This diabolical tale propels the reader through a series of curiously interconnected events spanning the years from 1947 (and the death of Aleister Crowley) to the 1990s and the coming-of-age (and eventual stardom) of a “death-metal” rocker with the unlikely name of Rodney Duckworth.
The time-line shifts to the present day where Brian Kane, a gruff and gritty street-worn Seattle Police Detective, reluctantly teams up with the mysterious Rowena Ravenwood, an attractive and rather unconventional female FBI agent assigned to a most unusual investigative unit. Their task is to figure out why good, healthy, God-fearing preachers in their fair city are suddenly dropping dead… one at a time… nine days apart.
What is the meaning of the strange symbols branded onto the bodies of these hapless victims? Are they all part of some bizarre cult? No eyewitnesses. No fingerprints. Is it really murder? Where’s the evidence? And what is the disturbing secret that Detective Kane is holding so close to his chest?
The investigation catapults Kane and Ravenwood headlong into life-threatening situations as they wind their way through the strange, dark labyrinth of the world of the occult and find themselves battling for their lives against the powerful forces of ritual magick.
A bloody carnage of unimaginable horror is about to be unleashed upon the world. The survival of the entire human race hangs in the balance and the clues to help solve the case are in desperately short supply. Worse yet, so is the amount of time left to stop the mysterious killer’s reign of terror before all Hell breaks loose. And – according to Special Agent Ravenwood – that’s not just a figure of speech.
Rated R – Not recommended for readers under 16.
Gary Val Tenuta
e x c e r p t
EXCERPT #1 and a NOTE TO THE READER: Something, or someone, is killing members of the clergy in and around the Seattle area. The deaths are occurring one at a time, exactly 9 days apart. In this scene from Chapter-17, you are about to get a private viewing of just part of what is happening to one such preacher. Sorry to leave you hanging at the end but… well, you know. Spoilers and all that.
Having set each of the previously used candles aglow, Cowl placed the four virgin candles on the remaining points of the Seal. He left number six alone for the moment and lit numbers seven, eight and nine without ceremony. Then he returned to the sixth candle, Lalartu. He raised it above his head, giving honor to the Old Ones, then set it back in place. He lit it, bowed his head and recited the evocation to conjure the demon, Lalartu, into service.
“Harok uzni hadahs. Harok uzni hadahs. Harok uzni hadahs! Lalartu, sixth Offspring of the Old Ones! Blood demon! Dweller amongst the undead! Come! Thou who dost slay mothers at the moment of birth! Come! Carry me to the sixth of nine and light the path for my return! Then we shall be as One! Harok uzni hadahs!”
The sixth candle began shaking, vibrating furiously. The flame flared beyond its natural capacity filling the room with a blinding light. Cowl’s body went limp as the intense brilliance subsided.
At that moment, Cowl’s virtual double––enshrouded in a hooded robe––materialized in the restroom at the concert hall where Pastor St. Martin was in the process of unzipping his pleated black trousers.
Deep in thought about the protest he was about to lead against Mega Therion––that abomination and corruptor of innocent youth––the preacher was about to relieve his straining bladder when his attention was suddenly drawn to an unexpected reflection in the mirror before him. He froze, staring at the dark hooded figure standing not five feet behind him. A crackling sound came from above. St. Martin looked up. The fluorescent tubes on the ceiling were flickering like strobe lights. A moment later the room went dark.
St. Martin panicked. He spun around, his piss spattering onto the green tiled floor. One fluorescent tube in the corner flickered and came on, barely illuminating the darkness with a dim, bluish glow. “Jesus!” he said, fumbling awkwardly at his zipper.
“Not exactly,” the Hooded Figure replied from the shadows. The haunting voice came from deep within the folds of the large drooping hood. “But you would do well to pray.” The Hooded Figure then took one step forward from the shadows into the gloomy half-light.
The preacher jerked back with a sharp gasp. He searched for a face somewhere in the dark void of the hood but he could only catch a tiny glint of light reflecting off the whites of the eyes. What is this? He believed in demons but… No… this must be some kind of a joke. A sick joke.
The Hooded Figure took another step forward, then stopped.
The preacher sucked in another gasp and shuffled backward until he was pressed up against the hard, cold porcelain urinal.
The Hooded Figure lolled its head to one side, then the other, casually studying the pathetic excuse for a man who was shaking like a timid mouse trapped in a corner.
The mouse swallowed hard, his eyes darting this way and that, wanting to run but unable to move. “Who are you? What do you want?”
The Hooded Figure advanced another step but stopped as its foot made a splat in the puddle on the floor. It looked down and shook its head. “Tsk-tsk. What have you done? You’re a very bad little boy.”
“Now who’s going to clean that up?”
“I… I don’t––”
“You don’t know? Then I shall tell you.” The Hooded Figure’s fatherly tone was gentle but firm. “You. You’re going to clean this up.”
