Welcome! Today’s post is an excerpt from my debut novel The Death of Laszlo Breyer, set for Halloween release for your Amazon Kindle device/app!
Alcoholic ex-detective Jack Talbot is accused of stealing the remains of his dead wife’s killer, but when new killings start, he has to find out who is passing themselves off as lycanthrope psychopath Laszlo Breyer, before the copycat exacts his bloody revenge and kills those closest to Jack.
In this excerpt, David saw something unusual on his CCTV cameras and their dog, Freddy, is missing. He is preparing himself to go outside and look.
David tramped downstairs re-tightening the belt on his dressing gown. In the kitchen he rifled through his drawer, ignored the ball of string and screwdrivers and WD-40 and assortment of light bulbs and grabbed the torch. Outside, the wind whipped up again. He looked down at the torch, unsure of the last time he’d used it and flicked it on, off, then on again. Gripping the cold barrel, he stood by the back door.
From upstairs came a click and warm, welcoming light cascaded from the landing.
‘What’s going on?’
David’s grip released on the torch and fastened again just in time to stop it falling to the floor. He breathed deeply, ‘He’s gone... again.’
David sighed, ‘He’s gone again. Your beloved Freddy.’
‘Well go out and find him.’
‘What do you think I’m doing?’ he snapped. ‘Go back to bed.’
He heard muttering as the light went off and then the only sound in the house was again the sound of that biting wind.
David stared longingly upstairs in the direction of his warm bed, then turned back to the door. He did the maths. It would take ten seconds, maybe fifteen, to get outside, round the corner and to the back of the property. Once there, he would check the rope which tied Freddy. If it was chewed through (again) it was nothing serious, just another escape attempt. He could come back inside, go back to the nice, warm bed upstairs, and start looking for him tomorrow. Thirty seconds. Max.
And if it wasn’t an escape attempt?
He frowned. Deep down he sensed that this was different from the other times that Freddy had escaped; that the scene on the monitor was somehow wrong. He couldn’t swear to it, but he thought he’d seen a shadow on screen as he entered the study. He drew another deep breath, turned the key in the door, and opened it.
Once outside the bitter wind snatched at his dressing gown as he strode to the rear of the house. Five seconds. The silver torch beam twinkled on the snowy ground a few feet ahead of him. As he rounded the corner the harsh security light flooded his tired eyes. Ten seconds. He shielded them, before turning his attention to the kennel and rope. He kneeled to inspect the rope when, above the wind, came a sound from the trees. He span, half falling against the house, and trained the torchlight into the dense greenness of the conifers.
The wind died to a whisper. In the distance a car door slammed shut and he thought about calling out to the neighbour for help. But what would he say? That his dog was missing?
He stood now and gingerly stepped towards the trees, bobbing and leaning to get a view through the branches, his heart racing.
Then he heard it.
A low growl.
The pounding heartbeat rose in his ears again as the torch settled on a pair of glowing eyes.
‘Fred. Stop fucking about,’ he shouted, unable to control the quiver in his voice.
As he stepped back he noticed footprints leading into the trees. Too big for Freddy’s? His mind was at the point of contemplating the patch where whatever it was stopped walking into the trees and started to be dragged
Please not Freddy
when, between the gusts of wind, the growl rose.
David dropped the torch. He turned and sprinted for the door. Behind him, he heard the trees part. His shadow shrank in the fallen torchlight only to be swallowed by something huge. He stumbled around the corner and leapt at the kitchen door expecting to feel the cold grip of death at any moment…
That’s all folks… for now! If you’d like to get a hold of the book a wee bit early, and save some money in the process, ‘Like’ my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/marcwshako or give me a follow on Google+ https://plus.google.com/+MarcWShako and stay tuned for updates!
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Hello, dear reader! I've taken time out of writing the new book to bring you a short story. Enjoy!
In the dim hallway, just feet from the sanctity of his bedroom, he stared at the flickering candle. And while he didn’t want to, he knew that he should blow it out. You heard terrible stories of candles not extinguished causing fires.
Burning to death. Yes, that would be the only thing worse than the darkness. The darkness. That inky blackness in which his nightmares wandered. He’d had the same nightmare three nights in a row. The shuffling outside his bedroom door – in this very hallway – the creeping blackness. But he couldn’t leave it. What about the fire? The only thing worse than the dark. He drew a deep haltering breath, and blew...
Standing in the hallway, he watched as the tendrils of smoke rose from the smouldering glow of the freshly extinguished wick. His eyes darted to the flame dancing atop the candle at the far end of the narrow hallway: it bobbed, threatening to plunge him into total darkness.
