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John Sinclair - Episode 2

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. John Sinclair - A Horror Series
  3. About the Book
  4. About the Author
  5. Title
  6. Copyright
  7. The Lord of Death
  8. Preview
  9. Looking for more suspense?

John Sinclair — A Horror Series

“John Sinclair” is a reboot of Europe’s longest running horror series. Originally conceived in 1973 and still running strong, the “John Sinclair” novellas are firmly rooted in the finest pulp traditions, true page turners with spine-tingling suspense, exquisite gore and a dash of adventure. “John Sinclair” combines the dark visions of Stephen King, Clive Barker and the “X-Files” with the fast-paced action and globe-trotting excitement of James Bond.

About the Book

We all serve a master in this life. But only a very few unlucky souls serve the Lord of Death. When Chester Davis returns from an archeological dig in Mexico, he is a changed man … and not for the better. On a cold and rainy night, Davis reaches for a gun and goes on a shooting spree in Lower Manhattan. So begins another adventure for Detective Chief Inspector John Sinclair of Scotland Yard’s Special Division. This time, Sinclair travels to an Aztec burial site, where he has to find and destroy an ancient death cult …

About the Author

Gabriel Conroy was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1967. After high school, he joined the armed forces and was stationed in Germany for several years. He discovered his love for writing while traveling through Europe. When he returned to the States, he studied Journalism at Los Angeles City College and UCLA, and currently works as a freelance journalist, writer and translator. Mr. Conroy is married and has a dog and a cat.

Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, October 2, 2011.

We were on our way to our death.

We were afraid, all of us.

The others, they didn’t want to show it of course, but I could see it in their eyes. Shelton, Taylor, Lawrence, Franklin and the rest. Their faces were tense. Stiff upper lip, they say. All of them grim, except Shelton. Good old Shelton.

He was standing, holding on to a handrail. Show-off. It’s not easy to stand in a helicopter in mid-flight, but I suppose he was trying to prove a point. He was grinning at Taylor. She ignored him.

“What do you say we get a drink, when this is done?” he said to her, shouting over the roar of the rotor blades. “Just you and me.”

“Forget it, Private,” she called back.

“What, you’re into women or something?”

She looked him up and down and said: “No, Shelton, I’m into men. You don’t qualify.”

The others were hooting at that. Taylor looked at him and smiled sweetly. She’d always had the best smile. I’d miss that smile. Shelton grinned even more broadly. He liked it. He liked riling others up, and he didn’t mind if they scored a few points. I always respected that about him, he could dish it out, but he could also take it, in combat and in life. Sometimes — and I’m ashamed to say this — sometimes I’m thankful it wasn’t him.

That it was the others, not him.

And every night when I sleep, I see their faces. Every night. I’m told that I scream in my sleep.

Not just moan, but scream.

“Sit down, Shelton,” I told him. “We’re just a few clicks away.”

“Sir, yes, sir,” he replied. All business. He sat down and buckled up. The pilot called out: “Two more minutes!”

“Roger that!” I called back. I looked around at my troop. Six other men, one woman, all of them soldiers, and not just any soldiers. The Black Watch. 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland. We were the best of the best. We had taken the Helmand Province, and we held it. By God, we held it.

We were unrivaled. Others were boys playing at war, but we were warriors. True warriors. Or so we thought.

Before that night.

We were a small detachment stationed at the RAF Command at Kandahar Airfield. The call had come in a few minutes after eleven. The Watch Commander had found it difficult to believe what he was hearing, but there was a protocol to follow, so he sounded the alarm, and less than twenty minutes later, we were in the air, headed toward a remote village in the outer reaches of the Maruf District. I had read the reports. They couldn’t possibly be true.

But I knew that something was wrong. Very wrong.

We had snipers, mortar men, medics and anti-tank guided weapon specialists. We all carried the L85A2 standard assault rifles with Thermal Viper 2 sights. We came in on a Merlin HM1, an old warhorse of a helicopter, gray and imposing. Looking at one on the ground, you’d never believe it could fly.

But fly it did. It got us there.

I gave the signal and the lads and lady strapped down tight.

“Here we go, ladies!” I called out.

The Merlin slowly descended. I looked out the window, but all I could see was dust and darkness.

Soon, the dust seemed to be swallowing us up. It was all around us.

