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The Shadow over Lone Oak: This Fallen World, #1

The Shadow over Lone Oak: This Fallen World, #1

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The Shadow over Lone Oak: This Fallen World, #1

Length:
294 pages
4 hours
Released:
Mar 7, 2022
ISBN:
9781622537747
Format:
Book

Description

Tragedy strikes Lone Oak in the form of a dead girl, and it's just the beginning.

"An excellent detective story with creepy things happening everywhere!" ~ Book Addict's Reviews

The peaceful town of Lone Oak has, in fact, always rotted beneath the surface, with tales of blood feuds and bootleggers. Still, it suffers a devastating blow when a young woman is murdered and her body displayed. Sheriff Willow Donahue is out of her depth with a cult on her doorstep, and Special Agent Llewyn Finch is the only one who can help her stop it—if Willow can learn to trust in Llewyn and his unique abilities.

As Llewyn digs into the case, a bizarre message in a dream sends him down an uncertain path. He must sort out fact from fiction before it's too late.

"Suspenseful. An adrenaline-laced terror-filled fun ride you can't put down." ~ Victoria Palmer

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS the first installment in the "This Fallen World" series of dark, creepy, horror thrillers. Better turn on all the lights! [DRM-Free]

BOOKS BY C.J. SEARS:

  • This Fallen World – Book 1: "The Shadow over Lone Oak"
  • This Fallen World – Book 2: "The Smiling Man Conspiracy"
  • This Fallen World – Book 3: "The Sons of Darkness"

MORE GREAT HORROR FICTION FROM EVOLVED PUBLISHING:

  • The "Lorestalker" Series by J.P. Barnett
  • The "Godsknife" Series by Timothy C. Ward
  • The "Enigma of Twilight Falls" Series by Mike Robinson
  • The "Big Sky Terror" Series by D.W. Hitz
  • The "Writer's Block" Trilogy by A.K. Kuykendall

 

Released:
Mar 7, 2022
ISBN:
9781622537747
Format:
Book

About the author

An avid reader and writer since middle school, C.J. Sears is the author of the “This Fallen World” horror/thriller series. In 2013, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from Arkansas Tech University. After languishing a few years at a mundane job, C. J. set out to pursue his passion. Inspired by Twin Peaks and Resident Evil, he began working on what would eventually become The Shadow Over Lone Oak – the first of several books chronicling the adventures of eccentric Special Agent Llewyn Finch. In the fall of 2016, C.J. gave his life to Christ. That faith now informs his storytelling and ongoing blog. He believes that fiction is a uniquely valuable medium for delivering both entertainment and essential truths. His emphasis is on the power of the parable rather than preachiness, and he affirms that no message should get in the way of a good story. C.J.’s range of interests and hobbies include gaming, occasional poetry, swimming, and amateur photography. He mostly spends time with his family and loved ones, particularly his two rambunctious cats and silly goof dog. The quiet life suits him fine, but when a new vision of monsters and mystery beckons, he’s no stranger to answering the call.


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The Shadow over Lone Oak - C.J. Sears

Copyright

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~~~

THE SHADOW OVER LONE OAK

This Fallen World – Book 1

Second Edition: Copyright © 2022 C.J. Sears

(Original First Edition Copyright © 2016 C.J. Sears)

~~~

ISBN (EPUB Version): 1622537742

ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 978-1-62253-774-7

~~~

Editor: Lane Diamond

Cover Artist: Kabir Shah

Interior Designer: Lane Diamond

~~~

PUBLISHER’S NOTE:

At the end of this novel of approximately 63,265 words, you will find two Special Sneak Previews: 1) THE SMILING MAN CONSPIRACY by C.J. Sears, the next installment (Book 2) in the This Fallen World series of horror thrillers, and; 2) THE BEAST OF ROSE VALLEY by J.P. Barnett, the first book in the multiple award-winning Lorestalker series of creature feature horror thrillers. We think you’ll enjoy these books, too, and provide these previews as a FREE extra service, which you should in no way consider a part of the price you paid for this book. We hope you will both appreciate and enjoy the opportunity. Thank you.