Well, not quite total, he thought – he still held a candle himself. The fragile halo of light would protect him, at least until he was locked safely in his room.
As he ambled along the uneven passage, towards that gentle sphere of light at the far end, the floor creaked. And aside from him footsteps, the silence was complete. He’d take comfort from an outside breeze, or a patter of rain against the window. But tonight, as in his nightmares, the elements offered nothing. He toyed with the notion of extinguishing the candle that sat outside his room, but instead turned towards his bedroom door.
He reached into a pocket and gripped the cool metal of his key. He slid it into the lock, strangly comforted by the weight of it, and listened to the tumblers as they rattled into place. He pushed the door and it squeaked on its hinges, slowly swinging open.
He turned and eyed the dancing flame of the candle behind him. He blew this out and the hall would be consumed by blackness.
Well, not completely, he thought, tightly gripping the candle in his hand. He drew another deep breath and…
He jumped as his own breath broke the silence. He dashed into the bedroom, removing the key from the door as he went. He daren’t move too quickly, the flickering flame of the final candle wobbling a warning in his hands. The hinges squeaked as he shoved the bedroom door shut, closing out the deathly black of the hall. He quickly followed with the key, again listening to the click of the tumblers.
The door was locked. Safe at last. But he would not blow out his candle. Not yet. And maybe not at all. It was in the darkness of his nightmares that it came, and when it did, a swift certain death followed with it.
He placed the candle onto the bedside table and slipped between the cold sheets. He wouldn’t sleep: Not straight away. Like every other night he would wait. He would wait and listen.
There was something different about tonight. It wasn’t the shadows; their presence was felt every night. It wasn’t the cold, for the house was rarely touched by warmth. It was the silence. Normally, there was something: dry autumnal leaves scratching at the windows; drops of rain gently tapping their staccato beat. Tonight, neither made a sound. In fact, it was so quiet that he could hear the gentle sizzle from the burning wick. Just like his dream.
Suddenly, he whipped his head around to the door. To the place where he heard a sound. Not the door itself, but beyond. In the hallway.
Was it not the same creak his own feet had made?
He waited. The next moment was surely the key turning in the lock. Turned by an invisible hand. Clicking the tumblers. Then, the squealing of hinges. The door opening to endless blackness. And from the blackness. The swift shadow of death.
He stared at the door. At the flaking paint around the lock. At the key, still housed within. At least that had not moved. He was still locked in. Still safe. Safe and alone!
He stared at the door. Waiting to hear the sound of footsteps from beyond. But he didn’t.
He threw his head back and barked out a relieved laugh. He didn’t hear footsteps. He didn’t hear creaking. No, as he sat, his heartbeat thudding in his ears, as he stared at the door, the protective candlelight jigging in his peripheral vision, what he heard was much, much worse.
Then, in the pitch blackness, came the rattling of tumblers...
And the squealing of hinges...
And then he heard no more...
Here's a short story to keep you going while I write my new book! Enjoy!
Loud applause erupted from the studio audience of the Wheel of Fortune. Her family would have no doubt complained that the volume was too loud, just as they would have complained that the room was too warm. She liked it warm. Maybe they would have been right. Maybe it was too loud. But Gladys wasn’t listening.
Her eyes had strayed as they so often did to the wall behind the television where the photograph had hung for the past fourteen years. It was, had been, her favourite photograph, at one time. That was a long time ago, shortly after it had been taken. Now she hated it.
It had been taken at her 40th Wedding Anniversary celebration. At her and Ron’s favourite restaurant. The Cow and Crab. A steak and seafood place out in the sticks that they’d stumbled upon on a scenic drive back from the coast. She and Ron were pride of place in the centre of the photograph, with the fireplace a warm and welcoming backdrop. She and Ron were seated, with Tony, Stephen and Janice standing behind them – their three kids in order of age (it also looked good because Stephen was the tallest). And beside them stood their two grandchildren, Timothy at one side, and Jackie at the other. Sarah (Jackie’s mother) had shouted smile!, and smile they had. It was an evening that Gladys would always remember fondly. But the photo? The photo she hated.