“Wh––what?” The preacher’s lower lip was quivering.
“You’re going to do exactly as I say. Now get down on the floor.”
“Don’t hurt me. Please!”
The Hooded Figure raised an arm as if to strike the man. “The floor, goddamn it! Now!”
St. Martin dropped to his knees, trembling. Without looking up, he muttered, nearly sobbing. “Why are you doing this? What do you want?”
“Not on your knees, you fucking imbecile. Down! On your stomach!”
St. Martin slowly lowered himself face down into the stench of his own urine.
The Hooded Figure nodded approvingly. “Very good. Now squirm around like the worm you are until you’ve sopped up every last drop of your filthy mess.”
The preacher’s will to resist was overpowered by a force beyond his comprehension. Whimpering like a helpless child, he found himself squirming and writhing around in his own liquid waste until his clothes were soaked.
St. Martin struggled to his feet, his legs quivering, his hands and face glistening wet, his clothes damp and wrinkled. He stunk of piss. The unpleasant odor wafted up into his nostrils. A chunk of vomit lodged in his throat. He gagged it down. It came up again. He swallowed. It burned his throat. His eyes welled up.
The Hooded Figure nodded. “That’s much better, yes.”
“I––I don’t understand.” The preacher’s voice was wavering and weak. “What do you want from me?”
“Silence would be good.”
Silence? Somehow a moment of clarity had found its way into St. Martin’s state of confusion and fear, offering a glimmer of hope. There must be other people in the building! He summoned what little will power he had left and acted on his flash of inspiration. “Let me go or I’ll yell for help. I swear to God, I will.”
“Well, that would just ruin everything. But, if you insist, then by all means, please. Be my guest.”
The preacher was surprised by the response but wasn’t about to waste another moment. He opened his mouth to yell but nothing came out. He tried again, every muscle in his throat straining, arteries bulging, his face contorting into hideous shapes. Again and again and still nothing. Finally, breathless, confused, shaking with fear, he sank to his knees and wept, pleading to God for this nightmare to end.
The Hooded Figure looked down at its victim and spoke in a measured, sympathetic tone. “I know. But it’s almost over. Now get up and come toward me.”
The preacher’s mouth moved as he tried to speak. Toward you? Again, no sound, but he could hear his own words clearly inside his own head.
“You heard me,” the Hooded Figure said. “Come here.”
The preacher then realized his thoughts were somehow being perceived by the hooded creature. The realization frightened him to the point of near madness. He was no longer alone in the sanctuary of his own mind. That frail barrier had been breached. The intruder was inside.
St. Martin’s head dropped to his chest and he obeyed the command. He prayed as he moved against his own will toward the hooded figure. Our Father…
The Hooded Figure recited the prayer along with the preacher. “…who art in Heaven…”
The preacher struggled to hear his own inner voice over that of the monster. …deliver us from evil… But with those words he realized the futility of the effort. He left the prayer floating in limbo.
“What’s the matter?” the Hooded Figure said. Forget the words?”
St. Martin’s head lifted slowly as if it had become a tremendous weight. His eyes were empty.
“Too bad.” The Hooded Figure’s voice was contemplative, almost compassionate. “It’s a nice prayer, actually.” Then his tone switched abruptly. “But, no matter. We’ve got a couple more things to get done here. So let’s get on with it, shall we? Come closer.”
St. Martin moved another step closer and waited––for what, he could not fathom. He didn’t even try. He was an empty, distorted reflection of the once dynamic man who had, for years, passionately served the very God that had now, for some inscrutable reason, abandoned him to the will of this monster.
“Now,” the Hooded Figure said, “I’m going to heal you.”
“C’mon. You know. The laying on of hands?” It raised an arm and extended a hand out of the dark sleeve toward the preacher’s face. “Close your eyes. This might hurt a little.”
St. Martin’s eyes suddenly clamped shut in spite of his straining to keep them open and the creature began to chant.
“Kah-hahdin azahn. Dinjah Dinjasa. Kah-hahdin azahn. Dinjah Dinjasa!”
The very sound of the strange words caused St. Martin to recoil in horror. God in heaven! Help me!
The Hooded Figure carried on, oblivious to the preacher’s torment. “Hear me, O Lucifer! Son of the morning! Approve this invocation with the seal of my Master!” The Hooded Figure pressed its hand against the preacher’s forehead and pushed hard. “Thy will be done! Aum. Ha!”
St. Martin’s eyes flew open, bulging from their sockets. A searing pain ripped through his skull and burned like a hot poker under his rippling skin. He knew his screams, his desperate wailing cries for help, were heard by no one but himself, inside his own head. Paralyzed by the will of the monster, he was helpless to do anything but endure the torture. How many times during his ministry had he told people they were destined for Hell and now Hell had come to him.
