Archive for Cairnwood Manor

Imperfections of Sleep (Part 6 of 6)

Posted in Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice with tags , , , , , , on July 13, 2017 by Occult Detective

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Imperfections of Sleep
Part 6 of 6

Special Agent Michelle Hawkes followed the occult detective over the ravine and gazed once more at the majesty of Rosslyn Chapel. They had been here three days, anticipating the battle that made this sacred place run red with blood.

She had wanted to take part, as had her friend and colleague, but they were not meant to be here, at least, so the mysterious dimensional traveler had said.

The confrontation had been monstrous in scope and beyond horrific, but in the end, good won out, but at a terrible price.

“So I’m to believe that Michael Somers saved the world and is now somewhere out there looking to end it?” Hawkes said. She was new to the Bureau, an Agent in the newly formed Paranormal Operations Division of the FBI, but she’s known Landon Connors for more than a while.

She thought back to the night they’d first met. She was a captive, held in the belly of a charnel house, food for some infernal thing. It was Connors and others known as Outriders who had saved her, brought her back into the light.

Eventually she joined their ranks, trained with Connors, for a short time they’d become lovers, but now…

They had parted ways badly. Landon, for all his brilliance and charm, was a lost soul. He was in such a dark place, and spent so much time hiding from the pain in his soul that she just couldn’t bear it.

She thought she could walk away from the life, but once you looked beyond the veil, there was no way to unsee those hidden forces all around us.

“It’s hard to imagine what’s going through his mind. He lost so much.” Connors paused, staring at the wondrous chapel. The stain on this place would remain for centuries, if not for Somers’ intervention. He wondered, could a mark such as this carry over into a timeline reborn?

“And we’re just letting him do this, letting him travel back in time to end this reality as we know it?”

“Yes,” Connors replied. “I guess we are.”

“It’s all like a bad dream.” She knelt and plucked a blade of dry grass from the earth, twirling it in her fingers. Was it a mistake accepting Connors’ invitation to come to Scotland, to watch the end? Was it wrong to find herself back in his arms, falling for him all over again?

“What was it Crowley said, — Dreams are imperfections of sleep; even so is consciousness the imperfection of waking. Dreams are impurities in the circulation of the blood; even so it’s consciousness a disorder of life.

“Always the romantic,” Hawkes said, turning away from the young detective.

He reached for her, taking her hand and pulling her back.

“Hey,” Connors said with a wink, “I try.” He drew her even closer and kissed her softly. “Michelle, I don’t know how long we have, or even if what Cassidy Martin said was true, but just in case, I need to tell you something.”

“What?”

“Since the first time we met, I knew that —” Connors paused, mid-sentence, looking passed the young woman before him, staring long into the black of night overhead.

“Landon?” Hawkes said, turning to see what had caught his attention. “What the—?”

The black sky was aglow, awash in a sea of swaying, rippling bands of vibrant color that blazed across the curtain of the still and silent night. Starlight grew dim, then were snuffed altogether like a candle blown out by the wind. A strange, almost industrial hum began to resonate and the ground began to quiver.

“This is it then?”

They held hands, wondering what to expect, if they would even exist when the celestial clock reset. Connors looked into Michelle Hawkes’ eyes and thought the words he had meant to say, but kept them to himself, hoping against hope that they’d be spoken in another life.

The End

Imperfections of Sleep (Part 5 of 6)

Posted in Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice with tags , , , , , on July 12, 2017 by Occult Detective

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Imperfections of Sleep
(Part 5 of 6)

“You’re mad,” Landon Connors said, pacing on the roadway, a stream of smoke rising slowly into the mid-morning sky from the cigarette in his lips. He looked toward his mentor, Sam Hill, who was consuming a smoke of his own and working to loose those muscles that had been magically bound several minutes before. “She’s a construct, or a demon meant to lead us astray.”

“Nope,” Hill replied. “I’d know it.”

“I know it sounds crazy,” the woman in the circle said, “but believe me, Dr. Connors, reality is far more malleable than you realize.”

“She’s right about that,” Hill agreed. He removed a fresh cigarette from the pack in his breast pocket and lit it off the butt of the other before grinding it under his heel.

