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Devil Breed

Devil Breed

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Devil Breed

ratings:
3/5 (1 rating)
Length:
288 pages
5 hours
Released:
Aug 27, 2016
ISBN:
9781540134431
Format:
Book

Description

SOME SECRETS CAN'T BE HIDDEN IN THE SHADOWS

When Eric Bradley was thirteen, something viciously killed his brother during a family camping trip near the small town of Sander's Run, leaving Eric barely alive and bleeding out on the forest floor.

The authorities said it was a wild animal, but Eric knows it was something much worse.

Now, fourteen years later, Eric has returned to Sander's Run with a single goal: to find and kill the thing responsible for his brother's death.

Sander's Run is a town full of secrets; a place where everyone has something to hide. To find the monster that killed his brother, Eric will have to follow it into the shadows where it lives…and hunts.

But the shadows conceal more than monsters. In the shadows are answers that will force Eric to question everything he thought he knew about what happened to his brother.

And everything he thought he knew about reality itself.

Released:
Aug 27, 2016
ISBN:
9781540134431
Format:
Book

About the author


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Devil Breed - Brian J. Jarrett

http://brianjjarrett.com/offer/

CHAPTER ONE

ERIC BRADLEY HEARD the sound of something behind them as they cut through the thick underbrush of the forest outside their parents’ campsite. He paused and listened hard.

What’s wrong? Eric’s little brother Aiden asked. Why’d you stop?

It’s nothing, Eric said.

Aiden listened too, his ear cocked to the side. I heard something.

Don’t be a baby.

I’m not a baby. Don’t you hear it?

Eric tried to tell himself he hadn’t heard the sounds behind them. Just his imagination, that’s all. Nothing more. This close to dusk the forest came alive with activity; of course there would be noises. Probably just a deer or something, he said.

Aiden nodded, but he didn’t look convinced.

We should hurry, Eric continued. I don’t want to get stuck out here after dark.

Who’s the baby now?

Eric frowned. Shut up. Just walk.

Aiden walked. But not even a dozen steps in Eric heard the sound again. He ignored it, pushing onward through the saplings and the ferns sprouting up from the forest floor.

I thought this was supposed to be a shortcut, Aiden said, pushing his way past a small sapling.

Just go.

I don’t know why Dad made us stay in a tent this time, Aiden said. I wish we’d stayed in a hotel like we do every other summer.

You like it outside.

Not today, I don’t.

Walk faster, Eric said.

All right, all right. Aiden picked up the pace.

Eric couldn’t shake the feeling that something was watching them as they pushed on. He glanced all around, but could only see hundreds of trees and bushes that looked virtually the same.

I don’t like this, Aiden said. It’s freaking me out.

Eric didn’t like it either, but he couldn’t let his little brother know that. If he admitted something like that to Aiden, then he’d have to admit it to himself.

Suddenly Aiden stopped short. I don’t hear it anymore.

They listened together. Eric realized he wasn’t breathing.

It was probably just a deer or a squirrel or something, Eric finally said.

What if it’s a bear?

It’s not a bear.

How do you know?

Can we just get moving?

Aiden paused and listened for a few more moments before turning and walking through the underbrush, his pace now just short of a jog. Eric kept up, feeling the burn in his leg muscles and wishing, like Aiden, that they’d stayed in a hotel for their annual family vacation this year.

He heard the sound again, unmistakable this time.

Footsteps.

Hurry up, Eric said.

I’m hurrying.

Eric glanced back, but the only thing he could see behind him was more trees, bushes, and ferns. The trunks of large conifers and deciduous trees alike crowded around them like disinterested sentries of the forest, apathetic to the goings on of two young boys who’d stayed away from camp for too long and were now cutting it a little too close to dusk for their return.

The wind blew through the leaves, creating a crescendo effect as the rustling sound rose and fell. As the wind subsided, Eric could hear nothing else besides the sound of their feet striking the forest floor. No animals scurried through the underbrush. No birds sang.

It seemed as if the forest was holding its breath. Waiting.

The feeling of being watched was more palpable than ever.