~~~

eBook License Notes:

You may not use, reproduce or transmit in any manner, any part of this book without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews, or in accordance with federal Fair Use laws. All rights are reserved.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only; it may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return to your eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

~~~

Disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.

Books by C.J. Sears

THIS FALLEN WORLD

Book 1: The Shadow over Lone Oak

Book 2: The Smiling Man Conspiracy

Book 3: The Sons of Darkness

~~~

www.CJSearsAuthor.wordpress.com

What Others Are Saying...

...about THE SHADOW OVER LONE OAK:

~~~

A seeming mix of a detective and sci-fi read, the book will keep you guessing all the way until the end. Kept me glued to my seat as I read. Great story and wonderful characters make this a must read.

~ Derek Williams

~~~

An excellent detective story with creepy things happening everywhere! I really loved the mystery and the work these characters put into finding out what happened and how it all went down. It’s a grittier detective novel, so if you like those kinds of intense stories I recommend!

~ Book Addict’s Reviews

~~~

Suspenseful. An adrenaline-laced terror-filled fun ride you can’t put down.

~ Victoria Palmer

~~~

...the story expands at an ever increasing suspenseful pace, right up to the final act, or is it? The characters were definitely believable, and I absolutely loved the intense and dark and extremely detailed story-line, while at the same time, throwing in just a few touches of humor to keep the reader from falling into a deep dark depression.

~ John L.

~~~

This is a well-written mix of hardboiled detective story meets the X-Files... a dark, gritty read with some good (and scary!) twists and turns in the case.

~ Kyla S.

BONUS CONTENT

We’re pleased to offer you not one, but two Special Sneak Previews at the end of this book.

~~~

In the first preview, you’ll enjoy the first chapter of C.J. Sears’ THE SMILING MAN CONSPIRACY, the next installment (Book 2) in the This Fallen World series.

~~~

~~~

OR GRAB THE FULL EBOOK TODAY!

YOU’LL FIND LINKS TO YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER HERE:

THIS FALLEN WORLD Series at Evolved Publishing

In the second preview, you’ll enjoy the First 2 Chapters of THE BEAST OF ROSE VALLEY by J.P. Barnett, the first book in the multiple award-winning Lorestalker series of creature feature horror thrillers.

~~~

~~~

OR GRAB THE FULL EBOOK TODAY!

YOU’LL FIND LINKS TO YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER HERE:

The LORESTALKER Series at Evolved Publishing

Table of Contents

Copyright

Books by C.J. Sears

What Others Are Saying

BONUS CONTENT

Table of Contents

Dedication

THE SHADOW OVER LONE OAK

Chapter 1 – Benefactor

Chapter 2 – Arrival

Chapter 3 – Local Color

Chapter 4 – Message in a Dream

Chapter 5 – Buried

Chapter 6 – Coffee and Killers

Chapter 7 – Crossroads

Chapter 8 – The Trials

Chapter 9 – Interview

Chapter 10 – Glitch in the System

Chapter 11 – Breach Their Flesh

Chapter 12 – The Damned

Chapter 13 – Under Siege

Chapter 14 – Separate Ways

Chapter 15 – Containment

Chapter 16 – A Heart of Darkness

Chapter 17 – The Evils of this World

Chapter 18 – The Box

Special Sneak Preview: THE SMILING MAN CONSPIRACY by C.J. Sears

Acknowledgements

About the Author

More from Evolved Publishing

Special Sneak Preview: THE BEAST OF ROSE VALLEY by J.P. Barnett

Dedication

For dad – the one who has done more for me and my path in life than can ever be repaid.

For mom – a stalwart supporter in the early days of my career.

Lastly, this book is for my aunt Teresa – one of my biggest fans. May she rest in peace and in the love of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 1 – Benefactor

Detective James Black turned left off Main Street, pulled into the driveway of his apartment, and rolled the white Dodge Charger into the garage before coming to a halt. The shutter closed behind him as Black killed the engine, and darkness enveloped him. For a moment, he sat in his car, uncertain if he had the energy to open the door. The numbing haze brought on by a lengthy day spent filing paperwork and interviewing witnesses had taken its toll.

