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John Sinclair - Episode 5

Contents

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

Dr. Kenneth Hopkins, a renowned Egyptologist, wakes up from uneasy dreams to find himself engulfed in darkness. Within seconds, he realizes that he’s in a coffin. He’s been buried alive … and a voice inside his head is laughing.

In his latest adventure, Detective Chief Inspector John Sinclair travels to Egypt to stop an unspeakable evil. When a British expedition uncovers the tomb of an ancient sorcerer, they unwittingly open a portal into another dimension … and awaken a demonic force intent on destroying our world.

This case takes John Sinclair from the back alleys of London to the Egyptian desert. A heart-pounding race against time begins, and John faces an evil that is older than our world.

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.

“Professor Kenneth Brandon Hopkins, died at age 38, due to unexpected heart failure. Beloved son, brother, friend. Professor Hopkins was an Oxford graduate and served as Department Chair of Ancient History and Egyptology at the University of London. He was credited for his discovery of a previously unknown tomb in the Valley of Shadows, Egypt. He is survived by his father, Sir Gerald Hopkins, and his sister Sheila Hopkins. He will be sorely missed.”

- From “The Times of London,” Obituaries, January 15th

***

There was a whisper.

Somewhere out there, in the darkness.

Someone — or something — was calling to him.

Come … said the voice inside his head. It sounded like wind, filling his mind like a wave, rising and crashing, engulfing him, then retreating again into the void.

Come, defiler. Let me show you …

He felt himself falling, stumbling. For a brief moment, he was weightless.

His mind was racing. He couldn’t remember his name. There was only a dim awareness of being.

Suddenly, there was light.

He was in a desert. It seemed, somehow, familiar, but he couldn’t place it. He had been here before. He knew that much.

He looked up and saw something that resembled a cave.

Its jagged entrance was cast in shadows.

The Valley of Shadows.

A sudden awareness. A word, a name. This is it, he thought. I’m back. I’ve been here before, and now I’m back.

He walked toward the entrance of the tomb, a dark mouth etched into the side of a rock wall, ten yards above him. His feet made no sound on the sand.

The wind was quietly blowing.

Then the voice came back. It echoed in his mind, and he felt as if the force of it would crack his skull open.

Defiler, said the voice. Come …

He crawled up the ladder toward the looming entrance.

It seemed as if the shadows ahead of him were moving … as if the darkness was a living thing.

And then he saw them. Insects. They were crawling out of the darkness. Toward him.

Tiny black beetles. Hundreds of them. Thousands. The swarm was flooding around him, he could feel the creatures touching his feet, crawling up his legs, his arms, entering his open mouth …

Hallucinating, he thought. I must be hallucinating … I’m delirious …

He screamed …

And then awoke with a gasp.

He found himself in a dark box.

Everything around him was dark. And not just dark — pitch black. There was no light, nothing. He felt panic rising within him. A cold and terrible fear was seeping into his muscles, his bones.

Where am I, he thought.

He waited for a few moments, hoping that his eyes would adjust to the darkness, that he might make out a shape. But there was nothing to adjust to. Not even the slightest speck of light. The blackness completely engulfed him.

With shivering fingers, he reached around him. He was lying on his back. Right above him was wood. To his left and right, below him, also wood.

The wood was lined with something. Some kind of fabric. His head was resting on a pillow.

He was trapped in an oblong box, and even though his rational mind refused to believe it, there was something deep within him that knew exactly where he was.

And that tiny spark of a thought slowly but steadily rose to the surface of his mind, with increasing force and certainty, gradually replacing everything else: Buried alive.

He touched his hands to his face. He felt tears of panic in his eyes.

His breathing accelerated.

He could hear his heart pounding.

This isn’t possible, he told himself. Things like this don’t happen.

This is a dream.

It’s all just a bad dream.

But it wasn’t.

He started pounding against the wooden planks above him.

“Let me out of here,” he screamed.

He was beating with increasing frenzy against the wood. Then he stopped. He was exhausting himself. That meant he was burning oxygen.

“Stop,” he whispered. “Stop and think.”

There had to be a way out of here. There had to.

Then, his rational mind gave in, and his fear took over. Once more, he started senselessly pounding against the coffin lid.

“Get me out of here!” he screamed. “Anybody? Please! Help! Get me out! Get me out of here …”

Kenneth Hopkins was a renowned Egyptologist. One week after his return from the Valley of Shadows, he suddenly died of heart failure. The attending physician at St. John’s, the coroner, they all found nothing wrong with his heart. Except that it stopped beating. For his family, the tragedy was hard to accept. Over a hundred friends and relatives came to his funeral. Saying farewell is never easy, especially to someone so young.