It had been Eric’s idea to take the shortcut. His idea to explore deeper into the forest, far away from the camp, much further out than his parents wanted them going. His dad would be pissed and his mother worried sick. He might even be grounded. Eric decided he’d accept any punishment his parents wanted to dole out as long as they could make it back to camp and out of the vast, desolate woods.

How much further away was the camp? Had they gotten themselves lost? Eric felt dread slowly transform into worry as they walked. Now that worry threatened to grow into a full-fledged panic if they didn’t find their camp soon.

He heard the footsteps again, close this time. He glanced to his right and saw saplings shake off in the distance.

But the wind had all but stopped now.

Run! Eric called out.

Aiden turned to look back at him.

Then it happened.

Eric smelled it first; a musky and dirty primal smell. Something wild and uncontrollable and completely foreign to anything he’d experienced up to that point in his short life. Eric opened his mouth to call out to Aiden, to warn him that something was indeed following them, hunting them, but what came out sounded more like a whimper than a shout.

Then movement flashed in the underbrush, so quickly that Eric only saw a blur. Saplings shook as something moved in the thick ground cover, just out of sight.

Aiden! Eric called out, finally getting his voice.

Aiden stopped and turned back to look at his older brother. Eric?

Those were his last words.

Everything after that happened too fast to react.

It appeared as if from between the trees, materializing out of the leaves and stepping into the path behind Aiden. It looked like a big cat of some sort, but then it changed. It morphed into another shape, standing six feet tall with massive hands ending in razor sharp claws.

Eric stood, speechless, unable to move as he watched the creature in the dwindling light shining through the thick forest canopy. It looked like either a wolf or a bear now, but not quite either. Like some hybrid bastard child of the two.

It moved with a frightening grace and agility. Before Eric could take his next breath, he watched the creature close the distance between itself and Aiden. Aiden let out a short cry before the creature raked a razor-sharp claw over Aiden’s throat. The skin split wide and a curtain of dark red blood flowed freely, saturating Aiden’s t-shirt.

Eric shook his paralysis. He didn’t think, he only reacted. He charged ahead, knowing on some base level that his little brother was already dead. Even if Aiden’s heart still pumped or his eyes still blinked, it didn’t matter.

Aiden was dead and it was Eric’s fault.

Aiden fell to the forest floor as Eric slammed into the creature. It was like hitting a brick wall. The creature moved fast; too fast to see and the next thing Eric knew he was on the ground beside his brother.

He looked into Aiden’s eyes and saw that they were open wide.

Blood.

So much blood.

Aiden opened his mouth, but only a stream of more blood escaped.

Then the creature whisked Aiden away, dragging him into the underbrush.

No! Eric screamed. He tried to get to his feet but fell hard back to the forest floor. He looked down and saw the mess the creature had made of his abdomen. His insides spilled out into his hands and he pushed his guts back in, unable to think of anything else to do.

Aiden… Eric trailed off. He felt hot tears sting his eyes. He’d failed. He had allowed his little brother to die.

He grew cold as the birds began to chirp again and the sun continued its trajectory toward the horizon. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized that he was dying.

Aiden. Eric’s voice sounded small and weak in the great forest.

His body went numb and he closed his eyes.

He faded into black.

Movement.

Someone talking.

Eric! the voice cried out. It was distant, but Eric thought it sounded familiar. He just couldn’t remember to whom it belonged.

He was freezing now.

So cold.

He glanced down at his ruined belly. He thought it should hurt, but it didn’t. Maybe he was already dead.

He opened his mouth, but no words escaped. Too tired to talk.

Eric closed his eyes and the darkness returned.

More movement roused him from sleep. He found himself in an ambulance now. People talked all around him, all of them in a rush. He remembered the attack, but it seemed like a dream, mostly made up of flashes of movement and missing patches of time. Like a movie with specific frames removed.

But the look in Aiden’s eyes…that remained.

Aiden… he croaked.

More talking, but Eric couldn’t seem to make out the words.

All he wanted was to go back to sleep.

So he did.

It would be two weeks before he woke up again.

CHAPTER TWO

WHAT CAN I do for you? the man behind the counter said. He had a slight frame of average height and a salt and pepper beard that looked like it saw clippers once a year.