She’d tried to get rid of the damned thing, after Ron died. She took it down and put it in the shoebox that she kept all her special memories in. The shoebox beneath the bed. It seemed a sin to put this awful object in there with the cinema and concert tickets she’d kept from special occasions, but at the time she couldn’t bring herself to throw it away. That afternoon, when the photo was gone, she had been able to focus on Wheel of Fortune. And all of the shows that came after it. Her eyes no longer drawn to that cursed picture lurking in the background serving as a constant reminder of…
That night, she’d gone to bed and slept well for the first time in God knew how long. The following morning, she peered beneath the bed just to check the shoebox was still there. And it was. British Racing Green with a thick tan elastic band, corners a little tattered. For the first time in years she went to the kitchen and prepared breakfast with a smile on her face. But the smile disappeared when she sat in the living room to eat. On the wall, behind the television, like it had never been away, was the photo.
At that time only three of the seven people in the picture had died. Ron most recently, of his heart condition. Before him Stephen, victim of a motorcycle accident. The first to go had been young Jackie. Only seven years old. Kidnapped and missing for four weeks. Gladys had been the first in the family to know she was dead. Earlier that week, before the police visited Tony and Sarah with the awful news, Gladys had found that God forsaken photograph not on the wall, but on the floor. Frame intact, string in one pristine piece. She looked up at the nail where the picture had been hanging, and it was fast in the wall. She’d never been the superstitious type, but that morning when she found the photograph on the floor, she knew. Balls to bones as Ron would say, she just knew.
It had, of course, fallen again in the week of Stephen’s motorcycle accident. And again in the week Ron was rushed to hospital. That was the first time she’d taken it down. After Ron had died. She never told the family. They’d make fun of her. After the first reappearance of the photo, she locked it in the cupboard where Ron kept his whiskey, only for it to be back upon the wall the next morning. She even took it into town. She removed the photograph and gave the frame to a charity shop collecting for cancer research. And when she got back home she cried as she put a match to the smiling faces in the aluminium kitchen sink. She watched as the flames consumed them one at a time. She sat in a chair and sobbed as the acrid blue smoke hung in the air. She’d cried until the smoke cleared, and when it had, she hoisted herself up and staggered into the living room. As she slumped into her chair, the chair she was sitting in now, she screamed. She screamed at the seven faces smiling at her from the wall behind the television.
Now, as she sat staring at the photograph in the warmth of her living room, another burst of applause exploding from the studio audience, she cried. That picture had fallen three more times since Ron had passed. Once each for Tony, Timothy, and Janice. Now there was nobody to complain that the volume was too loud. It was just Gladys and the picture.
There was no one to complain that the room was too warm. But was it? Gladys pulled the thin cardigan up over her shoulders and tight around her chest. She rolled the sleeves down over her forearms where the goosepimples had formed. The sound from the television seemed to fade as once more her eyes were drawn behind, to the wall – to the photograph.
Now her eyes went from the blurred soft lines to hard focus. Onto those seven smiling faces, six of whom were now gone. Onto the frame that she’d left behind in the charity shop years before. She looked at the faces and they smiled back at her. Suddenly she realised that for the first time in years she didn’t feel the old bitter animosity towards that picture. She didn’t feel the fear. As she stared now, the old feelings of warmth and happiness came back. The happy memories. The love of those in the picture.
The picture. And as the warmth crept back into the room, she stared at the picture. She stared at the picture: then it fell.
If you enjoyed Smile! please share it with your friends! Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ so you don't miss the next short story, which should be with you next Wednesday!
The finale to the series. If you've missed it (where have you been?!), here's a link to Part One.
I drop at his side, eyes stinging from hot tears. I should have come sooner.
I gently try to rouse him. There's no pulse. I thump his chest, desperately trying to restart his heart. I know the only chance I’ve got of saving him is if he was alive when I got here. But didn’t I feel that? Did he feel that too? Did he hold on until I did? Until I died at the hands of the thugs downstairs? Until Iggy killed me a few months back, I had no religious beliefs whatsoever. Since then things have changed. All I can hope now is that somebody is watching. His flesh still holds a faint warmth.
There’s a chance.
I breathe air into his lungs, hoping that as I do, I’m also breathing life. I work his chest again. The kids are crying behind me. Filling me with the twisted hope that they’re crying because they saw him die and that will give me a chance of bringing him back from the brink. I breathe again, before checking for a pulse. Still nothing. As I work I happen to glance at his wrist, and see a number 9. He looks to be at least 7 years old now.
“Come on, Jamie.”
I pump his chest again, before taking a lungful of air, knowing that it’s the last hope.
Then, something amazing happens. The kids stop crying. It’s like they see something. Or feel something. Jamie coughs. I grab a half-empty bottle of water from the counter, gently wetting his dry lips. I untie the kids, both of whom are younger than Jamie, and scoop his tired body up in my arms. And just as we leave the office, there’s a noise from downstairs – more precisely from the door. I turn, hoping for all the world to see Dax and the guys.