The hooded figure withdrew its hand and stepped back.
St. Martin collapsed to the floor, a quivering heap of a shattered soul. Crowley’s rendition of the Lucifer Seal was now seared into the flesh of his forehead.
The Hooded Figure nodded approvingly and knelt beside the preacher. “I told you it might hurt a little.” The tone was mockingly sympathetic. “Now just relax. I’m going to prepare you for something special.”
The preacher’s eyes pleaded for mercy.
“I know, I know. But we’re just getting to the good part. You’ll like this. Trust me.” The Hooded Figure slowly unbuttoned the preacher’s shirt, spread it open, rolled the undershirt up to the man’s chin and gazed upon the smooth canvas of naked flesh. “Ahhhh, yes. Very, very nice.”
The preacher struggled against the psychic straightjacket this monster had strapped around him. It was no use. His inability to move of his own will was pushing him ever further toward the edge of madness. He tried again to catch a glimpse of his tormentor’s face but looking into the darkness of the cavernous hood was like staring into the proverbial valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil…
“Ah, yes,” the Hooded Figure said. “The ol’ twenty-third Psalm. Very good. How’s it workin’ for ya? You know, my dear mother used to read that to me at night, just after making me recite something about ‘if I should die before I wake’. I slept real good with that going through my mind. Do you make your kids say that one? I bet you do. I bet you fucking make your kids say that one.”
A pitiful noise gurgled up from St. Martin’s throat.
“Yeah, that’s what I figured.”
The restroom door suddenly rattled.
The preacher’s eyes lit up. Someone was trying to open it. I knew there had to be someone else here! Help! Please!
The door rattled again.
Once more the preacher’s silent pleas echoed inside his own head. Help! Please, help me!
The rattling stopped. “Damn it!” came a frustrated voice from beyond the door. The curse was followed by the barely audible sound of fading footsteps. The preacher’s last glimmer of hope was walking away.
“Oh, come on. You didn’t really think I’d let just anybody walk in here, did you? This is our time, just you and me. Now, be a good little boy and close your eyes. No peeking.”
Once again, St. Martin’s eyelids fluttered uncontrollably as they struggled to resist the power that was drawing them closed. Dear God, this isn’t happening! Tears squeezed out from behind his clamped eyelids. Don’t let… Oh, Jesus… What is that?
The Hooded Figure was pressing its finger against the preacher’s bare chest and slowly, skillfully, it was tracing out the sigil of the sixth demon.
The scream that tried to escape from St. Martin’s lungs would have shattered the walls. The blistering sensation beneath his skin followed along the winding path of the Hooded Figure’s finger like a slow burning fuse. The welts began to rise up on his flesh in the shape of the unholy sign.
“Lalartu!” the Hooded Figure bellowed. “Sixth Offspring of the Old Ones! Blood demon! Dweller amongst the undead! Thou who dost slay mothers at the moment of birth! This is your sign! I give you this soul!”
St. Martin’s eyes flew open. His nerves were on fire, his body buckled and twitched as if he were being electrocuted. He saw his wife waving goodbye as he left the house that morning––He heard his children playing and laughing––He saw the dog he accidentally hit with the car ten years ago––He saw his mother packing his lunch for his first day at school––The wrist watch his father gave him for his sixteenth birthday––The Bible he kept by the bed with all the important passages underlined… A moment later he was motionless, delirious and defeated, begging God to let him die.
The Hooded Figure rose up and looked down at the preacher. “‘I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things.’ Isaiah forty-five, verse seven.”
St. Martin barely heard the words through the pounding of his own pulse throbbing inside his ears.
“Do you know the phrase, coup de grace? The stroke of grace? Well, that my dear St. Martin, is the holy gift you’re about to receive.”
Meanwhile, the shadows on the walls of the Inner Sanctum danced wildly in concert with the flickering light of the candles. Droplets of sweat rolled down Rye Cowl’s face, his body tense, anxious. The anticipation of the approaching moment of ecstasy was nearly unbearable. He could smell it, taste it.
EXCERPT #2 and a NOTE TO THE READER: Lieutenant Detective Brian Kane and FBI Special Agent Rowena Ravenwood are the two main protagonists in this supernatural crime chiller, Ash: Return Of The Beast. Ravenwood quickly becomes the pain in Kane’s ass as well as the one person without whose special knowledge he cannot do without.
Here is an excerpt from the scene in which they first meet. Kane is alone in his office at the Seattle precinct, deep in thought––and with a great deal of guilt––about the day something horrible had happened to his daughter.
The voice brought him back into the moment. He looked up. It was Tom Bower, the nearly retired street cop who’d been pushing a pencil for the past year at the desk just outside the door to Kane’s office.
“Someone here to see you.” Bower said.
Kane slipped the photo of Sarah back into the drawer. “Who is it?”