“My name is Cassidy Martin and I have traveled through space, time, and dimension to ensure that you and Mr. Hill do not interfere with not only what happens this night, but in what is going to happen a few months from now.

“If you rescue me, that is, nine year old me, then everything changes…again. The threads of our reality are perilously thin as it is, and I’m the only one who knows what happened now, because when what happens later..happens, then all this goes away… it doesn’t happen, not like this anyway.”

“Do I need to explain temporal paradoxes and causal loops to you?” Connors, taking a cue from Sam, lit another cigarette. “Retrocausality?” He approached the circle, feeling nauseous the nearer he came. He staggered momentarily, stepped backward and nearly retched onto the pavement.

“That’s because I’m out of synch with this reality,” she said. “Do you understand? It’s why I can’t step outside of this circle. I don’t exist here, can’t exist here. I’m from another… universe or whatever. In a few months, this reality will be erased, writ over by a new one created by Michael Somers.”

“Who the hell is Michael Somers?” Connors snapped.

“”He’s the Lord of Cairnwood Manor, or will be, but then won’t be…” She sat down on the pavement. “It’s so damn confusing.”

“Ya think?” Connors said. He limped over to stand next to Hill, joining him in leaning on the hood of the private investigator’s Caprice. “Sam, help me out here.”

“I wish I could, kiddo,” Hill replied, “but the fact of the matter is, I believe her. At the very least, I believe she believes it, and I’ve got a nose for these things.”

“So, we’re supposed to just let all this happen, just let a vampire run roughshod across our backyard, then, and this is the kicker, then sit back while our reality gets shredded and rewritten?” Connors spat on the ground. “You don’t know me, know us, very well, Ms. Martin.”

“But I do, Dr. Connors,” she said, rising to her feet. “You will save my life, trust me. Just not tonight, nor in this timeline.”

“God damn it,” Connors hissed. “Fine, say you win. Then what are me and Sam supposed to do? Huh? Do you have an answer for that?”

“No,” Cassidy replied. “I wish I did.” She placed her hand over her heart. “But if it were me, I would find someone I loved without question and hold them until the end, because your eyes will open after the fire, but what they’ll see will be altogether different.” She turned away from them, her head hung low. “You just won’t know it, no one will. No one but me.”

“And what if I don’t have someone?” Connors said. He stepped toward her, leaning even heavier on his cane.

“You do,” Cassidy replied.

Sam  put his hand on Connors’ shoulder. “The little lady is right, kid.”

“Look, my time is up,” she said, turning back to them. They could see the tears glistening on her cheeks. “The spell’s wearing off.”

“So that’s it then,” Connors said. “No last parting words of wisdom from the future?”

“No,” Cassidy replied as she began to fade away. “Just… tell Michelle I said I miss her…”

And with that, Cassidy Martin was gone.

to be continued

Imperfections of Sleep (part 4 of 6)

Posted in Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2017 by Occult Detective

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Imperfections of Sleep
Part 4 of 6

The 427 horses of Sam Hill’s ’69 Caprice rumbled across the back roads of Wabash County. It was a little rough around the edges, but had it where it counted. Besides, its owner came by it the old fashion way — he’d stolen it.

Granted, that theft occurred in 1971, and its original owner, a fence that went by the name Rager Creek Johnson, was dead shortly thereafter, but Hill still relished in the satisfaction that he’d swiped this ride from someone unworthy of what she had to offer.

He pressed the gas pedal to the floor, kicking up a cloud of dust, as he and Landon Connors cut a wake across the winding gravel road that led toward the Mississinewa.

“How in the hell does a girl in the fourth grade get drawn into Cairnwood Manor’s amor fati?” Hill gripped the wheel, slid through an intersection, cutting hard left, and bringing the Caprice onto pavement. The tires barked as they grabbed traction, leaving a black scar on the county road.

