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John Sinclair — A Horror Series
About the Book
About the Author
Some Darker Magic
Detective Chief Inspector John Sinclair works for Scotland Yard’s Special Division, an elite unit that deals with extraordinary cases. DCI Sinclair is a battle-hardened veteran of Afghanistan, a man who’s been to hell and back. This time, he’s not just fighting to save our world. He’s fighting for his soul …
“John Sinclair” is the 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 tradition, true page turners with hair-rising tension, 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.
The forces of darkness are gathering. All they need is the soul of John Sinclair …
Cascabel is a deformed creature who lives on human flesh — despised, desperate, and hunted. The “Great Sourette” is a failed stage magician at the very end of his life. When their paths intersect, a dark plan is set in motion, a plan that brings them to Samdon Isle, a small cluster of rocks near the coast of Scotland. Here, underneath the twisted ruins of a forgotten castle, lies a gateway to the underworld. All they need now is John Sinclair — their messiah. Only his soul can open the gate and unleash hell on earth …
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.
John Sinclair: Episode 12
Digital original edition
Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG
Copyright © 2016 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany
Written by Gabriel Conroy
Edited by Amanda Wright
Project editor: Kathrin Kummer
Cover design: © by Michael Potrafke
Cover illustration: © Andreas Gradin/shutterstock
eBook production: Urban SatzKonzept, Düsseldorf
Ashbury, Northumberland. 9:38 p.m.
Somewhere in the distance, he could smell the scent of human flesh.
A child’s flesh, to be precise. He raised his head and stood perfectly still, his misshapen body hunched over, hiding in the underbrush outside the village.
He sniffed the air.
The smell was very faint, like a silken thread, finely woven into the fabric of the night and its many odors, but there it was: A boy, no older than six or seven, his blood hot and strong and healthy. The scent was so sweet, so powerful that he could pick it up despite the heavy rain.
Cascabel swallowed hard and licked the rainwater off his lips. He was hungry. He hadn’t eaten in days. A few nights ago, he had managed to catch a rat, but what a miserable meal that had been. The meat had been tough and sinewy. He longed for sweeter flesh.
He hadn’t dared hunt a child for months now. It was too dangerous. People, inexplicably, seemed to be quite fond of those little beasts, and whenever he ate one, there was always trouble. Cascabel went down on all fours and crept forward through the underbrush.
Lightning streaked across the night sky, briefly illuminating his face. For a moment, his pale eyes shone like small silver coins in the darkness. His head was bald, and his hands were like claws, with long, thick fingernails, strong enough to scratch out a person’s eyes. His teeth were sharp. His back was deformed. Thin blue veins were visible underneath his nearly translucent skin. He was not much larger than those children he liked to eat, about the size of a twelve-year-old boy. He was dimly aware, of course, that his body was hideous to others, at least to humans. As for his own kind … there weren’t any, not as far as he knew.
His mother had died giving birth to him, centuries ago, and he had never known his father. He had grown up wild and feral, hiding on the island off the coast and coming to shore only to hunt. But he had learned the human tongue, and he dressed like a human, too, at least somewhat. He was covered in old, torn rags, colorless and drab. He had a dim awareness that a creature like him should be a master over his destiny, a master over others, but instead, he had always been hunted and despised.
He reached the outer edge of the village and looked through the brush.
A sign said: “Welcome to Ashbury.”
In the distance stood the steeple of the old church, a monument to the false gods the humans worshipped. Somewhere beyond that, a few miles off the coast, was Samdon Isle, his home.
He looked around.
The small cottages here were overgrown with ivy, some of them centuries old.
And throughout those centuries, he knew, people had always told dark tales.
Like his own tale. That of Cascabel, the deformed creature that came at night and feasted on the flesh of children.
He saw a small farmhouse. There was a light in one of the second-floor windows, and that’s where the smell was coming from. That sweet, delicious smell.
It was risky, he knew. They would come after him. But perhaps it was worth it. If he was careful, he and his prey would be long gone by daylight. He would simply snatch the child, break its neck and then swim back with it, as quick as a fish.
And he hadn’t dined on human flesh in such a long time. Hunger had been a constant companion. Yes! He would chance it. He would find the child, devour its flesh, and suck the marrow from its bones. Oh yes. He licked his lips in anticipation.
An old clock was ticking in little Benny Wilbur’s bedroom. Rain was pounding against the window. Benny was in bed, and his mother, a plump and happy woman, was reading him a bedtime story. It had a happy ending, of course, just like all good stories do. His father stood in the doorframe, looking at him.
“And when she opened her eyes, she saw that the brave prince had defeated the evil monster,” said Mrs. Wilbur. “And then the prince kissed her … and they lived happily ever after!”
She closed the book.
Benny huffed indignantly and said: “Read me another! Please, Mommy!”
Mrs. Wilbur smiled. “It’s time for bed,” she said gently.
“But I want another.”
Godfrey Wilbur, a stern and lean man, shook his head. “Benny,” he said in a tone of voice that left no room for disagreement. “Listen to your mother.”
