. “I wish there was more I could tell you. Billy and I were close. ‘Were’ being the operative word. After high school we drifted apart. I tried to make a connection with him at the party, but he was out of it. He was dead set on Jennifer and nothing I said registered with him one bit.”

“Jennifer?” Agent Wolfe repeated. “That would be Jennifer Cox.?”

“Yes, ma’am. I saw them leave together, so as much as I’d like to help I really think it’s her you should be talking to.” He took a step back and motioned toward the pool area’s side entrance. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have guests arriving soon and I’ve a lot of preparations to attend to.”

“Not so fast, chief,” Crowe said, his eyes burrowing into the young man. “It’s our understanding that Craft and Cox were last seen leaving by way of ‘the cemetery gate’. I take it that’s through here.” He pointed toward the ivy covered gate leading toward the rear of the property.

“I wouldn’t know.” Potter’s eyes darted away and Selina smiled.

“You don’t know what?” Agent Wolfe asked. “If your friends left by way of that gate, or whether it leads to the cemetery?”

“Let’s go, kid.” Crowe put his hand on Potter’s shoulder. “We’d like to have a look at what you’ve got cookin’ out back.”

“Sure, but… you know, the sheriff, he already…”

“Yeah, we know, the sheriff’s been all over this with his fine tooth comb, but you of course understand why we’d want to have a look for ourselves.”

“Yes, sir.”

The three passed through the ivy gate and strode across the back lawn, Potter leading the way. The small cemetery plot, nestled between a bower of mulberry bushes and the wide expanse of corn awaiting harvest, consisted of a few dozen stones, many of which were broken and leaning against their bases. As twilight descended, their walk was accompanied by the sound of crickets and the caws of the gathering crows whose flight was framed against the purpling sky.

“It’s nice to see that Logan County’s crack detective work is in full force.” Agent Crowe hovered over a low mound of fresh earth laid out in front of a weathered headstone. “I hope you’ve got a good explanation for this, Mr. Potter, because unless I’m mistaken, this looks like a fresh grave.”

“I, uh…”

“Selina, cuff the kid and plant his ass on the ground over there where we can keep an eye on him. I’ll bring the Cherokee around.” He walked up to the young man and smiled, patting him on the cheek. “Something tells me your plans for tonight just got changed.”

As Crowe stalked off into the growing darkness to retrieve their vehicle, both he and his partner failed to hear Brian Potter’s mumbled response.

“Don’t be so sure, Agent Crowe.”

Return here next week for another Wicked Wednesday installment of
A Murder of Crows

Chapter Five will be posted on September 28th

A Murder of Crows (Part Three of Nine)

Posted in Archive with tags , , , , , on September 14, 2011 by cairnwood

An excerpt from Descendant
Available now from Belfire Press

THREE

Martin Crowe’s attention was focused on the mosquito that had landed on the back of his hand. He watched as it became fat with his blood, only partially annoyed by the subtle itch that tingled from where its proboscis penetrated his flesh. The insect began to convulse and the blood seeped out from its fractured abdomen before falling away, twitching in silent agony, at the agent’s feet. He knew that the female mosquito drew blood from its victim to supplement their diet with much needed iron and protein as a part of their reproductive process. What this particular mosquito didn’t know, didn’t sense, was that his blood wasn’t the nourishing kind. Moral of the story? Stick your nose in where it doesn’t belong and you end up dead. That was something that Martin Crowe was more than aware of.

“It looks like Dispatch was right about this one.”

Crowe turned his attention to his partner who was descending the steps of the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office. He admired her and the easy way she had with people, especially the locals. It was something he struggled with, preferring to lose himself in the work itself. She had a knack for looking them dead in the eye and telling them exactly what they wanted to hear. She had charm, that was for sure. He, on the other hand, did not.

“Throw enough shit against the wall and some of it’s bound to stick,” he grumbled, fishing out a cigarette from his inner pocket. As a Special Agent attached to the FBI’s Paranormal Operations Division, one of the hardest things for him to swallow was the way most of their cases were assigned. He had a general distrust of psychics, and depending as heavily as they did on Dispatch to divine paranormal events with their crystal balls and Ouija Boards, or whatever they used to get a line on where the agents would be sent next, didn’t sit well with Martin Crowe. “What are we looking at?”

“On the surface, nothing.” Selina Wolfe joined her partner by their flat black SUV. “We’ve got a twenty year old male missing for forty-eight hours. Not so out of the ordinary, but he was last seen at a Hallowe’en party on the outskirts of town. Plenty of witnesses to his being there. He snuck off with a local girl and hasn’t been seen since.”

