A HORROR NOVELLA
"...the book succeeds well at an emotional level: it builds and maintains tension, plunging us into the emotional attrition of the Benjamin’s marriage even while all these weird things are going on around them. Much of the narration is a kind of stream-of-consciousness of either Joel or Deborah and this is effective in drawing us into in their character, struggles, doubts and fears. Law also has a deft eye for describing place, dress, manner and atmosphere..."
"...This PG story destroys any "religious" thought that doing "church" is normal. There's nothing average about this book. It ranks right up there with Frank Peretti's books..."
"EVIL REALMS Is a very good spooky suspense book. I will be reading more from this author in the future..."
"...Overall it was a great story. If you like stories of Spiritual warfare please check this out when it hits the shelves...."
"This is my first Cortez Law III book. It’s clear from the beginning that he is a storyteller and it’s clear by the end that he wants to show that there is a battle between good and evil, both seen and unseen..."
The police sirens pierced the air and the squad car’s light bar flickered from red to blue and back again atop the vehicle. The target? A dark gray four-door Buick raced at sixty-five miles per hour along the rural road. The car spewed dirt, rocks, and gravel along the bent roadway. A series of farmhouses and the acreage that came with them blurred as they passed. Both cars’ headlights illuminated the night.
Inside the car, the late-thirties, blond white male patrol officer gunned the engine to sixty-five. Now it race alongside the Buick. In the passenger seat was his late-twenties, raven-haired, white female partner. She braced herself with a straight forearm against the dashboard as she watched their prey.
“They’re ready to run out of road!” she said.
A veer in the road caused the police cruiser to ease its speed. That’s that. The Buick floored it and cut the sharp right at the bend with dirt cloud camouflage that made Houdini proud. Both occupants in the cruiser shifted left and right to track the target. When the road’s rocks and dirt stopped playing ping pong with the windshield, they had their answer.
“Gone?” she asked.
“Smoke trails anywhere?”
The cops perused the night’s scenes. Nothing. Not one thing. The man stopped the car and spoke into his shoulder mike.
“Suspects disappeared. Repeat, suspects have evaded capture in a dark gray, 2005 Buick LeSabre. APB for Caine Valentine, white male, blonde, six-foot-one inches, 170 pounds. Ronald LeMay, white male, dark hair, six-foot-two inches, 180 pounds. Both men suspected of robbing the Red Barn Savings & Loan tonight. Both men named on the Georgia Sex Offender Registry–”
He cut off his sentence. She felt his anger too.
“They’re off the grid. They’re off the grid serial rapists and child molesters over,” he said.
“Copy that. Continue to search. Will APB, over.”
“Copy that dispatch.”
They displayed disgust.
“If ever we needed to catch lowlifes, it’s those two,” she said.
“We will. But lots of farms, fields, and dirt roads–”
“Got it, okay? We continue to look. We’ll get them. Let’s go.”
He cranked the engine. The cruiser’s searchlight lit up the night and uncovered shadows amongst shadows on everything in sight. Nothing. The road ahead narrowed until it dead-ended at a closed fence with a block-lettered sign that read, ‘KEEP OUT Trespassers Will Be Shot.’
“Well, maybe they went in there. We’ll wait for the corpses to show.”
He agreed with her. “That’s affirmative.”
With that, he drove and reversed the vehicle several times and righted its course for the same path it took to get to this spot. In seconds, they left.
Left of that sign through a small breach in the decrepit wooden fence a giant field of haystacks that sat as high as ten feet. Movement on both sides of one. Mouths coughed and wheezed for several seconds. Metal creaked and then slammed shut. Twice. The hay flew with successive swooshes in the still night. Four arms flailed the bodies they belonged to toward liberty. Two men emerged hay covered, tense, and paranoid.
“Hey, keep your voice down, Ronnie! We ain’t freed yet until we bolt this hick town, got it?”
Ronnie’s enthusiasm subsided with his hands. He motioned for Caine to calm himself.
“Keep watch for a second.”
Ronnie did as Caine checked beneath the haystack at the ground. He growled as he rose again.
“Man, we got two flats when we smashed through the fence.”
“We got a spare, Caine–”
“Sure, we do. Be we ain’t got no donut which means we stuck. We need wheels and we need ‘em now.”
They scouted the terrain for a breakthrough.