“Help me! Somebody …”

His life had been so full of promise. But in the end, of course, all things must fade …

No one heard his screams.

No one … except the voice in the darkness.

The voice began to laugh …

***

London, 7:56 a.m.

Sheila Hopkins was screaming. Her body convulsed, she shot up, and suddenly, she was there. In her flat. On her bed.

The darkness outside was slowly fading. The first rays of light were coming through the curtains. She heard the soft sounds of morning traffic in the background.

She was breathing heavy.

She had dreamed of Kenneth.

Again.

She dreamt he was trapped in his coffin, calling out for her.

When she looked at her hands, she saw that they were shaking.

Withdrawal, no doubt.

She climbed out of bed. She was feeling dizzy. Her legs were weak.

Sheila was six years younger than her brother. She had studied anthropology, but she was the black sheep of the family. Whiskey, cocaine, even heroin … she thought that she had conquered her addiction. She had been clean and sober for four years.

Until recently. Until her brother’s death …

She went into the bathroom and used the toilet. Then she ran cold water over her face.

“Rise and shine …” she said with a bitter tone in her voice.

Her face in the mirror looked pale and haggard. All her life, Sheila has been trying to drown out some inner voice that was tormenting her, but it’d never been as bad as this. Her fingers were shaking as she reached and turned the water off. Something wasn’t right. She could feel it.

Then she heard the voice.

Defiler … it said.

As if someone were whispering in her ear.

“Who’s there?” Sheila asked, barely masking the terror in her voice.

Defiler …

The voice echoed through the room. The morning was grey and overcast. For a brief moment, Sheila thought she saw something …

The curtains were fluttering in the wind.

Even though, Sheila noted, the windows were shut.

She saw shadows moving on the wall.

And suddenly she felt as if she was weightless.

This isn’t possible, she thought.

The shadows seemed alive.

She felt something on her arm.

And when she looked down, she screamed.

A small black beetle was crawling over her skin. Instinctively, Sheila’s hand slapped down, killing the insect. A smear of blood stained her pale skin …

I need my medicine, Sheila thought. Oh dear God, I need my medicine. I’m going crazy …

***

London, 2:38 p.m.

Bill Connolly used to be a paparazzo. Now he was a reporter, specializing in inexplicable phenomena. When he read the obituary in the paper, just a few weeks ago, he felt he had a story on his hands, and indeed, everything seemed to point in that direction. Dr. Kenneth B. Hopkins had led an expedition into the Valley of Shadows, but almost everyone involved had come to a bad end.

He had come here in hopes of talking to Sheila Hopkins, the sister of the deceased. But no one responded to his knocking …

“Miss Hopkins?” he called out. “Hello?”

He heard a noise. A heavy thud. It sounded as if a person had fallen.

Alarm bells went off inside his head.

“Hello?” Connolly said, but there was no response.

He decided to try the back stairs. They were located in what used to be the servant’s entrance. Sheila Hopkins lived in a posh flat in Chelsea, the family was rather well-off. Hopkins Industries was a household name in England.

In the old days, when he was still stalking celebrities to take their picture, Connolly knew no bounds. Jumping a fence, sneaking into a garage, conning his way into a hotel kitchen … he did anything to get the shot. In hindsight, he was glad that he left that life behind. It wasn’t healthy. Chasing the shot had been like an addiction. He was willing to do anything to feed his craving, and now, looking back, he felt a vague sense of shame.

And yet …

He did learn a few very useful tricks back then. Most of all, he learned never to stop in pursuit of his goal.

Today, his goal was the truth. Connolly worked for a London tabloid, the Daily Echo. The position had opened up rather unexpectedly when one of their reporters, Anne Baxter, died in a tragic train crash in Scotland. Connolly took over her desk and her beat. While the Daily Echo mostly concerned itself with grisly crime, naked girls and the Royals, there were, on page seven, a few short items about unusual or inexplicable occurrences. Most readers barely glanced at them, but a few did. It was better than nothing. And that’s what Connolly did these days. The “spook beat,” his colleagues called it.

He went to the back of the building and saw a wall in front of him. He stepped on a trash can. Then he swung his left leg over the wall, followed by the right. He landed noisily on the other side.

He held in a small moan of pain, and then felt his ankles. Nothing sprained or broken. Everything was all right.

He looked around.

He found himself in an inner courtyard. The sky was gray and overcast. The back entrance was right in front of him.