I’d like a room, Eric Bradley said. He glanced at a name tag pinned to the man’s lapel that read Sandy.

I can surely do that for you, Sandy replied. How long might you be planning on staying?

I’m not sure exactly, Eric replied. Maybe a few weeks? Could be longer.

Sandy nodded. Won’t be a problem. We got more than enough open rooms. Just wanna make sure we got the staff on hand to accommodate.

You see a lot of people this time of year? Eric asked.

Oh, we get a few, Sandy replied, squinting through thick bifocal glasses perched on his pointy nose. He jotted something down in a paper notebook. No computer system here. It’s a seasonal business. Most folks roll in come summer. You beat the rush by a solid month.

I suppose that’s fortunate.

Yup, Sandy replied. Here’s what we’ll do: I’ll charge you week to week, paid up front. You leave mid-week I’ll refund the unused days.

Fair enough. Eric handed Sandy his credit card. To Eric’s surprise, the old man produced an iPhone from his pocket and swiped the credit card through a card reader. Paper notebooks and iPhones? Sandy was a man not to be easily defined.

Sandy handed the card back to Eric before turning to face the wall behind him. Three dozen hooks jutted out from the wall, two dozen of which sported keys. Sandy pulled down a set of keys from the hook labeled 12A and handed them to Eric.

Eric thanked him and shoved the keys into his front pocket.

Locks here can be a bit tricky, Sandy said. Might have to give the handle a bit of a jiggle. Those buggers are old. I suppose I should replace ‘em, but every year I just don’t get around to it.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Sandy grinned wide, revealing a set of slightly crooked teeth. Ain’t it the truth. He presented his phone to Eric. Sign this, my friend.

Eric used his finger to sign the credit card transaction on Sandy’s phone.

You want the receipt emailed? Sandy asked.

Please.

Squinting again through the thick glasses, Sandy tapped the phone’s screen and returned it to his pocket. Out of curiosity, what brings you to our fine town, Mr. Bradley?

I suppose I needed to get away.

Sandy nodded. All of us could use a bit more of that, I say. First time here?

Eric shook his head. Last time I was here was fourteen years ago. I came on a camping trip with my family.

Welcome back then, Sandy replied. We’re glad to have you.

You been here long? Eric asked.

All my life. Been running this hotel for damn near thirty years. Took it over from my old man after he passed. Say, you didn’t happen to stay here the last time you were through, did you? You woulda been, what… Sandy paused to do the math in his head.

Eric did it for him. Thirteen years old.

Sandy grinned. Right.

No, we camped while I was here. Eric watched Sandy for any sign of recognition.

Camping’s overrated, Sandy said. Of course, I run a hotel, so I might be just a little biased.

Eric smiled. A man’s gotta earn a living.

Got any big plans while you’re here? Sandy asked.

Nah, just taking it easy.

Well, we got some fine restaurants in town. Home cooking, if you know what I mean. All from scratch and none of that processed bullshit. You like apple pie?

I’m American, right?

Sandy chuckled. Alice Jennings runs a joint in town that serves the best apple pie you ever tasted. They do it a la mode, but the ice cream ain’t nothing to write home about. My advice? Order an extra slice of the pie instead and pass on that goddamn ice cream.

I’ll keep that in mind.

Whatever you do don’t tell Alice I said that. She’ll skin me alive.

Your secret’s safe with me.

If you’re the outdoorsy type then you might want to hit up some of the trails. We got a ton of them twisting and turning through these woods.

I might be interested in that, Eric said. Would any of those trails happen to take me to the devil’s tea table?

Sandy’s face went slack, all the good humor suddenly gone. I ain’t heard that name in years.

Really? Finally, what Eric had come for…at least some recognition.

They call it Table Rock now. Sandy shook his head. You don’t want to go out there.

Why not?

Ground ain’t stable; sinkholes and whatnot. DNR closed it off way back when.

How long ago?

Been at least ten years. Maybe longer.

Funny, it wasn’t closed off when my folks and I camped nearby.