“Special Agent, Rowena Ravenwood.”
“Ravenwood? Never heard of her. She look like an old wooden crow?” He didn’t like it when the F.B.I. butted into his investigations. They tended to keep information to themselves and then took all the glory when the case was solved. On the other hand, when a case went unsolved Kane took all the flak. It pissed him off but, like a law of nature, there was nothing he could do about it.
Bower didn’t reply.
Kane nodded. “All right. Send her in.”
Ravenwood’s entrance––briefcase in hand––was all business… and a visual surprise. With the name of Rowena, Kane had imagined a frumpy, old librarian-type in a wrinkled gray tweed suit. This woman was tall, attractive, supermodel-slender and appeared to be in her late 30s, early 40s.
Kane tried not to look impressed. Actually, he tried not to look at all, but it was impossible. Her deep-set eyes, light copper complexion and high cheekbones suggested Native American genetics. Her straight, black hair reached a few inches below her shoulders and was streaked with signs of approaching gray which, in this case, only enhanced the sex appeal that a woman like her can never adequately conceal.
Her moderately low-cut beige top contrasted fashionably under a tailored black denim jacket that matched the black denim boot-cut jeans. It was all certainly unconventional attire for an FBI agent on duty, not to mention the turquoise and silver jewelry that adorned her fingers and caressed her narrow wrists. How the hell does she get away with that? In her 2-inch black patent leather heels, she clicked confidently across the floor and stopped a couple feet from his desk. She introduced herself by name and flashed her I.D.
Kane didn’t bother standing up to greet her. No matter how great she looked, she was still FBI. He was determined not to like her. “Have a seat,” he said. “What can I do for you, Ms. Ravenwood?”
He knew she would probably prefer to be addressed as Special Agent, Ravenwood but he wasn’t about to give her that satisfaction. He did, however––and with some reluctance––offer her a chair.
Special Agent Ravenwood removed her jacket, draped it over the back of the chair, and took a seat. Having been briefed on Kane’s often-explosive personality and his dislike of the FBI, she was ready to defuse him from the get-go. “Please,” she said, flashing her most disarming smile, “call me Ro.”
“All right… Ro.” Christ, I can’t believe I just fell for that. “What can I do for you?”
She drew a document-sized envelope from her briefcase and handed it to him. “I’ve been assigned to assist you with the investigation of the case.”
“Hmm. What case would that be?” He knew full well she must mean the case involving the deceased preachers.
She nodded toward the envelope.
Kane opened it. “Ah,” he said, looking at the first page of the documents. “That case.”
She nodded toward the documents again, implying that he should look further. He flipped to the next page and was surprised to see graphic renderings of the same strange symbols that were found on the two dead bodies in question.
“How did you know about these?” he asked. “None of the photographs of the bodies have been released to anyone on the outside.”
She shrugged. “We’re the FBI.”
In Kane’s ears her words came across as ‘We’re the bane of your existence.’
“Yes,” he said. “You certainly are.” He tossed the document onto his desk and leaned back in his chair. “So what makes you think I need help with this case? We’ve barely begun our investigation. I don’t see why––”
Ravenwood subtly raised a hand to cut him off as she scooted forward in her chair. “First of all, I’m not the bad guy. Okay? I’ve been sent here to help you find the bad guy.”
The comment came within a hair of lighting Kane’s fuse. He leaned forward to meet her eye-to-eye from across his desk. “Listen Ms. Ravenwood––”
Christ. “Ro. Whatever. We do a pretty damn good job of catching the bad guys on our own. So how about you go away and if we need you we’ll call you. How’s that sound?”
“Trust me,” she said. “You’re going to need me on this one.”
“Really? And what makes you so sure? Do you already know something you’re not telling me? Damn it! That’s what ticks me off about you guys.”
“Okay,” she said. “Listen. I’ve been through the files you’ve put together on this case. I know everything you know about it. And, yes, I know a little more than you do.”
Kane threw up his hands. “Of course you do.”
“No, wait. I am going to tell you what I know, but…” she paused a moment.
“Well, it’s just that you’re not going to like what I have to tell you.”
Kane laughed. “Look, lady––”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake. All right. Ro! Jesus. I already don’t like you even being here. But seeing as how you are here––and apparently you’re not gonna go away––why don’t you just go ahead and lay it on me?”
Ravenwood smiled. She was actually beginning to like this son-of-a-bitch. She had an extraordinarily well-honed sense of intuition and that was only one of the unusual attributes that made her so valuable to the special unit to which she was attached. At the moment, this intuition was telling her that the man sitting in front of her had an inner Teddy Bear with more soft stuffing than he would generally admit to anyone, least of all to himself.
“All right,” she said. “Here it is. I’m a profiler of sorts with a special unit called the A.P.U.”