Shit. There are six of them. Three car’s worth. All with guns pointed at me.
So fucking close. I was almost free. We were almost free. Then it hits me. They don’t know who I am.
“The fuck have you assholes been?”
The cop at the front is bigger, burly, scowling. Like a man with responsibility pressing on his shoulders like a deadweight. The man in charge.
“Where the fuck are you going?”
I struggle down the stairs, with the kids in tow. “I had to kill that prick,” I say, pointing to the guy I dumbfounded by landing aflame at his feet.
“Where are you going with the kids? You know the rules.”
I ignore him, hoping he’s not aware of my ignorance of his rules. By the time I get to the bottom, the cops are around me. A semi-circle, guns still drawn. I’m armed only with a kid I had to bring back to life.
“You do know the rules?” the cop repeats.
I guess what he’s talking about, though the idea of it turns my stomach inside out. My heart drops in my chest, and I’m careful not to squeeze Jamie too much. “I just thought that you know, if we could save them…”
“They’ve seen us, you asshole.”
I nod. Placing Jamie on the ground, I turn to the big cop, “Mind if I do it?”
It’s a ploy, trying to get a gun in my hands and giving me an edge. The big cop knows it.
He smiles. “Nice try.” He raises his gun, but not at me. At Jamie. He looks at me, wanting to see my anguish.
I look back.
And all I do is smile. Over his shoulder, I watch as a huge silhouette fills the doorway. It quietly enters, a small skinny guy and delicate woman behind him.
The cop is unaware. He lowers his gun at Jamie. I dive in front of Jamie as his gun fires and again I feel the bullet rip into me. But before the darkness falls, the shadowy figures in the background all open fire. And knowing those shadows as I do, three against six is odds I like.
I land and something happens. This time the darkness doesn’t fall. The cops all do, cut down by a hail of bullets. The bullet I took is another hit to my poor fuckin’ shoulder, but I’m alive. The guys come over and Iggy helps me to my feet. Dax scoops the kids up in his huge arms, and Sadie picks up fragile little Jamie.
Everybody stops. I reach into my back pocket and pull out the piece of paper, shocked it’s still there. I unfold it, to see the picture I printed. An Ouroboros – the snake curled into an infinity symbol eating its own tail.
Iggy reads the words printed there, “We know who you are. And we’re coming.”
He looks at me, and smiles. I stuff the page into the big cop’s mouth. “Okay, let’s go home.”
Jamie comes round a little as we drive. He drinks water like a lion after dry season. He’s fragile, but he’s alive. I’m comforted to know that his parents will get the chance to give him the Last Party he deserves. As we head back to the city I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had died. But I’d like to think it was a damn sight different from the first time. Sadie checks her phone as Iggy drives. She finds missing person’s reports on Jamie and the kids. With addresses. We head over to Jamie’s place first, stopping outside his parents’ house.
“You ready, little man?”
He nods, with a striking confidence considering what he’s been through.
I scribble a note, saying he has to go straight to hospital. And that the guys that took him are dead. That they should say that he was missing, not kidnapped. My phone number is there too. We’ll escort them to the hospital, just in case.
We slowly walk up the driveway and ring the doorbell.
“Okay buddy,” I say, “this is goodbye.”
Without a word, he throws his scrawny arms around me. His mom opens the door and her mouth drops. I hand her the note and walk away.
I climb into the car and look back and watch as the owner of that haunted voice from the park scoops up the boy with a relief I can’t imagine. And yes, if you must know, I cried.
All we have to do now is drop the other kids off, then it’s back to the hangar. Back to the hangar for some well-deserved R&R. Not for too long though. Because we’ve got a job to do. And check-books to balance.
That's all folks! Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If I may ask those of you who enjoyed the story, if you have a friend you think would like Infinity, please tell them about the blog. I'll be back soon with more short stories for you!
So close to the end... But will it end in victory? Read Part One here.
Time seemed to slow as I burst through the door. Puffs of concrete exploded at my feet. The zip of bullets seared past my head. I saw the muzzle flashes in the darkness. That’s where I aimed. The distance between me and the crates that represented shelter yawned before me. I ran in that dream-like molasses crawl towards a safety that seemed to be getting further away. I dived, firing as I went, and skidded to safety.
