Title: Child of the Heathen
Author: Lucia Carter Keates
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
“Would you sacrifice immortality to save your last remaining son?”
People are dying inexplicably in Maskek and the local police are divided as to the cause. It’s been happening for centuries.For Deacon Pierce who has grown up with the legends and mythology of the First Nations Cree, a visit to his teacher’s home unlocks the door to his father’s tortured past.
In 1750, Jonathan Sparkling Eyes Hare signed away his mortal soul and those of hisunborn children, for life eternal: a deal with a demon or a creature of ancient Cree legend? When nightmares and darker visions begin to affect Deacon’s health and sanity, his white, adopted mother is forced to reveal the truth about his bloodline and the sinister events surrounding his father Jonathan and his lover Damien Drew.
Can past and present combine to prevent Deacon’s death?
Clattering unceremoniously along the driveway, Janine dragged her stole along the ground, snagging it every few yards on the briars protruding from the potted Alberta roses. To keep her balance, she anchored herself on the cedar wood fence running alongside the drive. Behind her the glaring lights faded into the mist-shrouded darkness arising from Loon Lake. It gave an eerie, almost surreal feel to the landscape and distorted the tall conifer trees into bizarre shapes that might have been animal or human. The solitude intensified the sounds of the night; the howl of a wolf, the snarling of a bobcat, the shuffling and snuffling of the smaller nocturnal creatures that owned the night.
Inebriated and angry and still blaming her husband for leaving her, Janine was barely aware of the noises around her until the piercing screech of a red-tailed hawk split the sky, penetrating her alcohol fuddled brain. She recoiled, startled, throwing a nervous glance over her shoulder, but she could see nothing beyond the cedar wood fence and the dim outline of the steel barrier surrounding the limits of the property. It was beginning to register that nobody had passed her since she’d left the house. Not a single car.
Something moved in front of her, stopped for a moment then vanished. Thinking her husband hadn’t really gone without her, she called to him. “Think you can play games with me, Randy, do you? Well I know you’re there. You wouldn’t have the guts to go without me. Come out, come out wherever you are.”
Swearing loudly as the fur caught on a sharp object that wouldn’t let go, she tugged and tugged until it came away, sending her sprawling across the ground. “That’s not funny, Randy. I don’t think much of your stupid jokes.” When she fell, she lost one of her high heeled shoes. She rose unsteadily to her feet, floundering in the dark for the lost shoe. “Where’s my shoe, goddamn it. I need my shoe.”
Chilled, she wrapped the fur stole tightly around her neck and shoulders. Relinquishing warmth for vanity, she had left her summer jacket at the motel and wore only the stole over her backless gold lame dress “Randy, where are you?” Wishing now that she had accepted the offer of a ride home her anger was rapidly dissolving.
The mist coming in from the lake was beginning to take on a reddened hue, slithering across the ground in long tentacles that reached upwards and outwards. As she stood there paralysed by what was taking place, a strong, sickly stench assailed her nostrils, making her feel nauseous. Then she was surrounded by a sense of dread that she was no longer alone. Something cold, almost metallic crawled across her back and parked up at the base of her spine. Nothing tangible, nothing she could see or touch, but it lingered like a festering toothache.
Randy. Where are you?
The night was turning colder, drawing the last vestige of warm intoxication from her stick thin body. She heard the crackle of breaking twigs, as if walked on by a heavy boot or a huge paw, and a sudden gush of icy wind whipped her hair around her face.
Somewhere out there was the placid lake, now obliterated by the expanding mist. She could hear water, loud, churning and angry as if lashed by a ferocious storm. What if she was heading for it and couldn’t see it?
Spurred on by fear, Janine tried to run but restricted by her body clinging full length gown and one high heeled shoe, she stumbled and fell over an object on the ground; the missing shoe. Shoving her foot quickly into the shoe, she was pushed from behind as she stooped to secure the ankle strap. She landed on her stomach with a force that knocked the breath from her body. Thrashing on the ground she tried to stand, catching her leg in the hem of the dress. Whimpering and breathless she struggled to free her legs, tearing the material. Wrapping her arms around the base of a spruce tree, Janine managed to pull herself to her feet. She saw a piece of her dress snagged on the tree. She must have caught her backside on an overhanging branch as she bent down and it had sprung back and hit her. In her unstable condition, she’d lost her balance.
Dissolving into near hysterical laughter, she tried to take stock of her predicament. How hard could it be? Her head was swimming, the ground spinning. It was as if she was walking on sponges. The goddamn mist was red.
She smelled it again, cloyingly close, the sickly stench of breath in her face from a mouth she could not see. Felt the warmth of the fetid breath settling on her cheeks. Now the snorting, snuffling creatures of the night gave way to the deepest and long buried nightmares from her childhood of being chased by something that wanted to cause her harm.