He’d closed the case and put the perpetrators behind bars, and yet he could find no peace, not even in rest. Life as a detective had become a series of still images for him, grotesque frames of mutilated bodies, drug-addled minds, and perversions beyond his understanding. Runaways found mangled in ditches, prostitutes who shot up with drugs—they were all the same, an interchangeable sequence of death and desire. They were still people, born to inhabit this Earth same as he, warts and all. He forgot that more than he cared to admit.

The sounds of nature, the song of chirping crickets and bellowing frogs, pierced an intolerable silence. He unbuckled his seatbelt as the mournful howl of a stray dog beckoned in the darkness. He stepped out of the car with a sense of weightlessness, as if some unseen force had sucked his vitality out through a straw.

Black meandered over to the door and grasped blind in the void for the light switch. His fingers brushed against a plastic shell, and with a flick the fluorescents illuminated the diminutive hole he called a garage. He half-limped the last three steps to the cold brass of the doorknob, turned it, and entered the kitchen.

He grabbed a beer from the fridge and slapped it on the counter before collapsing onto the rusted metal chair. After two swigs from the bottle, he set it back down and pulled up his right pant leg.

The wound was long past its expiration date. An eight-inch scar cut from below his knee to near the bottom of his shin. It had been six... no, seven months since it happened, but he could still feel the knife as it dragged through his skin and muscle and threatened the bone underneath. On nights like this, the ones after he’d buried himself in paperwork and bureaucracy, it liked to flare up, liked to remind him of her.

Dark black curls had cascaded about her round face, thick eyebrows calling attention to her vacant eyes and bloodstained lips. Her mouth had formed no words, only terror. She was nineteen years old, fresh out of high school, her body bent inside the dumpster, warmed by cockroaches, used tissue paper, and filthy rags. Black remembered blue fingernails that clutched at nothing in the dank, stench-filled container. The perpetrator had clothed her in soiled bandages as if to preserve her.

The killer had been no one of importance, a vagrant with too much on his little mind. He’d been on a spree, hitting-up woman after woman in dark alleys in cities across the county. He’d started with robbery and then moved onto assault and molestation. Then he killed. She wasn’t his only victim, but she was the last.

The killer never saw a trial.

Black recalled a harried chase through an abandoned tenement, a carving knife embedded deep within his leg and trailing down, then gunshots—one, two, three—the first in the chest, the last two between his eyes and through his neck. The nine-millimeter had fallen from Black’s hands after the body hit the floor. Black had keeled over, unable to hold back tears.

They held Meredith Black’s funeral three days later, a small affair attended only by himself, his ex-wife, and a contingent of the department. As the casket lowered into the ground, Black’s thoughts had turned to the myth of Icarus’s flight toward the sun. There he’d stood, tears bubbling, his daughter’s corpse encased in a casket, and all he could muster was that old fable.

Black let his pants leg trickle back down to cover his scar, the pain having dulled enough that he could stand again. The bottle tipped over, spilling beer over the counter as his arm brushed against it. There were no paper towels. The laundry was still in the washer. Black left the alcohol where it was, another reminder.

He flipped the switch to bring on the bathroom light, which was fading, then plunged his hands into the sink and splashed icy water onto his face. It dribbled down his squared chin. Black couldn’t help but gaze at himself with haunted eyes as each drop fell upon the floor. His once thick brown hair had grown ragged and thin and graying. Bright green pupils had faded to a dull teal. Wrinkles segmented his forehead as if he’d aged ten years past his time.

An unmade bed beckoned to him from the next room. He walked in and cast his beige overcoat onto the bed, then kicked off his shoes before struggling to submit himself to the sheets. He covered himself to his shoulder, flicked off the lamplight and shut his eyes. Sleep eluded him, and he had no recollection of how long he laid there, eyes bleary in the darkness. The events of the day swirled before him, a formless collage of meaningless death and pointless cacophony.