“Okay, we each carry a duffel bag–”
“Five million each! Wow!” Ronnie said.
Caine rushed him with violence on his mind.
“I ain’t gonna tell you again. Shut up. Grab the bags and follow the haystacks. I bet we can find shelter in one of these old barns or something.”
“I’m ready to eat this hay, Caine.”
Caine’s face lessened its intensity. He shook Ronnie by the back of the neck, smirked and replied.
“Ten million dollars can buy you hay and anything else you want, buddy. Let’s go.”
Ronnie smiled, and they jogged amidst the massive piles of straw.
After they walked for thirty minutes, the pair riveted on a small crowd of people. They sat atop trimmed green grass, others stood, and others ran everywhere. As they closed the distance to the assembly, they viewed each other. Four young women and a dozen children about ages six months to six years old. Even gender split as far as they could tell. Like wolves who spotted their prey, the men studied one another first, then focused on the group.
“You see that, Ronnie?”
“I think so. But I’ll tell you what I don’t see too. I don’t see no men, Caine. I don’t see no men anywhere.”
His lips quivered just a touch as his gray eyes coveted the prospects before them.
“Now, I bet you they holed up inside, Ronnie. We play this right, we got ‘em. Steal their car and snatch as many as we want. With ten million, we can take ‘em anywhere in the country. But we gotta play this smart as we ever have before together and when we worked apart. You hear me?”
“Heard and understood.”
Caine led the way along the outskirts of the assembly. Tall trees and the woods helped to cover their reconnaissance. They stooped along the ground to the right of congregation. That’s when they noticed it together.
“Where they cars?” Ronnie asked.
“They got to be here somewhere!”
“Now whose voice needs to quiet.”
“Don’t even start that with me, Ronnie! Let’s go.”
Several more feet. No vehicles. Not even a tractor or lawn mower sighted.
“Let’s check up that way.”
Ronnie just nodded at the suggestion and onward they went. After twenty more minutes, they spied an old, barren, and secluded farmhouse. Naked trees arched their gnarly, ashen limbs everywhere. They readied to reach out and to help someone or to hurt someone.
Close to that sat an old but large cemetery full of archaic headstones. It’s quiet. Too quiet.
“Man, where are we goin’, Caine? Let’s go back and get's that action, huh?”
“We will, we will. Car first, then we have fun.”
Ronnie’s malicious smile morphed his face.
“You know I ain’t had a little one for a long time. Seein’ them back there together was more than my heart can stand. Let’s get those cars. Now!”
Caine grabbed Ronnie after they both jogged another few feet, mounted a woods and tree dominated hill, descended, turned to the opened ground, and froze. This time Ronnie grabbed Caine and yanked him to the ground. Horror filled Ronnie’s visage. Caine looked at him a second, then took in what mesmerized his partner. A bunch of people mumblin’ something by tombstones. As they kneeled upon the dead grass, every one of them adorned black robes with hoods that covered their heads. The group moved in perfect synchronization. One person stood as the vocals synched as well and arose to a feverish pitch. When he raised his hands, movement and decibels ceased. A male voice spoke next.
“All hail our Lord and Master.”
The others repeated after him.
“All hail our Lord and Master.”
Caine and Ronnie dared not to move.
The person who stood continued.
“He has brought it to my attention it’s time. We have come so far so fast. But we are far from finished with the work our Master has called us to complete. Despite evidence to the contrary, not everyone is onboard.”
That person with the masculine voice strolled between those who kneeled in the circle. His shadow draped over each hooded member as he did.
“Who can we trust when the trustworthy betray our just cause? You know it’s his and my way or death. Nothing more, nothing less. Complete obedience to us and to do our will.”
As he walked, his hands disappeared into his robe’s pockets and as reflected in the full moonlight, a pair of golden blade daggers rested in his palms.
“We know a breach of unity that dismembers our collective obedience requires a sacrifice. I and the Master will need nothing less. Now, bow before me.”
The visitors fought the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome that raced through their bodies.
The faces bowed before the ground with arms extended forward. The male who spoke stood behind one kneeler. He tapped the shoulders of two persons who kneeled on each side of the person before the male leader. With cat reflexes, they gripped a white man’s arms. Those daggers slammed into the man’s pinned to the ground hands. He screamed as others broke the circle. They hogtied, gagged, and carried him off above their heads away from the cemetery.