Bullets whizzed, but I only counted flashes from four different places in the dark. All were concentrated against the back wall: two from above, two from below. I scurried further along behind the crates to a set of barrels and peeped into the shadows. At the top of the metal stairs, there was an office. That’s what they were protecting. That’s where I’d find Jamie.
Through the darkness, I could make out the four silhouettes, but in my mind, I knew that I was short on ammo. I checked the clip. Two rounds. Two Bullets + Four guys = Problem. I’m sure I’ve read that somewhere. In the background I heard the wail of sirens, from at least two squad cars. I knew that it would be at least ten minutes until my guys came. If they were coming at all.
I was fucked. Done for. The occasional rat-a-tat of bullets splintered the crates. They didn’t even know I’d moved. But eventually they would. And they would eventually make a killshot. They might not check my birthmark at all. But if they did, that would be it. Maybe I could cut the hand off and hide it. I’d just be a one-armed corpse thrown into the river. When I came to, I’d be alive, and the wound would be on its way to healing. A few weeks later it would have grown back. I could start again. I still had the knife. I grabbed it and rolled up my sleeve. I’ll never be able to explain why, but I wanted to see what I was doing properly. The piss poor light inside wouldn’t let me. I grabbed my zippo, thoughts immediately turning to a last cigarette.
Then I saw it. The sign on the barrels. Flammable.
I took the knife and stabbed a hole into the side of the drum, as close to the top as I could. The stench of paraffin hitting me as the liquid inside spilled out. It ran and pooled by my feet. Enough for me to light and run. The diversion would give me time to get across the floor. I could get off two shots. One for each of the guys downstairs. Then I’d have their guns. The popcorn crackle of gunfire still burst overhead. I tucked my knife back into my sock, opened my Zippo, and lit.
I put the flame to the puddle and ran. More shots rang out. I broke from hiding just as the barrels went up. A huge warmth exploded at my right as I ran into the firing line. I saw the shock in the faces of the two gunmen down stairs as the fireball illuminated the huge room. I fired at the man closest and missed. As I fired the second shot the explosion carried me off my feet. I was flying when I watched that second bullet land between his deep-set eyes. I felt the flames engulf my back and when I landed, it was at the feet of his comrade. The barrel of his M4 pointed at my face.
He froze. I can’t say why. It’s almost like some people have never seen a guy on fire before. I reached up and grabbed the barrel of his gun, steering it away from my face a split second before the bullets oozed out. I jumped to my feet and dived on him. We flew backwards and rolled. I think that was the moment the fire on my back went out. Somewhere in that struggle I knocked the rifle from his hands and plunged the cold steel of the knife into his side, as I had his friend outside. During the struggle I heard the clatter of feet on the steel of the staircase. The unfolding mayhem of explosion fuelled flight had taken a matter of seconds. I reached the rifle and loaded a fresh clip from Dead Guy’s belt. I turned to see the guys from upstairs. The first fired and hit my shoulder. The force threw me back. Landing on the burned from the explosion, a bolt of pain exploded across my back.
Then the lights went out.
I was back in that place. The place of a thousand eyeless faces. I was dead. For the second time. I was at the feet of the undead and once more they reached for me. They dragged me to my feet. But this time, it wasn’t to pull and tear at me. Now, they raised me up, over their heads. Crowdsurfer of the Dead. Then I was floating. High above them. First towards, then into, the light. Into the light and out of their world. Out of their world and back into mine. To the warehouse.
The first thing I noticed in the blackness was the smell. My seared flesh. The burnt paraffin. Then I felt the pain of my shoulder. When my eyes opened, the two thugs were still here. Walking away. I’d only been gone for a moment. I did the same gasp for air as I did when I came back the first time. The two gunmen turned as one. Their mouths dropped open. I raised the gun and fired. Too quickly for them to react. They slumped to the floor, legs bent at odd angles. No way these two were coming back.
I slowly got to my feet, my shoulder screaming in exquisite agony. I shambled over to the staircase and dragged myself up as best I could. I rounded the corner halfway and peered up at the office door. It gave me extra energy and I pushed onwards to that door, ignoring the sickening pain that overtook the upper half of my battered body.
As I neared the door, I heard the crying. Two voices. I ran. There were more kids here. I knew that the door was the only thing between me and their freedom. I smashed it open. Three kids, all bound to the pipes, two sitting upright and screaming. And I saw him. I don’t know how but I knew it was him. Jamie. The third kid.
Perfectly still. At peace. I was too late.
If you enjoyed Infinity (Part 9/10) please share it with your friends! Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ so you don't miss Sunday's thrilling finale!! Read that finale here...
In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.