The sound of surging water was all round her, filling her head with the force of it. Where was it coming from? Emily told her it was a serene and gentle lake. It didn’t sound anything like a tranquil lake. Might have been a storm wrecked sea from the roaring it made, muffling any other noises she might have encountered.
In running away had she inadvertently turned in the wrong direction? There seemed to be no end to the emptiness. Where was the house? Where were the other guests? Surely, she should have passed or seen somebody by now.
The red mist began to phosphoresce, emitting a foul odour that smelled like putrefied death. In one gut wrenching moment and as impenetrable as a fortress the blackness descended upon her.
~ * ~
“It’s so much darker here tonight,” Emily said as she and Barnstable followed the contours of the wooden fence. “Janine didn’t come this way or we would have caught up to her by now. She’s going the wrong way.”
The situation opened up a whole new danger. The possibility of winding up in the lake or losing your way in the unforgiving forest was unthinkable. The thickness of the woods meant that light, even during the day, did not penetrate past the first row of trees.
Captain McNally’s Forest and Wildlife Rangers could testify to many a visitor in the area whose body had never been recovered.
Turning abruptly, Emily and Emett quickly headed toward the side of the house, to where the Simpson’s property bordered the Wapiti Hills.
~ * ~
In the claustrophobic darkness, Janine screamed as an exposed shoulder was scraped by the tip of a sharp, pointed object. Her dark world suddenly rotated as she was spun around sharply, disorientating her. The fetid breath hit her full in the face and she almost vomited.
Before she could recover, the stole tightened around her neck and what now felt like the claw of a large animal, ripped the top of her exposed breast. She struggled with the stole, gasping for breath. She was near to passing out when the fur loosened. Collapsing onto the dew dropped ground she thrust it from her neck as if it contained a serpent.
The obnoxious stink of the thing that stalked her seemed to penetrate her hair, her clothes, even her skin.
Straining to see her attacker her voice raspy and weak, Janine feebly cried out. “Who are you? What do you want?” No vocal response, but as her eyes adjusted to the darkness she vaguely recognised a shape of huge proportion, not a true figure, more like a deep shadow.
The agonising jolt to her back brought a painful cry from her lips as she was crushed beneath the shadow’s oppressive weight. The creature’s full weight flattened her, forcing her already churning stomach to fill her mouth and spew out, bringing an almost human sound of revulsion from the thing that was pinning her down. Quickly shifting its weight, it moved to the side, releasing her left leg. Survival instinct kicking in Janine raised her leg and kicked with all her strength, catching the shadow-thing in what she hoped was the general area of its groin. Judging by the agonised groaning, she’d landed on her target.
Sheer panic, absolute dread spurring her on, Janine ran, tripped, slipped, and ran again. With little left of her expensive gown to impede her progress, she ploughed through the trees, catching her feet in the gnarled stumps, and clumps of clinging, stinging vegetation. Janine dared not look back, nor spared one second to rest; it was chasing her, rapidly closing the ground between them.
Grabbing her shoulders and spinning her round, the hulking creature forced her backwards. Unaware of the direction in which she was heading, Janine screamed, scratched, kicked, and bit him, getting a mouthful of what could only have been described as thick, coarse hair. It felt greasy as if smothered in brilliantine hair oil. She shivered, repulsed by the sensation it produced.
With courage born of desperation, she drew back her fist and punched the demented creature, not caring where it landed. The abomination held fast.
Her shoulder blade popped, leaving her burning in agony. A rib was next to go. The shadow thing was breaking her.
Feeling her hair standing on end from the static as they approached the electric fence, she tried to look behind her. Just before the blinding flash lit up the sky, Janine Preston saw its face.
~ * ~
Emily was already sprinting ahead when Janine’s piercing cry split the night air, “Janine, where are you? Janine.”
Catching up to Emily, Emett took her arm, pulling her over to the left where the glowering night seemed blacker than ever. “It came from over here.”
“Why is she so far out? I shouldn’t have let her go alone. We’ve got to find her.” She was panicking now, fearing for Janine’s safety. They did not hear a further cry.
Emily paused, wrinkling her nose. “What’s that awful smell?”
“Stay here. I’ll take a look.”
He didn’t need to venture far before he found the source of the odour. In shock, he returned to Emily.
“What is it, Barney?” she asked, unnerved by his expression, “What’s happened?”
“I think I’ve found Janine. Don’t go over there. Emily, we have to go back and call the police.”
“Why...?” She ran over and abruptly stopped, staggered by what she saw. Sobbing, she sank to the ground, “Oh, Janine.”
I was born in Leek, North Staffordshire U.K. Presently living in Derbyshire U.K. I lived and worked in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada for many years, from where I was able to continue my love of and interest in the Native American people and their culture. Child of the Heathen is my first novel to be published (by Rogue Phoenix Press). I have written a sequel; a third book is begun. Some of my other interests include the local theatre company of which I am a member, gothic weekends in Whitby, and all things supernatural.