“There’ve been rumblings in the Nevermore for weeks, something kicking around the old place of late,” Connors replied. He wasn’t fond of his mentor’s predilection for hard driving. “Damn it!” he shouted, slamming his fist down on the dash, “We should have seen this coming.” He paused. “I should have…”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, kid,” Hill said. He cast a glance at the young man beside him. Early twenties, but he’d already lived enough for three lifetimes. He lost his mother when he was just a boy, and he wasn’t much older than that when the incident in Antarctica went down and the Connors patriarch, Ashton Connors, met his untimely demise. That was four years ago. It had left Landon with a bum leg, but more than that, it had left him with emotional scars that were slow to heal. “In case you haven’t been paying attention, we’ve been busy, or have you forgotten the peace we brokered between the land wights and the Rich Valley Sylphs.”

“Yes, I know, but…”

“Not to mention our little misadventure with Nicole van Klaveren last week,” Hill continued. “We’re a damn band-aid,” he hung a quick right, fishtailing onto a gravel road for a short spell, then cut back north. “We can’t save the world,” he added bitterly, “not when all the heavens have turned their backs on us.” He flipped out two cigarettes from his breast pocket and tossed one at Connors. “Now smoke that and focus on what’s ahead, because what’s behind us is…”

“Sam!” Connors exclaimed, both hands reflexively clutching the dashboard, his right leg stomping on a brake pedal that wasn’t there.

“What the —?” Hill floored the brake and threw the Caprice into a sliding stop, the smell of rubber and smoke filling the air.

Standing in the middle of the road, fields of corn awaiting harvest on either side, stood a young woman. Connors shook his head as he climbed out of the car, his attention swiftly shifting from concern for her well-being to danger-mode as became aware of the evanescent tendrils of smoke swirling around the woman’s feet. About her, burnt into the pavement, was a nine foot circle, arcane symbols following its arc. Magic still radiated from the scar, a purple glow that faded to an almost indiscernible wisp of eldritch vapor.

Sam responded quickly, the crackle of magical energy beginning to spark at his fingertips, but the woman was quicker. She unleashed a binding spell that wrapped itself around the private investigator, fettering him within a spiraling chain of Enochian letters, pulsing with fairy fire.

This was above Connors’ pay grade, but he was learning. Prepping an offensive spell in his mind, tapping into the elements at his command, he just needed time to bring it all together. But time was in short supply. I need to take a different approach, the occult detective thought…

“That’s a neat piece of work,” he said, flashing her a devilish grin. “Where did a pretty young thing like you learn such a nasty little spell?”

“From you, you old snake-charmer,” she replied.

Connors was stunned. “From me? You must be mistaken. I think I’d remember if we’d met before?”

“Oh, we’ve met,” she said, stepping forward in the circle. “Just not yet.”

to be continued

Imperfections of Sleep (Part 3 of 6)

Posted in Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice with tags , , , , on July 10, 2017 by Occult Detective

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Imperfections of Sleep
(Part 3 of 6)

“This is the son’s room?”

Landon Connors was kneeling beside the twin bed, rubbing the blue rose patterned sheet between the fingers of his right hand while his left held tightly to an antique walking stick decorated with arcane and ancient symbols atop a shaft of ebony.

“Todd,” Sam Hill replied. He stood in the bedroom’s doorway nervously, yet dexterously twirling an unlit cigarette between his fingers. “He’s away at camp.”

Connors glanced around the room. Sports and super-hero posters on the walls, trophies occupying bookshelves alongside Harry Potter, The Hardy Boys, and a dogeared Lord of the Flies paperback. All-American kid, but he wasn’t the reason they were here, and he sure wasn’t the reason there was a magical black stain on this room.

“You feel it?” Connors asked.

“The temporal vortex?” Hill replied. “Why do you think I’m not crossing this threshold? Last thing I need is for Scratch to sniff me out here.”

“How in the hell does a little girl pick up a taint like this, let alone open a rift in the Veil?” Connors stood painfully, his knee protesting against the strain. He held out his hand, palm down over the bed, forcing the invisible threads of the tear to shimmer into a semblance of discernible tendrils. “She was experiencing…” He winced from a slice of astral pain that coursed through him. “…horrible nightmares…” He staggered, shaken, as he reached into the void, conjuring forth abhorrent visions that twisted and morphed like smoke born apparitions. “…but more than that, she…”

“She what?” It took all Hill’s will to not go to his young protégé’s side.