Kane shook his head. “Never heard of it. What is it?”
“The Anomalous Phenomena Unit.”
Kane despised big words about as much as he despised the FBI. “What the hell is that? Greek, or something?”
She smiled. “Basically, we take on cases in which the evidence points to… Well, let’s just say, to things of an unusual nature. Paranormal. Occult. Things like that.”
Kane laughed. “You can’t be serious. Come on. Who are you, really? And what the hell do you want?”
Ravenwood took out her I.D. once more and handed it over to him. “You might want to take a closer look.”
He leaned forward and squinted. Sure enough, the unit to which she was assigned was, indeed, the Anomalous Phenomena Unit. He leaned back in his chair and gave a skeptical snort. “You gotta be kidding me.” He waited for her response. “You are kidding me. Right?”
“Not at all. But, if you think that’s funny, you haven’t heard anything yet.”
“Okay,” Kane said, taking a deep breath. He knew there was no getting rid of her. “Let’s hear it. What have you got?”
He squirmed in his chair. You’re not welcome.
“To begin with,” she said, “you need to accept the possibility that what we’re dealing with here may very well involve some sort of paranormal phenomena.”
“Oooh… You mean like spooks and stuff? Great angle for the press. I can see the headlines now. ‘The Boogeyman Killer Strikes Again!’”
Ravenwood dug a polished red fingernail into the palm of her tightly clenched fist and began silently counting to ten. She barely got to three when her cell phone chimed. She pulled it from her pocket. “Ravenwood. ….Now? ….Mexico? But… Okay, I’m on my way.” She stood up and looked at Kane. “I’m sorry. Something’s come up. I have to go.”
“Aw, that’s too bad. And we were having such a good time.”
She ignored the comment. “I may be out of the country for a few days. We’ll continue this when I get back.”
“I can hardly wait. Oh, and Ms. Ravenwood? Ro?”
She stopped at the door and turned. “Yes?”
“Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.”
EXCERPT #3 and a NOTE TO THE READER: The investigation brings Detective Kane and Special Agent Ravenwood to Moorehouse Manor, a decaying old mansion on Seattle’s “Millionaire’s Row”. In this scene, they’re in an underground passage beneath the structure. What they discover is a long hidden secret that confirms some of their suspicions but raises even more questions than they had before. Oh, and if you’re not familiar with the legend they’re discussing in this scene, don’t worry. It’s all revealed in another chapter.
Kane spotted the ladder and looked up.
“Another trapdoor,” Ravenwood said. “We must be directly under the house.”
“One way to find out,” Kane said. He started up the ladder but Ravenwood grabbed him by the sleeve and pulled him back.
He tugged his arm away. “What the hell are you doing?”
She raised a finger to her lips and pulled out her gun. “I thought I heard something,” she whispered. “Sounded like the floor creaked. Like someone’s moving around up there.”
“You’re imagining things.”
Kane decided to trust Ravenwood’s instincts and drew his gun. They waited in silence for several minutes, listening.
Ravenwood holstered her gun and shrugged. “Okay, so I have a vivid imagination.”
Kane groaned and moved up the ladder.
He reached the top, turned and looked down at Ravenwood. The anxiety on her face made him grin. She didn’t grin back. He reached up, pressed a hand against the trapdoor and pushed it open just a crack but it was too dark to see much of anything. He shined his light through the opening and glanced back at Ravenwood. He pushed the trapdoor open far enough to pull himself through and scanned the room. “Clear,” he said.
Ravenwood climbed up after him.
Kane sniffed the air. “Smell something?”
Ravenwood moved over beside him. “Yeah. Smells like…” She paused for a moment. “…like burnt candles.”
Kane moved the flashlight around and noticed something odd near one corner of the room. A large portion of the carpet was rolled back. They walked toward it and stopped in their tracks. The beam from the flashlight illuminated the large Lucifer Seal painted on the floor. It was surrounded by nine brass candleholders, minus the candles. Eight were covered with drippings of white wax, the ninth one still clean and untarnished.
“Well, well,” Kane said. “What have we here?”
Ravenwood knelt down and inspected the candleholders. She looked up at Kane. “The wax drippings are still soft. I was right. Someone was here.”
Kane raised his gun. “Maybe still is here.”
He wielded the flashlight around for another quick scan of the room and spotted the big oak desk and the lamp. He moved quickly to the lamp and switched it on.
Now that they could see their surroundings, they were even less sure about what sort of room they were in.
“Weird,” Kane said. “No windows, no doors. There must be some way to get in and out of here besides that tunnel. Someone was definitely in here just minutes ago. Where the hell could they go? And who the hell was it?”
“And what the hell is that?” Ravenwood said.
She joined him in front of the desk and picked up the urn. “This.” She held it under the light of the desk lamp. The light glinted off the faceted edges of the strange ruby-like gem. She read the inscription below it. She turned to Kane, her narrowed eyes expressing something between disbelief and utter amazement. “Do you know what this is?”