“She a suspect?”

“Sheriff doesn’t think so. In fact, he’s not concerned at all. Why would he be? The kid in question, William Craft, is a college drop out and has a reputation as a small time drug dealer, moving a little grass and the occasional litany of recreational drugs. Not unlikely for someone like that to just up and move on.”

“So why the red flag from Dispatch?”

“Because he’s not the first young man to go missing a few days before All Hallows in this area. I’d say this has been a fairly common occurrence stretching back at least twenty years, maybe far longer.”

“Ritual sacrifice?”

“It’s got my spider sense tingling.”

“You read too many comic books.”

“You don’t read enough,” she said with a smile.

“So, what’s the plan? Track down his little girlfriend and put the screws to her?” Crowe had a distaste for following leads and questioning suspects, especially young girls. He was generally the heavy and preferred a straight on fight to playing good cop – bad cop, particularly with a bunch of stoned kids who probably didn’t know their asses from a hole in the ground anyway.

“Not yet,” Selina replied, sensing her partner’s frustration. “Interestingly enough, the name Potter came up in the Dispatch file as a possible lead and, lo and behold, the secretary shares with me that if anyone knew what Craft was up to it would be a friend of his named Brian Potter. The sheriff questioned him, but got nowhere.”

“That’s because he doesn’t have our sparkling personalities.” Crowe flipped his spent cigarette butt into the street.

“Exactly,” she said, climbing into the passenger seat of their Grand Cherokee. “If this is ritualistic in nature and William Craft’s been marked as a sacrifice for some sort of Samhain ritual, then we’ve got less than twenty four hours to put a stop to it.”

“Nothing like being under the gun to inspire our best work.” Crowe pulled the Jeep into traffic and made his way down East Second Street, past the typical Italianate façades that were so prevalent throughout these small, Midwestern towns.

Return here next week for another Wicked Wednesday installment of
A Murder of Crows

Chapter Four will be posted on September 21st

A Murder of Crows (Part Two of Nine)

Posted in Archive with tags , , , , on September 7, 2011 by cairnwood

An excerpt from Descendant
Available now from Belfire Press

TWO

“So, Billy, how’s life been treating you?” Brian Potter asked, drink in hand. The two young men had been friends since grade school but opted for separate colleges. Brian was pursuing a biotech degree at nearby Hocking College. Despite a razor-sharp mind, Potter was finding academia bothersome as it tended to interfere with his pursuit of the perfect altered state of consciousness. Billy Craft had similar issues and had dropped out of Seton Hill after only one semester to return to their small Ohio hometown.

“She won’t even talk to me,” Billy responded, ignoring the question. His eyes were glued on a Jennifer Cox, who hovered near the pool in a French Maid costume that left little to the imagination. She was short, redheaded, and had a fiery disposition. She, like most of the young people at this party, had a fondness for drink, especially Screwdrivers. Jennifer was also one of the most sought after women in Hocking County. She had looks, brains… and pour a couple of drinks down her throat and she was what the kids liked to call easy. Not the kind of girl smart young men fell in love with, but then Billy Craft wasn’t exactly one of the smart ones… at least when it came to matters of the heart.

“You’re not still pining over that slut are you?” Brian said, putting his arm on his old friend’s shoulder. “You do still remember what happened last summer before we all left for college, right? You know, when you caught her fucking Sherman Oakes during that canoe trip on the Hocking?” The questions were rhetorical. He knew damn good and well that Billy remembered. He also knew that Billy was introverted when it came to the opposite sex and that he had a tendency to fixate on exactly the wrong woman, even when better choices were throwing themselves at him.

“Piss off, Brian,” Billy slurred, finishing off another Bacardi and Coke. He’d already drunk his way through two fifths of rum and was intent on dusting off a third. He staggered to the makeshift bar by the back door and poured himself another stiff drink.

“Well, far be it from me to be the voice of reason, but dude… haven’t you had enough?”

“Piss off, Brian,” Billy said, more forcefully this time. He raised the glass to his lips and slammed it home. He spun about and threw the glass against the brick exterior, laughing as it shattered into a million tiny shards. He grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels, took a swig and then staggered off toward the pool.