“No, this isn’t right,” Connors said. He stepped away from the bed, limping toward the small desk in the corner. He brushed the desktop clear — comics, trading cards, and sports magazines all falling into a cluttered mess on the floor. The occult detective dug through the deep pockets of his trench coat, carefully depositing a deck of tarot cards and a silver candle holder. He then withdrew an array of candles, settling on one colored lavender, and replacing the others within the confines of his coat. He touched his finger to the blackened wick and fire sprang to life.

“You’ve been practicing,” Hill said from the doorway.

Connors ignored him and continued his work. Tossing his coat onto the bed, and his antique cane atop that, the young man turned and focused his gaze on the open flame. It danced before him, undulating with a sensual alacrity.

The world fell away then, replaced by fractal images and a sea of infinite colors all swirling together in a copulating frenzy, a bleeding ensemble in an explosion of depraved indifference. From that mass, it rose, a dark shape, gathering about it the deep blues, purples, and blacks, climbing shapeless into the thunderous sky, dripping, oozing, and malevolent.

That amorphous entity, malefic and inchoate, exploded, turning the surreal landscape into deeper shades of black. Connors felt himself drifting now, soaring across the now ebon sea, the dark clouds overhead spider-webbed with electrical discharge.

Faster now, toward a floating shape as the sea and sky melt away leaving only a great void of black. The shape ahead, now coming into focus, revealed a meteor, its top a shear surface, adrift in the great void. Descending, Connors’ astral form looked down on a sprawling manor, eclectic in design as colonial, second empire, and romanesque architectures collided beside the ruins of an ancient tower.

Landon Connors knew the place below him, knew it well, but past it he sailed over a rising forest, and a mirrored lake, and a dam beyond. The sky opened up now as clouds rolled in to fill the void and lightning lashed out and the sound of wolves howling filled his ears.

9swordsConnors fell away from the desk and onto the floor, his head whipping back to where several hours before a young girl had been consumed by unrelenting nightmare. He rose tenderly, drawing himself back up to the desk.

“Landon,” Hill said, not disguising his concern. “What is it, boy?”

Connors reached out slowly for the tarot, sliding the top card away from the others, then dropping it face up onto the desk.

“I know where she is…”

to be continued

Imperfections of Sleep (Part 2 of 6)

Posted in Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice with tags , , , , on July 9, 2017 by Occult Detective

samhillImperfections of Sleep
Part 2 of 6

Bang. Bang. Bang.

“What the hell?”

Sam Hill raised up from the Army cot he called a bed, tucked into the backroom of his office. Glancing at the clock in the corner, next to the coffee pot and hot plate, he read 8:03am.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

He was still dressed from the night before: rumbled dress pants and suspenders, wife-beater t-shirt. He slid his feet into his worn pair of Balmorals, snatched a cigarette from the apple crate he used for a nightstand and lit it with the snap of his fingers.

Gutter magic had its uses.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

“Christ on a stick,” he muttered, rising off the cot and opening the door to his office. He could make out the silhouette of the morning’s intruder through the frosted glass of the front door, the inverse lettering — Sam Hill: Private Investigator — hanging like a black stain against their grey shape.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

“Keep your knickers on,” he yelled, crossing the room. His head was pounding. How much Bourbon had he drank last night at Purgatory? Some questions, he decided, were better left unanswered.

He reached the door just as Estelle Davis was about to pound again. Her Buick was still running, pulled up to the curb out front. Hill could make out her husband sitting behind the wheel, arm up over the passenger seat, staring back at the detective’s modest digs. He’d never much cared for Bill Davis. He was a self-righteous ass. But then Wabash was full of that sort. Estelle on the other hand was a fine looking woman, who’d married far below her station, as far as Hill was concerned.

“Morning, Estelle,” Hill managed, “what’s got you all fired up?”

“It’s my niece,” she blurted out, frantic. Hill noticed then her state of dress, her unkempt hair. She was still wearing her night clothes, a long coat barely disguising the fact. “Cassidy,” she continued, “she was staying with us last night. She’s gone.”

“Slow down,” Hill said. He placed a comforting hand on her shoulder and led her inside. “Give it too me, nice a calm like.” He looked into her eyes, capturing her attention, then made a subtle hand gesture. He saw the weight slide off her, her shoulders relaxed, the worry eased from her face. “That’s a girl.”

