An excerpt from Descendant
Available now from Belfire Press
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.
“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.
“What?” she barked.
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.
“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