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John Sinclair - Episode 4

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. John Sinclair - A Horror Series
  3. About the Book
  4. About the Author
  5. Title
  6. Copyright
  7. A Feast of Blood
  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

“She had no more than one or two days left to live. She could feel it. The agonizing pain in her throat, the blinding headaches … there wasn’t much time left. She had tried everything, absolutely everything, and the only thing that could save her now was a miracle …”

When the Lady Laduga is sentenced to death in 1722, she makes a pact with a mysterious stranger … a pact that will grant her eternal life. But there is a price to pay. Three-hundred years later, her ancient evil awakens and a small town in England is plunged into a blood-soaked nightmare.

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.

Hillside, Gloucestershire, 1722.

She had no more than one or two days left to live. She could feel it — the agonizing pain in her throat, the blinding headaches … there wasn’t much time left. She had tried everything, absolutely everything, and the only thing that could save her now was a miracle.

The chain was heavy around her neck. She had, for days now, been clawing at it, until her fingernails had broken off. Then she scratched at the stone floor into which the chain had been embedded. Her fingers had turned to bloody stumps of flesh and bone. The pain was excruciating, but at that point, she was willing to endure anything, just to get to the jug.

The jug of water that was standing on the table.

It was just out of reach. She was tethered to the center of the room, and the length of the chain had been calculated with diabolical precision. She could move to the bed and lie on it, even to the window and the elegant drawer by the north wall, but she was unable to reach the pitcher of water.

Her husband had left it there, just out of reach, another one of his torments.

She hadn’t had anything to drink for over two days now. There wasn’t much time left. There wasn’t much more her body could take.

She looked at the doorframe, but of course, there was no more door, only a wall of stone. After she had been chained in here, and the water had been poured into the jug, her husband had ordered the room walled up. And still she kept looking at the door, as if the stones were about to burst open. They weren’t, of course. The only window was barred, and no one could come to her aid.

She was truly alone.

She sank to her knees and prayed.

This was unusual for her. As a member of the aristocracy, she was raised to be strictly religious, but she had never truly believed. Her only faith had been in herself, in her own youthful invincibility. She had thought herself to be above the laws of God and men, and why not? She was of noble blood.

But during her ordeal she had, if nothing else, found a new sense of humility. She had humbled herself before God and begged forgiveness for her sins. She repented. Perhaps it would help, she thought.

Her lips moved silently as she prayed.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” she said in a whisper. “I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters.”

The thought of waters, still or otherwise, made her raise her head and look at the jug again. It was made of simple clay. A bronze cup stood next to it.

Her heart was thumping. Her head ached and had for hours. Her lips were cracked, and there were hardly any fluids left in her agonized body.

She bowed her head again and continued: “He restoreth my soul,” she said. “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake …”

For a moment, she halted. No, she had not been on the path of righteousness. She had deserved punishment, that much was clear. But her life?

Did she really have to pay with her life?

She clasped her shivering, bloody fingers together and forced herself to concentrate.

“Aye,” she said, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me …”

Her voice cracked and gave in. Her throat was so dry that even whispering hurt.

She collapsed onto the stone floor. Her breath was slow and uneven.

She closed her eyes. All she heard was the beating of her frantic, desperate heart. She would have cried, but there were no more tears left.

And then she heard it.

Footsteps.

Her heart stopped.

She thought, for a moment, that she was imagining things. She had been imagining a great many things in here. She had dreamed of tearing out the chain, of slipping out of her iron neck brace, of making the water somehow flow to her. She had dreamed that her husband had forgiven her and ordered the walled door broken down. But each time, when she opened her eyes, nothing had changed.

And so she pressed her eyes shut. She knew that she was dreaming, but the dreams were so much sweeter than this hard, slow death.

But she kept hearing it, as clear as a bell … someone was walking across the room.

Then she heard a chair scrape over the floor.

She opened her eyes.

Sitting right in front of her, in one of the luxurious chairs, was a man. He was dressed in an exquisite waistcoat and long tails. He wore a white wig, with curls that flowed over his shoulder, and a large, black tricorn hat that covered his face.

Her gaze darted to the door. The wall was still there. She looked at the window, and saw that the bars were undisturbed.

How did he get in here?

“Who are you?” she asked, but her voice was nothing but a drawn-out rasp.

The man didn’t respond. Instead, he reached for the jug.

Her heart started beating faster now.

“Water …” she said with a moan.

He took the jug and poured the clean, clear water into the bronze cup.

Then he lifted the cup and held it up, as if it was a wine he was admiring.

“Are you an angel?” she asked.

He chuckled slightly and spoke for the first time. “No,” he said. His voice was deep and baritone. It sounded like old earth. “In that, you are rather mistaken, I fear.”

Then he brought the cup of water to his lips and drank …

***

Hillside, Gloucestershire, 9:34 p.m., December 31st, Present Day.

It happened on New Year’s Eve. Francis Carrigan and Linda Elkham were on their way to a party. Neither of them would ever arrive there.

Francis was at the wheel of his Mini Cooper. He was driving slowly, carefully. They were on Old Mill Lane, headed east through the woods. The tall trees were no more than black shapes. The beam of the headlights illuminated only fragments of the surrounding darkness.

It was raining heavily. It was cold outside, but not cold enough for snow. So far, it had been an unusually warm winter, with plenty of rain. Heavy drops of water were running down the car’s windshield. The sound of the wipers was hypnotic. Linda was dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. She opened her makeup mirror and looked at herself. Her face was milky pale in the light of the dashboard.