The helicopter blades slowed down, the noise abated.

As soon as the pilot gave the signal, I unbuckled and was on my feet. It was instinct. Instinct and training.

“On my mark!” I called. I glanced around at their faces one more time. Determined. Tense. Eyes shifting nervously. I could see the fear, but only a fool is not afraid in the face of danger. Taylor nodded at me.

I pushed open the door. Outside, there was nothing but darkness and wind and sand.

“Ready?” I called, and then: “Go! Go, go, go, go, go!”

“Sir, yes, Sir!” came the reply.

We came out in combat formation. Boots hitting the dusty ground. I had infrared goggles on and scanned the area.

There was nothing. We were in a dusty, hilly area with only a few stunted bushes here and there. Like most of Afghanistan, from what I’ve seen so far. And what I’ve seen would last me a lifetime.

“We’re half a mile from the village,” Taylor said. She was our navigator. “Northeast,” she said.

“Let’s go!”

We moved cautiously. Behind us, the helicopter took off again, the noise deafening, the damn dust everywhere. Small rocks and other windblown debris pinged off my goggles. Shelton and Franklin were coughing.

“Taylor, on point!” I called out. “Shelton, rear guard!”

“Sir, yes, Sir!” Taylor responded.

Good girl, I thought.

We moved cautiously through the darkness. Out there at night, it’s a different kind of darkness. It’s a living thing. It takes you completely. It’s not just an absence of light, it’s a presence of something else. You feel it.

After a few minutes we reached the village.

And I saw at once that the report had been correct, at least in this respect.

There wasn’t a soul left alive.

“My God …” Taylor whispered. The others fell silent. The report hadn’t said what caused this. It only said that an entire village had been wiped off the map. Maybe a massacre committed by local Taliban, but that seemed implausible to me. That’s just not how they operated. They killed a few people here and there to make their point, but they understood that there wasn’t much currency in slaughtering entire villages of their own tribesmen.

No, this was something else. I could feel it.

Something was wrong, something here was definitely wrong. I could feel the wind howling in my ears.

“Where is everybody?” I whispered. But I knew the answer. Of course I knew the answer.

The village consisted of nothing more than a few simple homes. Near the main square was a well with a spigot and a few buckets that had been kicked over by the wind. There were wooden enclosures for the goats. But there were no goats.

I cautiously approached the first house we reached. I could hear the sand and the rocks crunching under my boots.

“Taylor, the door,” I whispered.

The door was half-open. I didn’t see any need to knock.

Taylor nodded and approached the house. Holding her rifle pressed against her shoulder with her right hand, she used her left to push open the wooden door.

It opened with a creak.

Almost instantly I heard the buzzing of the flies.

And I could smell the blood. That is something you never forget. The sick, metallic smell of blood.

“My God …” Taylor said in a whisper. She entered the house. I motioned to the others to stand guard, then I followed, flanked by Shelton.

It was dark inside. My infrared was nearly useless. Nearly, but not completely. The blood that had been splattered on the walls was still glowing. The blood was still warm. The smell engulfed me, it entered my mouth and my nostrils, and I fought against the urge to gag. I tore off my infrared glasses and looked around as my eyes gradually got used to the darkness.

“Holy Mother of God,” Shelton said.

It looked like a slaughterhouse. The floor, the walls, the furniture, even the ceiling was covered with blood. I saw pieces of flesh and skin, strands of hair stuck to the moist, red ground.

I saw scraps of clothing and human teeth and bone fragments. It looked like this family had been torn apart by a bomb. But this wasn’t the work of an IED. There was something methodical about this.

Someone — or something — had torn these people to shreds.

“Look at that,” Taylor said. She pointed with the barrel of her rifle toward a slipper. It was tiny. Must have belonged to a child. It, too, was soaked in blood.

“Who does something like this?” Shelton asked.

“I don’t know.”

Then, Shelton started whispering something. It took me a moment to recognize it. He was praying. Me, I’ve never been the religious type.

“ … and deliver us from evil,” he said. “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever …”

His voice trailed off.

“Amen, Private,” I said.

And then I saw it.

“Look!” I said. “Take a look at that.”

I leaned closer to be sure, but there was no mistake.

Footprints. Bloody footprints. They lead away from the scene and toward a back door.

“How many do you see?” I asked Taylor.

“Only one pair.”