They tacked up signs warning folks off. The trails leading up to it have mostly grown over so now it’s pretty much gone back to nature. But there’s plenty else to see and do here in Sander’s Run without putting yourself in harm’s way. He closed the notebook and extended a hand. Glad to have you, Mr. Bradley.

Please, call me Eric.

Sandy nodded. Will do, Eric. You need anything, you give us a ring here at the front desk. My wife and me run this place. We got a few Mexicans who clean the rooms and whatnot, but the missus and me do the brainwork. We’re available around the clock, but I’d ask that if it can wait ’til morning then let it wait. At my age, it’s tough to get a good night’s sleep anymore. I piss eight times a night, at least.

I’m not much of a night owl, Eric said. I’m sure I’ll be sound asleep once night falls.

Wise choice, Sandy said. I wish I’d been a little more like you when I was your age.

Eric gathered up his luggage and made his way to his assigned room. The lock did prove to be a little contrary, but a jiggle of the handle and a wiggle of the key persuaded it to open without too much protest.

He wheeled the luggage inside the room and closed the door behind him. The room smelled like Pine-sol and glass cleaner, not an unpleasant combination at all. The blinds had been pulled, so Eric parted them. A gorgeous view of the lake greeted him. Beyond the lake the forest loomed, thousands of trees covering low, rolling mountains like hair on the head of a giant.

Eric opened the suitcase and retrieved one of the bottled waters he’d stowed away inside. He cracked the cap and took a long pull from the bottle as he stared across the lake at the forest.

Eric considered the look on Sandy’s face when he’d mentioned Devil’s Tea Table. It only took one mention of the tea table to get a reaction out of the guy, but a mention of Eric’s horrific family camping trip fourteen years prior got nothing. Could be that Sandy didn’t remember what happened, but how could a person forget a tragic event like that? It wasn’t every day in the life of a small town that a child is killed and another gutted and left for dead. A thing like that should stick in a person’s mind, Eric thought.

Aiden. Eric’s little brother would have been twenty-five this year. Hard to believe he’d been gone for fourteen years already. Eric sighed at the thought.

Suddenly he wanted a drink. No, he needed a drink. Just being this close to the place where his brother was murdered put Eric in an anxious state. Because murder is what it was, wasn’t it?

During this trip, he planned to make certain.

Eric peered out over the lake again, staring at those dark woods. Mountain lion, my ass, he said into the empty room. His voice sounded lonely and small. He walked to his suitcase and opened it, removing his 9mm pistol. He looked at it a long time, thinking, before he stowed it in the hotel safe.

He wondered if Sandy knew of any bars in town. Even a town as small as Sander’s Run had to have at least one bar. Hell, it probably had a few. Small towns were like that. For every church that sprang up, there were at least two bars to offset it.

A whiskey would hit the spot, even the cheap shit. Just something to take the edge off.

Something to help him get through his first night back in Sander’s Run.

CHAPTER THREE

SANDY GAVE ERIC the name of three bars but suggested he visit only two of them. The third one Sandy said could get a man in trouble; Eric decided to take Sandy at his word and avoid it.

As the sun descended toward the horizon and the night began to creep in, Eric hopped into his Land Rover and took off for a much-needed drink. He followed the directions on his phone’s GPS, which thankfully worked despite how far away from civilization Sander’s Run was. Lack of cell signal finally seemed a thing of the past, even off the beaten path.

Eric pulled into a graveled parking lot in front of a dark wood building with a neon Pabst Blue Ribbon sign placed prominently in one of its two large picture windows in the front of the building. The second window had a similar neon sign, this one informing Eric that it was Miller time.

Eric found a spot and killed the SUV’s engine. He yanked the keys from the ignition and hopped out of the car, headed toward the front door. Above the door, a hand-painted sign proclaimed the bar’s official name: The Amalgamation. Eric thought it might be the weirdest name for a bar he’d ever seen, but if they poured the drinks strong and nobody punched him in the face they could call the place anything they liked.

As Eric pulled the door open, he heard the familiar sound of billiards and it occurred to him that bars truly were the same everywhere. He stepped inside the dimly lit building, searching for the bar. It didn’t take long to find it.

It didn’t take him long to notice the girl behind it either.

She was tall and thin, with blond hair spiraling into loose

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