“I look terrible.”

“You’re beautiful,” Francis said, with a sigh.

“My mascara is a mess,” she said. “From all the crying.”

She threw a reproachful glance at Francis. He didn’t respond. His hand grasped the steering wheel a little tighter. He kept his eyes on the road. He could feel her gaze on him.

Francis Carrigan was a student at the esteemed Ashton Manor, an exclusive boarding school in the Cotswolds. Linda Elkham, his girlfriend, was the groundskeeper’s daughter.

The police report would later give their ages as seventeen and sixteen, respectively.

Linda took out a powder puff and started dabbing at her face. She needn’t have bothered. The tears came back. She couldn’t help herself. She closed her makeup mirror and sat rigidly in the car seat, her hands worrying at a loose thread on the hem of her dress. She began sobbing.

“Stop the car!” she said.

Francis didn’t respond.

“I said stop the car,” she repeated.

“Right now? We’re in the middle of the forest.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you!” she said.

“Linda, please!” Francis said. “Be reasonable.”

The reasonable thing, in his opinion, was to go to Jim’s party, have a few pints and not make a damn fuss about the whole thing. They were halfway to town anyway. It was New Year’s Eve. He didn’t want to turn back. He just wanted to have a good time. Was that too much to ask? Just this once?

“Reasonable?” Linda said, her voice rising dangerously. “How can I be reasonable? You don’t love me.”

Here we go again, Francis thought.

“Of course, I love you!” he said indignantly.

“Then why won’t you stand up to your father?”

That was the rub. Standing up to his father was something Francis Carrigan had never been able to do.

Linda continued sobbing. “He called me ‘trash,’” she cried.

Francis pulled over by the side of the road and put the car in park. The engine idled. The rain kept pounding on the car roof, like a steady drumbeat. He leaned over and touched her shoulder. Linda flinched.

“Don’t touch me,” she snapped.

“He doesn’t mean it,” Francis said. “He’s just … old-fashioned.”

Linda Elkham was a bright young woman, with flowing reddish-blonde hair. But she was a commoner, and that was something Francis’ father would never allow.

“You’re going to break up with me, aren’t you?” she said in a timid voice.

“No!” Francis said, perhaps a tad too hastily and too loud to be convincing. “Of course not.” His voice sounded helpless. “I love you …”

This was exactly the problem. His father had told him, in no uncertain terms, to end the relationship with Linda at once. And Francis had swallowed his pride and acquiesced. Again.

“I heard you on the phone,” said Linda between sobs.

“I’m not going to do it, Linda. I don’t care what he says.”

“Why won’t you tell him that?” she snapped. “Instead, you’re just toying with me …”

They went on like that for a few more minutes. The argument grew heated. Francis was trying, in vain, to declare his love. Linda, for her part, remained convinced that he wasn’t serious about her, that he never had been.

When she couldn’t stand it anymore, she opened the car door. All the warmth inside the vehicle suddenly evaporated. Linda unbuckled her seat belt and reached for her raincoat.

“I’m going back,” she declared.

Francis started at her, disbelief on his face. What was she thinking? In this weather?

She stepped outside.

“Linda, come back,” he called after her. “It’s raining!”

That much was obvious. Within seconds of leaving the car, Linda’s reddish-blonde hair clung to her head. She was drenched. Her makeup was running down in streaks. Her tears mingled with the rain.

“I don’t care,” she said. “I don’t want to spend another minute with you!”

And with that, she turned around and marched off, headed back down Old Mill Lane.

Within seconds, she vanished in the darkness.

It was the last time Francis Carrigan would see her alive.

He sat in his car — his father had bought him the Mini last year — for a few moments. She’s being ridiculous! he thought.

Linda always had a flair for the dramatic. All he wanted was to have a few pints with friends, a nice quiet New Year’s Eve party.

Maybe not that quiet.

Why did she have to ruin everything?

After a few seconds of fruitless rumination, he turned off the engine and opened the driver’s side door. He couldn’t just let her wander around by herself out there, in the rain.

He put on his raincoat and locked the car. He went to the trunk and got a flashlight, which he kept there for emergencies.

Then he hurried after her.

“Linda!” he called.

He ran a few paces, but he saw no sign of her. He looked over his shoulder. Where had she gone? It was dark, and the rain was like a heavy sheet coming down. He couldn’t see a damned thing.

And then he heard her scream, a loud, blood-curdling sound.

“Linda!” he cried out, trying to make out where it had come from.

She wasn’t on the road anymore, that much was clear.

He stepped into the wet underbrush and groped around, somewhat helplessly.

“Linda!” he called. “Where the hell are you?”

He heard another noise, a strange and muffled sound.

He tried to follow its direction. The tree branches were scratching and tearing at his skin, the wet ground was ruining his favorite leather shoes, the moisture was seeping into his socks. He was miserable.

And afraid.

Something was out here. He could feel it.

Then, suddenly, he saw he saw a white shape. At first he thought it was fog, but there could be no fog in this rain.

No, this was something else.

Suddenly, his throat felt dry. His heart was beating fast.

He moved toward the white glow.

After a few moments, he came upon a small clearing.

And then he saw it.

“Oh my God!” said Francis. It felt as if his breath had suddenly been cut off. He was overwhelmed by nausea. And fear. Absolute fear.

The woman in the woods was deathly pale. She wore a rough, white dress, and somehow, Francis intuitively understood what it was: a shroud. Her fingers were bloody stumps.

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