I shot her a glance.

“What do you think? A survivor?”

She shrugged. They both looked at me.

“Let’s go,” I said.

I called over the rest of my platoon. We did a quick search through the rest of the houses. It was the same wherever we looked. Blood everywhere. No one left alive. We didn’t even see a single body. But in each and every one of those houses, we found a pair of bloody footprints. And they all seemed to be leading in the same direction.

We followed the trail.

***

We walked for about three miles. Three miles in the darkness of Afghanistan, when you’re chasing whatever it was that just wiped out an entire village full of people, is a very long way. Finally, we reached a wooden fence. A makeshift metal gate, like the kind you use to corral animals, was in front of us.

“What is this place?” Shelton asked.

“The local cemetery,” I said. I had seen other cemeteries like this. Out here, the ground is too hard, you can’t bury your dead properly, you can’t dig deep. The graves are shallow, and people put rocks over their dead to protect their bodies from predators.

The wind never let up the whole time. In the distance, I could hear an eerie howling.

“What is that?” Franklin asked.

“Wolves,” I said grimly.

“Damn,” Franklin replied and shook his head. “Wolves …”

I nodded. This wasn’t Kansas anymore, Toto.

I gestured to the ground: The smear of blood leads to this one place.

“Soldiers!” I said. “Arm your rifles.”

The cemetery. I raised my hand and gave a signal.

“Combat formation,” I said. “Get ready.”

I took a deep breath and said: “Private Taylor, the gate.”

She nodded and pushed open the cemetery gate. The shrill sound of the hinges creaking tore at my ears and was carried away by the wind.

Taylor was on point. She went in. She held on firm to her rifle, but I could see that her hands were shaking. Just the slightest bit, but I could see. I still remember every detail of that night. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget.

“Go, go, go!” I whispered to the others.

We went in, one after the other.

The cemetery was no more than a barren field. My breathing was tense. I could feel my heart pounding. We moved in deeper and deeper. Soon we were surrounded by the graves, those mounds of rocks.

“Keep going,” I whispered, as if it needed to be said.

Then I heard it: the sound of rocks slipping.

“What was that?” one of the men, Lawrence, asked. Lawrence was a tall, muscular black man. Not one to be afraid. Not normally.

“Just some rocks,” I said, but I knew what he was thinking. It couldn’t have been the wind.

Something was out there.

Something was waiting for us.

Taylor pointed at one of the graves right in front of us.

“Over there,” she said. She was trying to keep the panic out of her voice. We were all hardened soldiers, but this … this was beyond our pay grade. “Sir, the rocks on the grave,” she said. “I think they …” She swallowed hard. “I think they slipped.”

My throat was dry.

“Probably the wind,” I said, just to be saying something reassuring.

“Sir, yes, Sir,” Taylor replied, but I could tell that she didn’t believe it. And neither did I.

Shelton gave a sharp exhale. Something was wrong.

I whirled around.

“Sir!” he said.

“What is it?”

His voice was shaking. “Sir … do you hear that?”

We all fell quiet. I heard the wind, of course. And the wolves in the distance. But there was something else.

The sound of a girl crying.

“Do you hear that?” he asked again.

I nodded. “Let’s go,” I said.

I gave the signal and we moved forward. A fine mist had risen, tugging at our uniforms like cold fingers.

The girl was deathly pale. Her black hair covered her face completely. She was kneeling by a gravesite. She couldn’t have been older than ten. She was crying. My first thought was that, perhaps, she was grieving for a lost relative, maybe a sibling or parent.

But at this hour? By herself? What was she doing here?

Taylor lowered her rifle. That was a mistake. I was too focused on the girl to notice.

I heard her footsteps as she approached the girl.

“Over here, little girl,” she said. “It’s all right now …”

I raised my hand. “Careful, Taylor,” I said. “Something’s not right here.”

“It’s all right, little girl …” Taylor said.

Shelton shifted uneasily. I think he too knew something was wrong.

“Look at how pale she is,” he said.

His voice barely rose above a whisper.

Taylor crouched down next to the girl and gently put her hand on her shoulder.

“It’s all right,” she said. “We’ll help you.”

The girl turned to face her. And at that moment, as she turned, I saw it.

I saw what she truly was.

The thing that she was.

***

London, November 29, 4:40 p.m. Three years later.

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