“I’m guessing it’s a cinerary urn.”
“Not just any cinerary urn,” she said, handing it to him.
He moved it around in the dim light until he could read the inscription. “Aleister Alexander Crowley. No way. Let’s see if he’s still in there.” He lifted the lid and peered inside, then tipped it and tapped it against his hand. “Nada. Empty.”
“This has got to be the legendary long lost urn of Crowley’s ashes.”
“Looks to me like they’re still lost.”
“I’m betting they were here, in the urn, in this room.”
“So, where’d they go?”
“Probably used in a ceremonial ritual.”
She explained the bizarre ritual to Kane.
He rolled his eyes. “Christ. Just when I think I’ve heard it all. So what do you mean the urn was lost? What legend?”
She gave him a Cliff-Notes version of the story behind the mysterious disappearance of the urn.
“You mean it was just gone?”
“Yes. According to the story, Germer dug all around the tree but the urn was gone. Vanished without a trace. No one ever knew what became of it.”
“And you really think this is it?”
“Recognize the design cut into that gemstone?”
He took a closer look. “Jesus. It’s the same as the symbol branded onto the foreheads of the dead preachers. That complex version of the Lucifer Seal. Same thing that’s…” he swung the flashlight around “… painted on the floor over there.”
Ravenwood was only half listening. Her full attention was focused on another item on the desk. She picked it up.
Kane set the urn down and moved closer to her. “What is it?”
He moved around behind her and peered over her shoulder.
“It’s a diary,” she said, thumbing through the pages. “It seems to be the diary of Michael Moorehouse, the son of the man who built this place. Looks like the young Mr. Moorehouse was another Crowley fanatic.”
“No wonder this place gives me the creeps.” He grabbed the urn off the desk. “I say we confiscate this stuff and get the hell out of here.”
She closed the diary and tucked it inside her jacket. “To the Bat Cave.”
“I thought so.”
EXCERPT #3 and a NOTE TO THE READER: Later, as the investigation continues, Kane and Ravenwood return to the underground passage.
When they reached the ladder at the trapdoor beneath the Inner Sanctum, Kane didn’t waste a moment. He grasped the handrail and started to pull himself up, eager to sink a couple of rounds into the Beast.
Ravenwood grabbed his arm and stopped him. She spoke in a forced whisper. “Wait. Let me go up first.”
“The hell. It’s my daughter he’s threatening. I’m taking the son of a bitch out, now.” He pulled away from her and got one foot on the ladder before she pulled him back again.
Her eyes were stern. “I don’t know what the ramifications of this will be when it’s over,” she said. “But I’m in a better position than you are to establish a cover story that will protect both of us. Trust me. I’ve been in situations like this before.”
“The hell are you talking about? Protect us from what?”
“A murder charge.”
Kane snorted. “Self defense.” He started up the ladder again.
She yanked him back. “Yeah? And how’re you going to explain that to anyone? That might be Crowley up there but all anyone is going to see is the body of a dead rock star with your bullet in him and no evidence to show he was any kind of a threat to you or anyone else. Think about it.”
“Fuck.” He spat the word out and stepped aside. “All right, goddamn it. Go!”
Ravenwood hurried up the ladder with Kane on her tail. She raised the trapdoor just enough to peek through the shallow opening.
The room was dark except for the undulating glow of the candles surrounding the Lucifer Seal. The large desk partially blocked her view but she could see part of the silhouetted figure sitting at the center of the circle of light. He was facing the opposite direction. That much, at least, was in her favor.
She had to assume he must be aware of her presence. So why was he not trying to stop her? Was she stepping into a trap? She glanced over her shoulder at Kane who was breathing down her neck, eyes glaring, urging her to get on with it.
She breathed deeply, cautiously pulled herself up onto the floor and remained in a crouched position. The air was charged with energy, palpable, heavy. The walls were alive in a silent dance of shadow and light. A wave of anxiety swept through her. She shook it off as Kane came up and crouched beside her. She pointed toward the desk. They crawled across the floor and hid behind it, their target a mere ten feet away on the other side. In a few moments it would all be over.
With a firm grip on her firearm, Ravenwood looked at Kane. He readied his own gun, as backup, and gave the nod.
Together, they slowly rose to their feet. Each of them drew a bead on the target. Ravenwood held her breath, her finger on the trigger, ready to squeeze off the shot. Telling the Beast to go to hell seemed like an appropriate send-off. She projected the thought with all the mental power she could muster. Vete al Diablo, asshole.
The silhouetted figure turned suddenly, faced them, eyes shining white from deep within the shadow of the hooded cloak. Then the teeth showed, grinning, gleaming. The candles flared like hissing serpents spitting fountains of fire into the air. The Lucifer Seal erupted into a circle of flame surrounding the Beast.