A wicked glee changed the surprised looks of Caine and Ronnie now. A huge tree that stood thirty to forty feet high contained a thick, knotty limb of eight to ten feet long with a noose hung from it. The male voice commanded the others to slip his feet into the gap. Done, they pulled it so tight it caused a gagged whimper from the terrified white man.
Other hooded members doused a massive woodpile with gasoline. That male voice ordered two lit torches tossed onto the pile. With a whoosh, the flame shot upward and outward just out of reach from the hung victim. The others stripped the man of his robe and left him in his undergarments and socks.
“We need a sacrifice by bloodshed for selfishness. I can still hear the voice of your brother’s blood cry out. You share everything even your wife with whoever wants her, and that includes your brother. I pronounce you cursed from the earth which received his blood from your betrayal and like the Judas you are so too shall your entrails burst as you burn with hellfire in condemnation!”
The man handled those daggers again and sliced with uncanny speed and precision a myriad of cuts across the hung man’s abdomen. When the last cut ripped the gag off his mouth, he screamed and squirmed. With a simple nod, three members loosened their grip on the rope and the man fell headlong into the inferno. After a shortened period, the man ceased any noise and movement.
Another of the robbed members handed the male voice a towel to clean off the daggers, which he hid again in the robe’s pockets. That member tossed the towel into the fire as the others peered in morbid fascination.
A cell phone rang from the inside the male voice’s robe. He waited for a spell before he spoke.
“I told you that the great threat on the horizon will not be a problem. The Black Robe Masters will summon our unseen allies and destroy them.”
Satisfied, he returned the cell inside his robe when he stopped. He studied his other worshippers, they reciprocated, then he pivoted toward Caine and Ronnie. His followers duplicated that move too.
“Oh, no, no, Caine. He saw us!”
“No, Ronnie! They saw us! Let’s go!”
With that, the pair bolted upright. They used the same direction as before, inched their way back up that hill, and crashed with no aplomb. The millions of stolen dollar bags bashed against their ribs as the twosome fought a lost battle with their fears.
They huffed and puffed, tripped and fell, helped each other up, and left each other in their wakes. At last, they reached that house of women and children. They ran around the back for them. Only the women present, their presence sent them into a tizzy.
“Oh!” a red-haired lady said.
“Who are you?” the blond-haired woman asked.
“And what do you want?” a brunette lady asked.
Caine stuck his hand up in self-defense.
“Listen, we mean you no harm now. We want a car. That’s it.”
Ronnie’s glances said otherwise.
“Naw, that ain’t it.”
“Hey, focus! Who's got the keys? Hey! Hey!”
“Today, ladies!” Ronnie said.
The red-haired lady in her early forties complied and tossed them to Caine. The other three closed the gap to the criminals. Caine reached into his bag and exposed a.45 caliber handgun.
“I don’t want to use this, but I will. Which car is it?”
The redhead eased her arms about Caine’s neck and the blond copied her. The brunette and another blond surrounded Ronnie. His lust meter kicked into immediate overdrive. Caine slowed this test of potential suitors out. Though his flesh desired the same thing.
“Ain’t no time for this here, ma’am. If there was, I can promise you, you’d never forget it. Believe me,” Caine said.
“Yeah, believe us both. I ain’t never had two at one time. Ah, man, just a quickie, Caine. Think they didn’t see us?”
The redhead spoke.
“It doesn’t matter, boys. He knows your name. A father knows the names of all his children.”
“Father? What father?” Caine asked.
A sudden rush of wind so putrid, both men gag reflexed. With that wind a shadow so dark and expansive it absorbed the lights in the house. They experienced such blackness a void in space couldn’t even match it. A gruff voice with an eerie calm sweetness to it emitted.
“I believe you have something that belongs to us.”
The criminals responded with fear.
“Take–take the–the keys! We don’t want ‘em!” Caine said.
“Yeah, just let us go!”
That gruff voice echoed through the masses:
“Oh, you have something else that belongs to us too.”
Without notice, a multitude of red eyes dotted the room. Those in unison gruff voices announced:
“We believe you’ll serve him well.”
Objects crashed against one another. Screams of torture, mouths that growled, and teeth that gnashed drowned out everything else in the room.