“I was watching my niece while my sister and her husband, Dave Martin, dealt with the death of their sons,” she began, her voice almost monotone.

“Yes, I read all about it in the Plain Dealer.” Hill made another hand gesture. “Go on.”

“This morning, Cassidy was gone and so was Todd’s bike.”

“Give me a time frame, Estelle,” Hill said. “What time did you last see her? What time did you discover her missing?”

“We put her to bed at 9:30,” Estelle said calmly. “I went to wake her at 7:30 and Todd’s bed was empty.”

“I see,” Hill said. “And your son Todd is…?”

“Away at basketball camp.”

“Got it,” another had gesture tweaked the fabric of reality. “Tell me, Estelle, what were your actions since discovering Cassidy wasn’t in your home?”

“I called the State Police, but they said we’d have to wait 24 hours to file a missing persons report. I then called Susan, but got her answering machine. Bill and I drove around town, then I thought to come here.”

“You did fine,” Hill said, soothingly. “How old is Cassidy?”

“Ten, I think,” she said.

“And you didn’t relate this to the police, I take it.”

“No,” she replied. “I guess I panicked and hung up.”

“That’s fine, dear,” he said. Hill made a final gesture of the hand and the world came crushing back down on Estelle Davis.

“Oh my god,” she gasped. “Cassidy…”

“Estelle,” Hill began, reaching out and taking her hands, “you did the right thing coming to me. I’m going to find your niece. Believe me. I’m going to make a call and then my colleague and I will meet you back at your house.”

“Colleague?” she stammered. “Who…?”

“Landon Connors.”

to be continued

Imperfections of Sleep (Part 1 of 6)

Posted in Occult Detectives, Writing in Theory & Practice with tags , , , , on July 8, 2017 by Occult Detective

Once again, I embark on a serial short story, with little to no plan. Normally, I would be performing this literary exploration without any semblance of net, but in this case, there is one.

As this story takes place between the lines of my first novel, Shadows Over Somerset, this first installment of this six part tale is culled 99% from that novel. The rest will take us us into the tale untold… I begin in this fashion for those of you may have not read Shadows yet. For those who have, consider this a refresher.

The impetus for this tale is two-fold. One, it serves as a precursor to next week’s release of First Born. Two, this is something of a return to form, as the character whom I would later rename Landon Connors was excised from this earlier work.

This restores the balance somewhat and gives you a taste of what might have been.

Let us begin now, in the city of Wabash, 10 miles north of the small town of Somerset, where a young girl is about to lose her fight to stay awake and be submerged into a lucid nightmare from which she can find no escape…

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Imperfections of Sleep
Part 1 of 6

Cassidy Martin was understandably upset. Her brothers were dead, her best friend missing, and she’d been sent off to stay with her Aunt Estelle under the guise of protecting her from whatever was going on in Somerset. But Cassidy knew her parents didn’t understand. How could they?

She laid in her cousin Todd’s bed, desperately afraid to fall asleep, but she knew it was inevitable. It was out of her control now. Unseen forces were conspiring against her, lulling her to sleep, and dragging her into the lucid nightmares that were breaking her heart. As she felt herself sinking into unwanted slumber, she whispered a silent prayer:

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep… “

And then she was adrift, finding herself walking through the old Cairnwood Cemetery with her brothers Jimmy and Allen. They were going to protect her from Joey and the Dark Man. The fog was thick and all the tombstones were covered in blood. Her feet sloshed through the blood-saturated earth. It splashed as she walked, staining her frilly white nightgown. They walked into the woods and followed the path of blood through it. She could hear the screams of tiny children in the night, calling for their mothers, and fearing for their lives.

The brothers stopped and would go no further. Cassidy stepped through the foliage to see a farmhouse in a rough and tumble clearing. She followed the blood to the uneven porch, climbed the rickety steps, and walked toward the door. Joey was sitting on a wrought iron bench and flipping through a stack of cards.

“Hi, Joey,” the dreaming child said. “Are you ok?”

“I’m as good as can be expected. I’m dead, you know. Like you.”

Cassidy stepped toward the boy. “But I’m not. I’m just asleep.”