Blinded by the pyrotechnic display, Ravenwood and Kane fired simultaneously, unloading a barrage of bullets like someone cranking a goddamn Gatling gun. The room quaked from the earsplitting bursts. The two shooters dropped down behind the desk and shoved another clip into their weapons. Ravenwood’s heart was pounding. Kane’s adrenaline was rushing like high-octane pumping through a fuel- injected engine. Leaning back against the desk, they gave each other a nod and returned to their firing position.
The moment they stood up, they were blinded by an enormous blast of light from the center of the Lucifer Seal. The force of the explosion lifted them off their feet and they tumbled backward onto the floor. In the next instant the entire room was engulfed in flames.
Kane rolled over, groaning from the fall. He scanned the room, looking for Ravenwood. The smoke was burning his eyes, everything was on fire. He called her name but there was no response. He struggled to his feet, shielding his face from the heat of the fire and called out again. He heard a moaning sound and spun around. She was lying on the floor next to the wall. He moved quickly through the flames, grabbed her up and carried her over to the trapdoor.
“Ro! Can you hear me? Can you stand?”
She nodded. Her eyes were half closed, her voice weak. “I think so, yeah.”
He set her down and guided her into the opening in the floor. Her foot caught the first rung on the ladder and she managed to make it to the bottom just as a huge, flaming beam fell from the ceiling. It missed Kane but wedged itself crosswise in the opening. There was no way he was going to get through it.
Burning embers showered down on Ravenwood. She looked up and could barely see Kane looking down through the sliver of space between the edge of the opening and the burning beam. “Kane!”
“Go!” he yelled. “Get the hell out!”
Another large object crashed down on top of the opening, blocking it completely. More burning embers were falling down around Ravenwood. The wood framing in the corners of the enclosure were catching on fire. Soon the flames would reach the wooden planks that lined the overhead of the tunnel. The string of lights along the overhead blinked on and off. Tears welled up in her eyes. There was no way Kane was going to make it out of that inferno. She knew she had to save herself while she still had the chance.
When she reached the other end of the tunnel, she stopped in a breathless panic, her eyes wide. The ladder had been badly burned and was still smoldering from the fire. The bottom two rungs were gone and the rest of it was a charred skeleton of its former self. She looked around, desperate to find something, anything to stand on so she could reach the opening. There was nothing. Her only escape route, the hole in the floor just a few feet above, suddenly seemed impossibly distant.
Having no option, she grabbed the blackened rails of the ladder, stretched her right leg up and caught the third rung. She hoisted herself up slowly but the rung cracked and fell away and she went down with it.
EXCERPT #4 and a NOTE TO THE READER: Special Agent Rowena Ravenwood realizes that solving the bizarre string of murders in Seattle is just one part of a much bigger problem: how to prevent an apocalyptic Hell on Earth that will make St. John’s visions in Revelation look like a Saturday morning cartoon show. But, in order to be sure she knows what she thinks she knows, she needs to journey to the jungles of South America. She’s knows what she’ll have to do when she gets there and she understands it means she’ll be risking her life. She has talked her old friend, Tocho, into accompanying her on this fateful journey. His past experience as an apprentice to a Mayan shaman is going to play a key role in this desperate mission, a mission from which she may not return.
The sun, now much lower in the sky, could only be seen in short blinding bursts of light through the occasional gaps in the towering foliage.
Ravenwood looked at her watch. They’d been walking for well over an hour. “Hey,” she said, breathing heavily. “This is the shortcut, right?”
Tocho, a few yards ahead of her, chopped a huge branch from some prehistoric overhanging god-knows-what and wielded it off to the side. He turned to her. Although the air was much cooler now, his face was glistening with sweat. He wiped his forehead and grinned. “Take a look.”
She moved up and stood beside him. They’d come to the edge of a bluff. About fifty feet below was another village, much larger than the ones they’d passed through along the way.
“What’s this?” she asked. “Where are we?”
“A Lacandon village. The Real People. Descendants of the ancient Maya.”
“Is this where––”
A rhythmic drumming and the sounds of ritual chanting were rising up from somewhere in the village below.
Ravenwood listened with curiosity. “What is it?”
“There’s a sacrificial ceremony going on.”
“How do you know?”
“I recognize it. I was allowed to witness it once.”
“Sacrifice? C’mon. You don’t mean…”
“Not people. No. It’s part of a shamanic ritual. Believe it or not, they’re sacrificing chickens by squeezing them to death.”
“Yeah. As an offering to the gods. Disgusting, I know, but––”
“Jee-sus Christ. And we’re going down there?”
“Do you even speak the language?”
Tocho was already inching his way down the bluff. He turned to see Ravenwood still standing above him. “You’re not gonna chicken out on me, are you?”