Benny sighed, but relented. “But what about the monster in the story?” he said.
“Why, it was killed, of course,” said Mrs. Wilbur.
“But I’m scared!” Benny said.
Mrs. Wilbur leaned over and kissed her son on the forehead. “There are no monsters.”
He looked at her doubtfully.
“There’s always monsters in your stories,” he protested.
“Well,” she said. “They always die in the end, don’t they?”
“The monsters always die,” Mrs. Wilbur said. “And the good guys always win.” She ruffled his hair. “These old stories, they’re not true, you know. There’s nothing like that in the real world.”
Just then, thunder rolled outside. Benny flinched. But Mrs. Wilbur stroked his hair and said: “It’s just the storm. There’s nothing out there.”
Benny nodded uneasily.
“Go to sleep,” Mr. Wilbur said. “We’re right next door.”
Benny still looked uneasy.
“Tell you what,” said Mrs. Wilbur. “Why don’t you leave your door open? I’ll leave the light in the hallway on. If anything scares you, you just call us.”
“All right,” he said.
Mrs. Wilbur pulled his blanket up over his shoulders.
“Good night, Mom,” Benny said. “Good night, Dad.”
“Good night,” said Mrs. Wilbur. “I love you.” She leaned forward and gave him a kiss.
“Here’s your bunny,” his father said and put a small, white stuffed rabbit under the blanket, next to Benny’s shoulder.
Benny hugged it.
“Thank you, Dad,” he whispered.
His parents turned off the lamp on his bedside table and stepped into the hallway. They left the door half-open, just like they promised. Then they went into their bedroom, across from Benny’s room.
Mrs. Wilbur closed the door quietly behind them, and suddenly, she felt her husband’s hand on her breast.
“Maybe I should tuck you in as well,” he said with a lascivious smile.
“Oh, Godfrey!” she said. “Stop it!”
But he didn’t. He pressed her close and ran his hands over her ample body. She started breathing heavily.
“We should,” she said in between breaths, “wait until Benny’s asleep.”
But then he kissed her, and she offered no more resistance.
The light in the window went out.
The creature Cascabel was climbing up the downspout on the back of the house, moving swiftly and silently. He moved with the agility and self-assuredness of a cat. He didn’t mind the rain; he had stopped minding such things many, many years ago. The child’s window was on the second floor, looking out over the sloped roof. All Cascabel had to do was crawl up that slope.
He crouched on all fours. He was moving very slowly now. The rain masked most of the sounds, but he was careful.
About a foot from the window, he slowly raised his head. His eyes could see quite well in the darkness, and he got a good look at the inside of the room.
The child appeared to be in bed, right next to a half-open door. Behind that door, a light was on. Cascabel bared his teeth and gave a slight hiss.
That isn’t good, he thought. An open door like that meant trouble.
Perhaps, he thought, I should call it off. Might be too dangerous.
The boy was turning over in his bed, not quite asleep yet. He turned away from the window. He was hugging a toy rabbit.
Behind the glass and the rain, Cascabel could hear an old grandfather clock ticking.
He waited, pondering what to do. On the one hand, the risk was enormous.
One the other hand … he sniffed the air. The scent of the child was quite strong now. Cascabel swallowed hard.
He approached the wet glass and gently touched it with his fingertips.
Suddenly, the window swung inward, ever so slightly.
Cascabel flinched and withdrew his fingers from the pane. He paused, his tiny, deformed heart pounding in his chest. Then he reached out again and managed to push the window open a bit more, perhaps another half-inch.
With a feeling of exuberance he realized that they must have forgotten to close it properly.
His thin tongue shot out and licked across his pale lips.
That’s it, he thought. That settles it!
He pushed the window in a few more inches, then he quickly slid inside, moving quickly and gracefully. He was nothing more than a shadow in the darkness.
A gust of cold wind woke Benny up from his deepening slumber. He was just about to fall asleep when a chill came over him.
He turned over and saw that the window was open.
How is that possible? he thought.
He shot up in his bed. His breath quickened, and he clutched his bunny tighter.
Must be the wind, he thought. The wind must have blown it open.
He knew that the window hadn’t been working properly as of late. His father had grumbled about the latch not fastening right.
That’s all it is! Benny thought.
Then, suddenly, he heard a sound.
He swallowed hard. He felt his heart beating faster.
It sounded like a moan.
He listened intently. There it was again! The moan was coming from his parent’s bedroom. It was his mother. She was moaning rhythmically now, faster and faster. Benny grew concerned. Was Daddy hurting her? He’d heard sounds like this before, on rare occasions. More than once he had stood in front of his parent’s door, wondering whether or not to barge in and put a stop to whatever was going on inside there. The moans sounded like pain, but also very different, and Benny didn’t know what to make of it all.
Then he looked at the window again, the rain coming in unimpeded and the curtain blowing in the wind.
He decided to close it.
He got out of bed and walked toward the window.