The urgent need to relieve his bladder prompted him out of bed and back to the bathroom. Dreary, he urinated and missed the bowl, then pushed the lever with some measure of inelegance. He shuffled to the bed now feeling the weight that had forgotten him, and closed his eyes.

The phone rang.

***

The red rays of dawn broke through the darkness as Black drove his Charger into the vacant lot across from a strip club known as The Nether. His contact had said to be there at four-fifty in the morning. He checked his watch: it was half past four.

With minutes to burn, Black took a second to reconcile himself. The alley where the police had found Meredith’s body was less than a block from here, on the other side of the club. Behind him, he could see the fire escape the killer had climbed when the chase happened. The fetid ranks of the homeless and garbage and misery washed over him like the coming tide.

He didn’t believe in coincidences, and knew that his contact had chosen this site for a reason. Though he hadn’t deciphered the purpose behind it, he was certain it had something to do with his daughter’s murder. In the early morning hours, there was no scarcity of covert meeting places, not in this city. No, the man on the phone had meant to bring him here. Whether this was a trap or not, Black wouldn’t leave a loose thread like this hanging over his head.

A conspicuous white limousine pulled into the lot beside his Charger, idled for a moment, then quieted. Black hesitated, his hand atop the sidearm he carried at all times. The rear door opened and, without waiting for his chauffeur, a petite man in his mid-twenties eased himself out of the car. He must have been less than five feet in height and around one hundred thirty pounds. He appeared so fragile in stature that Black was concerned he might break apart by turning his foot the wrong direction.

His apprehension was misplaced: the short fellow bounced over to his car with the vigor of a cheetah, twirling a necklace as he walked. Black couldn’t make out any of the characters etched onto its surface, and kept his focus on the two mountains masquerading as men in the littler one’s wake. One, dark-skinned, wore shades. The other, lighter in tone, bore a trucker hat.

The mismatched trio stopped outside his passenger side door and paused. He’d expected them to either knock on the door or motion for him to get out, but they stood there with the patience of a dozen saints.

Black opened the driver’s side door at a pace that suggested he was being cautious but not afraid. He sensed that first impressions might be important to this man.

Mr. Black, I presume? asked the white bodyguard.

Black nodded. Yeah, that’s me. What’s this about? Once more, his hand drifted to the pistol hidden beneath his coat.

The guard wearing shades answered. We’ve received word from our benefactor that you are wanted at a social event being held at his manor later tonight.

He shifted his gaze between the two men, wondering why they’d taken turns to speak to him. The small man remained silent, a perpetual smile carved into his face. In fact, looking closer, Black could see that this was indeed the case: someone had cut the man from ear to ear, clean through each cheek. Rudimentary stitches held the remnants of his flesh together. This didn’t aid his appearance.

Uh huh, Black said, and just, ah, who is this benefactor you speak of? He couldn’t take his eyes off the man with the Glasgow smile. Despite being outmatched by the two larger men, he was most unnerved by that poor soul.

That you will learn in time, Mr. Black, said Shades. Suffice it to say that it is of immeasurable import that you meet with him tonight. This is non-negotiable. If you don’t agree to come tonight, this opportunity will expire.

Incredulous, Black narrowed his eyes at the dark-skinned man. What opportunity? Look, if this is about my daughter, there’s nothing you can tell me that I don’t already know. Leave me be.

Trucker Hat shook his head. "This is not about your daughter, Mr. Black, though I must admit the benefactor chose this location well. No, this is an invitation to something greater, something beyond yourself—something transcendent."

The dwarf let out a giggle that must have been painful for him. Still, no words followed. The urge to smack this man rose within Black. This had to be some kind of sick joke. This song-and-dance was pointless buffoonery meant to humiliate him.

He tightened his grip on his gun. So, what, you asking me to join some kind of cult?

Shades laughed.

Black had expected it from the grinning dwarf, but not this grim-faced goon.

Nothing of the sort, Shades said, but God is in the details, Mr. Black. We cannot share the specifics with you, here, across from the filth that pollutes this city. This is, for lack of a better euphemism, a leap of faith that you’re going to have to take on your own.