“Oh,” Joey said looking up from his cards, “I didn’t know there was a difference.”

“What are you looking at, Poke`mon cards?” she asked.

Joey looked to the cards then back to Cassidy. His eyes reflected fast moving clouds and lightning flashes. He pulled a card from the deck and flipped it between his fingers with uncanny dexterity. Round and round, over and under, the card danced in his tiny hand as if it had a life of its own. He stopped its progress, catching the card between his thumb and index finger. He held it out to Cassidy.

“Go on, take it,” he said. “It’s yours.”

She took the card from his hand and turned it over. On it was a picture of a man in a flannel skirt holding a severed wolf’s head into the air.

“I don’t think I like this,” she said, offering it back to Joey.

“Look at the other side,” he said.

She flipped it over and examined the backside of the card. Where it had been previously blank was now a picture of Cassidy. She was naked and hanging upside down from one ankle. Her other leg formed a figure four with her ensnared straight leg. The tips of her hair touched the ground and were stained with blood. She wore a smile on her face. Cassidy stared at the card for a long minute. Then the face on the card opened its eyes and they stared back at her with pain and sorrow.

Cassidy dropped the card onto the porch and ran across the blood soaked lawn. She ran for her life. She ran as far and as fast as she could.

Joey called out from behind her.

“Be sure to come back, Cassidy…we’ll be waiting.”

Cassidy woke from her nightmare, shaken and scared. She knew that it was time to end it. The time had come for her to take action. She climbed out the bedroom window of her aunt’s house and slipped around the side to the garage. With a little effort she opened the overhead door and pulled her cousin’s bike out from behind the lawnmower. The mountain bike was a little big for her so she stepped up on the car bumper and onto the bike’s seat. Then the child peddled. She peddled like the devil was chasing her. She peddled toward Somerset.

to be continued

Keepers of the Dead for Christmas

Posted in Horror, Sword & Sorcery, Writing in Theory & Practice with tags , , on December 18, 2015 by Occult Detective

cm2kotd02Just in time for your Yuletide celebrations, a print edition of Keepers of the Dead, follow-up novel to Shadows Over Somerset, is available for your reading pleasure.

This is the perfect time to settle in somewhere warm and comfortable, a tall Scotch at the ready, and loose yourself in a tale of werewolves, vampires, zombies, witches, and more…

Don’t believe me? Here’s a sneak peek of what’s waiting inside:

.:.

Chapter One

“One strong wolf cannot defeat a pack of dogs,
nor can one strong arm defeat many fists.”
Chinese Proverb

A dark wolf, large and powerful, raced through the thick blanket of December snow that covered the grounds surrounding Cairnwood Manor. In and out, over and around the old and leaning tombstones the wolf danced, taking long strides as it pursued its smaller prey. The dark wolf was on the verge of complete and utter rage as the white-coated wolf managed to stay ahead of the frothing beast.

The white wolf leapt two stones in quick succession and then bounded over an above ground vault. The dark wolf faltered in its pursuit, failing to make the leap over the larger structure. It hit the ground and rolled up, sprinting around the concrete obstacle. The white wolf had stretched its lead by some thirty feet as it leapt over a rectangular monument that stood four feet in height and was nearly that wide. The dark wolf could sense that it was gaining and flung itself headlong into the chase.

As the mottled beast became a blur of browns and blacks, it failed to see its white prey slide to a stop and turn to face it. Suddenly from behind the wide monument rose the figure of a man. Clad in fringed buckskin, the man, a Native American by birth, raised his rifle to his shoulder and took careful aim. A thunderous roar rang out as the rifle released three silver slugs in quick synchronicity. The dark wolf crumbled to the ground and slid headlong into the monument with a bone-crunching thud.

The Indian hopped the stone and removed a ceremonial knife from the sheath at his waist and slit the animal’s throat. He held the beast tightly by the scruff of its neck until the creature’s life force left it. In his grasp, what had once been a great and feral beast began to convulse and contort until what lay before him was a naked man, white, but dark skinned from years spent beneath an unrelenting sun. The crooked smile of his slit throat gleamed crimson against the stark white of the deep snow.

Did that leave you hungry for more? Head on over to amazon and order yourself a copy today.

 

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