He hobbled toward the door and tried the knob, but it was locked. He crouched down and peeked into the keyhole. A ward lock. Easy, he thought. People need to be more careful. He pulled a crowbar out of his jacket pocket. With a few turns, the door was open. Connolly went up the back stairs. The wooden stairs were polished and hardly creaked at all. It wasn’t exactly legal, but at this point, Connolly didn’t care. He was like a hunting dog. Once he picked up a scent, he never let off.

He reached Sheila Hopkins’ flat. The back door had a pane of milky glass. Connolly peered through it.

The figure behind the cloudy glass was distorted.

But there was no doubt.

Someone was lying on the floor.

Connolly knocked.

“Hello?” he said, but there was no answer.

Something was wrong. He was sure of it. People don’t just rest on the kitchen floor and not respond to knocking.

He put down his camera bag and took off his sports coat. Then he made a fist with his right hand and, using his left, wrapped his coat around it to protect his hand from the glass.

With a quick, calculated punch, his fist slammed through the glass pane. The sound was no louder than a teacup shattering on the floor, but it seemed to tear at the silence in the empty staircase.

Connolly’s heart was beating fast.

He looked around, but there was no one there checking on the noise.

He carefully reached through the broken pane and twisted the doorknob from the other side.

With a click, the door swung open. Connolly impatiently removed his arm and stepped inside.

He found himself in a tasteful kitchen, with sleek, modern countertops, a silver refrigerator and some artfully placed antique chairs.

Sheila Hopkins was lying on her back, in the doorway between the kitchen and the hallway.

She wasn’t moving. Her eyes were closed.

Connolly rushed over and reached for her wrist.

Her pulse was weak, very weak.

He slapped her face, but there was no reaction.

“Miss Hopkins!” he called. “Miss Hopkins, are you all right?”

Nothing.

He pulled open her eyes. She was alive, but barely.

He slapped her again, but she didn’t react.

“Come on!” he said in a sharp whisper. “Stay with me!”

When he looked up, he saw the syringe on the floor … and that’s when he noticed needle tracks in her arm.

“God …” he whispered.

He pulled out his phone and dialed three numbers.

“Ambulance!” he said, his voice shaking. “I need an ambulance!”

***

It only took a few minutes for the paramedics to arrive. They rang the doorbell and Connolly let them in, as if he owned the place. There were two of them, a dark-skinned young man and a pale, blonde woman who looked a bit worse for wear. They carried a stretcher and various bags with them.

The man — his name was Khalidi according to the tag on his yellow jacket — unfolded the stretcher and looked at the woman. Her name tag identified her as Burton. Funny, Connolly thought. Like Richard Burton. Except, of course, it wasn’t funny at all.

The two of them barely spoke. They communicated with almost inaudible grunts, eye contact and hand gestures. Together, they quickly lifted Sheila Hopkins onto the stretcher.

It occurred to Connolly how beautiful she was. She looked, of course, a tad rough — drugs will do that to a person — but she had a sort of natural beauty that could make a man’s heart melt. Strawberry blonde, unruly hair, pale skin, some freckles on her cheekbones. She was wearing a nightgown.

“You her husband?” the man named Khalidi asked.

Connolly was taken aback for a moment. Then it occurred to him that this was, in fact, a perfectly sensible conclusion to come to. Why else would he be in her apartment?

He nodded. “Yes,” he said.

They rushed her down to the ambulance and pushed the stretcher into the back. Being a “close relation,” Connolly was allowed to ride in the back with her.

The driver, Burton, put the vehicle in gear, turned on the sirens, and took off.

Khalidi attached a drip to her arm, and a plastic band that measured her heart activity.

Connolly saw a small and unsteady green signal on a monitor.

Then, Khalidi put a breathing mask over her mouth, strapped it tight to the back of her head and handed Connolly a plastic pump.

“Hold this,” he said. “Make yourself useful. Keep pumping.”

Connolly nodded. He started squeezing the pump, perhaps with a tad too much enthusiasm.

“Easy now,” Khalidi said. “Keep it steady. She needs steady bursts of air.”

“Right,” Connolly said, feeling oddly embarrassed. “Yes, sir.”

Khalidi shot him a glance.

“Don’t call me sir.”

“Yes, sir,” said Connolly.

After a few seconds, he found a good rhythm. He kept pumping. He looked at her face. Her eyes fluttered open for a moment of connection and then shut again. They were green, with specks of hazel. For a brief moment, Connolly was hypnotized …

And then, suddenly, something flickered in her eyes. For a brief moment, she looked straight at Connolly, and he saw that there was life in her yet.

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