“Fine,” Brian called after him, “be an asshole.” He hated to see his friend in such a state. Billy was one of those guys that everyone seemed to love. He was a good friend, an excellent sounding board, and extremely well read. He could drop into a conversation with anyone and feel right at home. Subject matter was never an issue. Of course, it was women who tended to take a real shine to Billy. He had a knack for knowing just what to say to make you feel better… to make you feel special. If it weren’t for low self esteem issues, Billy Craft could have had his pick of women with that silver tongue of his. But no, he had to go and get hung up on Jennifer fucking Cox.

Brian watched as his buddy tried desperately to get the vixen to speak with him and it pained him to see the hurt on his face and the pure evil emanating from hers. He considered walking over and saving him from himself, but when he saw them finally stagger off together, passing through the south gate, he decided against it. It was a party after all. He stalked off toward a group of girls that were passing around a joint and tried his best to get laid. Far be it from him to stop his buddy from doing the same, even if it was with a she-devil from hell.

The French Maid and the vampire clad Craft strolled through the back lawn gate, angling their way toward Twin Knot Cemetery. It was a small plot of land that sat on the edge of Old Man Potter’s cornfield. It didn’t get much attention. The poor souls who had been laid to rest there had been long forgotten, their weathered grave markers all but unreadable. Now their only visitors were kids looking to get high far from prying eyes and the murder of crows with something altogether different on their minds.

“How long are you going to keep wasting away in this shit-hole of a town, Billy?” Jennifer Cox asked. Ginger hair spilled over milky white shoulders in the pale moonlight of the chilled autumn evening; a chill kept at bay by the bite of the sour mash Billy Craft had culled from the costume party.

Billy sat down in the wet grass with a sigh. He raised the bottle of Jack to his lips, surveying the girl’s scantily clad form with a mixture of desire and pained realization. Jennifer Cox was an ambitious girl. She had looks and smarts to spare. She also had the beginnings of a serious drinking problem and used sex as a bargaining tool with almost every guy she met. Worst of all, Billy Craft was head over heels in love with her. She had him wrapped around her little finger and they both knew it, but Billy was powerless to stop it.

“Logan isn’t so bad,” he answered, taking another hit from the bottle. “It’s quiet, peaceful, and weed’s easy enough to score. Why go anywhere else?”

“You’re a real piece of work, Billy,” she quipped, taking the bottle from his hands and taking a deep swig of the comforting spirits. “How could someone as smart as you have absolutely no ambition beyond your next buzz?”

“It’s because I’ve already got it figured out, Jen,” he said, lighting two cigarettes and handing her one. He filled his lungs and exhaled slowly, staring off into the deep black of the night sky. “Life is short. Why waste it on college or some meaningless job? Why be a slave to the machine? It’ll all be over in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, you’ll be thirty… forty… fifty… and what will it all have meant? Cars, houses, jewelry… a fucking dead end career… it’s all bull shit. Shiny baubles dangling out there to distract you from what matters.”

“So tell me, Billy Craft, what does matter?”

“Right here,” he said, leaning in close to her, lips almost touching. “Right now,” he whispered. He descended on those lips like a ravenous wolf, his hands sliding along her shoulders, drawing her closer.

Losing themselves in their youthful passion, neither noticed the pinpoint of a burning cigarette from the shadowed bower but a few yards away, nor the dark shape that lingered, watching their coupling embrace. Billy Craft was oblivious as the shadow advanced from its place of concealment. By the time he realized they weren’t alone it was too late.

 

Return here next week for another Wicked Wednesday installment of
A Murder of Crows

Chapter Three will be posted on September 14th

A Murder of Crows (Part One of Nine)

Posted in Archive with tags , , , , , , , on August 31, 2011 by cairnwood

A Murder of  Crows by Bob Freeman

An excerpt from Descendant
Available now from Belfire Press

ONE

The dark figure knelt on the basement floor within a magically enflamed circle inscribed in the blood of the two corpses that lay waiting for the ritual to begin. It wouldn’t be long now. The White Christ rose after three days on the cross, could the servant of the rook do less?

Speaking in a tongue that was old when the world was new, the dark figure was lost in the labyrinthine borderlands that separated the material realm from the Everafter. The OtherSide was alive with activity, tenebrous shapes harrowing the figure, testing its conviction. They should have known better.

There, in the incessant stream of ethereal consciousness, where magic arced between the figure’s fingertips as a luminous discharge of infinite possibility, the Charge was made and Darkness was promised new life once more in the world of flesh and bone.

Return here next week for another Wicked Wednesday installment of
A Murder of Crows

Chapter Two will be posted on September 7th

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