Trucker Hat jumped in. When you’re ready for something other than drunken nights and broken dreams, come to this address. He wrote a series of directions and the address of the home on a slip of paper.

Black peered at the location: 121 Kennedy Boulevard, near the country club.

The party starts at ten this evening, Trucker Hat continued. Be there tonight, or not at all.

With that, the trio turned and strode away. As the white limousine departed, Black made a note to run the license plate through the system. If there was any criminal history associated with that plate number, he would find out about it. If not, then at least he might have an idea of whom he was meeting.

***

Silver orbs of light listed through the night air, imprinting a series of circular shadows on the hood of Black’s car. He’d parked across from the monstrous stone gate, hesitant to approach and press the buzzer. Years of work for the department had taught him that caution could be the difference between a bullet in the heart and a commendation. Yet the license plate search had turned up clean, failing to pay the parking meter the only crime associated with that vehicle.

Still, these men weren’t his friends. They’d appeared grotesque, had guilt him into agreeing to come here, and were altogether brisk in the manner they’d passed this information to him. The men had been careful not to intimidate him, but they’d known enough about his past to get him to not ask questions before he got where they wanted him to be.

The mansion was two stories high and measured twice as wide in either direction. An indoor pool sat beyond tall glass on the left-hand side. On the right, a significant portion of the building had been reconstructed as an outdoor amphitheater. Elevated higher than the first, the second floor converged to support a lavish balcony on the roof.

Black didn’t care for the extravagance of the manor. He’d never been fond of wealthy showmanship, believing that a man could be proud of his success without such excess. The bells and whistles of extreme affluence created an image larger than life.

Trucker Hat and Shades greeted him at the door. Good to see you, Mr. Black, said Shades. I trust that our instructions were more than adequate.

I had no problems, he replied, to which Trucker Hat grunted. Now, which way to your master?

Shades pushed open the door. Right this way. He gestured toward the central staircase. An assortment of socialites danced to classical music in the grand foyer. Follow the stairs up and to the right. Maverlies awaits you at a bust of William Shakespeare.

Maverlies? Is that your boss?

He didn’t answer, just continued to point toward his destination.

That didn’t sit well with Black, but he shrugged it off, marched up the stairs, and followed the abundant red carpet to the statue of England’s most prolific author. The little man was there, arms crossed. Black assumed that this was Maverlies.

Show me the way.

The smiling dwarf nodded and rapped his knuckles against the head of Shakespeare. It plopped backward, revealing a button, which he pressed. The wall behind him moved, revealing a hidden room.

Black walked into the study. More humble than the rest of the manor, the room contained a single oak desk and a table lamp. It reminded him of a bank teller’s workstation. Scientific texts on ecology and biology lined the back wall. A white plastic fan hummed in the corner.

At the desk sat a pale old man of average build, his hair white as milk and his eyes dark as black coffee. He was dressed in an elaborate robe, red with gold trim. One of the books from the shelves lay open in front of him. He’d bookmarked a page for study, and his fingers shakily tracked the words, line after line. He looked up when Black loomed over him.

Mr. Black, he said, I have to say that I am surprised you came. My name is Jackson Maverlies. His voice was raspy.

Black noticed the stoma in his throat, and glanced underneath the desk to see an oxygen tank and a folded wheelchair. A catheter ran down Maverlies’ leg to a pouch on the floor. He estimated that this man was in his last days.

Maverlies saw where his eyes traveled. The doctors have given me about six months. He seemed at peace with that fact.

Why did you want to see me?

The old man sighed. There’s no changing my fate. I know that, but I find myself whistling the sorrow of a bygone day. That’s where you come in. He paused as if carefully considering his words. Years ago, my father owned a facility in a nearby town. It was quite profitable and endowed my family with the riches you see before you. The hole in his throat pulsated with each word he breathed. But one day, his workers stumbled upon something they should not have. The business collapsed. The wells dried up. My father was finished and his efforts nullified.

There were holes in this story, missing pieces; that much Black knew.

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