She rolled her eyes. “Funny.”
At the bottom of the bluff they found themselves at the periphery of the village where they were immediately confronted by a man dressed in the same sort of long white sheet––as Tocho described it––that she’d seen back at the marketplace in San Cristobal. The man stood only about five feet tall but the loose fitting fabric couldn’t hide his powerful build. The skin of his copper colored face was taught and smooth although he looked to be much older than she first thought. His dark eyes were set deep into a prominent brow and his long black hair reached well below his shoulders. He was a striking figure and Ravenwood wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
The man barely glanced at Tocho but focused his attention solely on Ravenwood. His head remained slightly tilted upward, firm jawed, his mouth turned down at the corners as his black, deep-set eyes slowly scanned her from head to toe and back up again. He stared directly into her eyes.
Ravenwood stiffened. She wondered if he was sizing her up as if she were a chicken to be squeezed to death.
A note from the author: If you enjoyed these excerpts from Ash: Return Of Beast then this novel might just be your cup of… something. It’s a serial killer chiller, a supernatural mystery, steeped in occult lore and inspired by the real life (or should I say, real death?) mystery of the unexplained 1947 disappearance of the urn containing the ashes of the notorious occultist, Aleister Crowley, a.k.a. “The Beast” whose favorite number was 666 and whom the British Press once labeled as “The Wickedest Man In The World”.
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What people are saying about Ash: Return Of The Beast –
“Rivals the best I’ve ever read by Stephen King, Peter Straub, or Dean Koontz. Hell, Clive Barker would be proud of this one. Yes, it’s that good.” – Jeff Whelan
“It threw me for a literary loop, and I could NOT put this baby down!. The characters are very realistic… the plot is amazing. The twists in this story were terrific.” – J. Wall, photographer
“Brilliantly conceived and executed. I couldn’t put it down.” – Rai Aren, author of Secret Of The Sands
“The writing was flawless, and the plot was so clever and enticing, that I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys occult mysteries. A riveting story.” – Sandra Carrington-Smith
“A page turner… dragging you into a world where few authors have successfully gone… to the Gates of Hell and back! The thrill ride alone is worth the purchase.” – Valerie Bowen, author of the Mind of a Madman series
“Wow…Dan Brown fans watch out! It’s gripping, tantalizing… I was hooked by the end of the first chapter and literally unwilling to put it down!” – Nikki, book blogger at Close Encounters With The Night Kind
“I wasn’t so much reading the book as being sucked into the story with very little effort and seeing the story unfold in my mind through spectacular imagery…” – Michelle Parkins, South Africa
“The character creation is fabulous.” – Christina M. Condy, goodreads.com reviewer
“A good break after all the boy-meets-girl plots. Good writing… interesting concepts… a riddle and some clues to solve… I was reminded of Dennis Lehane. Very different from other horror fiction stories… even gave the whole Necronomicon tale a new spin.” – Cyma R. Kahn, goodreads.com reviewer
“A close-the-drapes-and-hang-onto-your-seat-read. Highly recommend it.” – Meredith Wright Hutchins, attorney, Olympia, WA
“Filled with magick… at times drawing one into the evil.” – Ellen In Atlanta, amazon.com reviewer
“Plenty of atmosphere and a compelling narrative. A worthwhile roller-coaster ride.” – Bob Freeman, author of The Descendant
“What a great story – fast paced and exciting, right to the end.” – Roxanne Bland, Of Werewolves And Other Strangers
“Excellent read! Exciting, really moves right along & a wee touch of romance. You wont be sorry!” – Sue McRae, Stanwood, WA
“If you are a fan of Stephen King, you would like this occult thriller. It’s not quite explainable and you can’t tear yourself away.” – John C. Stipa, Virginia
“A tingly, spine-chilling little entry that belongs in any true horror aficionado’s collection.” – Wendy Potocki, author of The White Lady Murders
“The narrative takes a different approach to the run-of-the-mill Satanist storyline.The action builds nicely and we are drawn into the web of evil and dark revelations as the story progresses.The narrative is rich with details on magic, mystical cycles, and ancient gods and goddesses.” – Drake Morgan at Horror Novel Reviews
“Although this is fiction it makes you wonder whether there is some truth behind the whole story. Who knows? Suggest that you read it with an open mind. Anything can happen since the ashes of Crowley have not been found. A real page turner.” – Anthony Cessar, Gudja, Malta
“An ending you will never see coming! Highly recommended!” – Lila L. Pinord, author of In Time, Min’s Monster, and Skye Dancer
Reader discretion is advised: This book is intended for adult readers due to strong language and some implied sexual content of a deviant nature. Note: the sexual content is implied as opposed to graphic. It is not included as a gratuitous element. Rather, it is critical to the background of one of the primary characters, his personal development and the motivation driving his future behavior.