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by David Lynn Anderson
Description: When PI Duke Diamond is hired to protect a gun-toting barmaid and her son, he has no idea of the nature of the evil he will have to face. Killers and thugs he can handle, but as he moves deeper into the mystery surrounding Louise Crampton, he discovers a magical world he never imagined--or believes in. A fortuneteller and an ex-Catholic priest are just two of the strange allies he comes to rely on.
While the rest of the world worries about first contact with an approaching alien spacecraft, Diamond and his team--people who, under any other circumstances he would consider crazy--risk their lives and more to protect mother and son from an evil sprung from the deepest corner of hell.
eBook Publisher: Zumaya Publications/Zumaya Otherworlds, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: June 2010
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [560 KB]
Reading time: 360-504 min.
Chief Warrant Officer Chuck Crowder stepped into the control room of the Minuteman missile silo. "Oh, shit."
A minute ago he had been freezing--winter in North Dakota was not something he'd ever adapt to. Now, he felt sweaty inside his fatigues and field jacket.
The sight of the vandalized dual control panels confirmed the worry that had settled into his gut when they'd discovered the gate had been destroyed and left open. Now it felt like it was going to erupt.
He took a step but stopped when he spied a large dark-brown stain on the concrete floor. He'd seen more than his share of blood in Iraq and didn't need a lab to know what he was looking at. From the size of the stain, he suspected the source had died. It had dried long ago, but he stepped around it anyway, wondering what the hell had happened here.
He studied the dual control panels and the damage that had been done to them. The protective covers were off, and damaged wires stuck out at odd angles. One of the two chairs had been knocked over, and without thinking, he bent over and set it upright. That was when he discovered the bullet hole through the back.
It had been made by something of a smaller caliber than a .45. Probably a .38, he guessed.
Stepping closer to the rat's nest of wiring jutting from the exposed control panel, he moved closer for a better look. Burned and melted wires dominated, many of them fused, their insulation melted away. Even after however much time had passed, they still had that nasty burnt electrical smell. There were two sights he hadn't expected. One was more bullet holes--four that he could see. The other surprise scared him. Down in the corners that had been spared the heat of the electrical fire, which had probably been started by the bullets ripping and shorting the system, he could see neatly spliced connections capped by twist wire lock-nuts.
This wasn't vandalism. Somebody had tried to rewire the control panel so they could launch the bird.
His knees felt weak, and he sat down. Reaching for the radio in the vest pocket of his field jacket to radio Sergeant Kelly, he got so far as pulling it out. Instead of calling, he set it down by the keyboard and reviewed the situation.
Whatever had taken place here was over and looked like it had happened a long time ago. Kelly had enough to do inspecting the rest of the facility. Might as well finish his assessment then fill the Sarge in when they met back at the Humvee.
There was no way whoever did this would have been successful. Even in the emergency caused by so many people leaving for that guy Joseph's retreats they could no longer afford the personnel to man these remote sites, order had prevailed. The nose cones for all the Minuteman missiles had been stored separately and accounted for. These sites were not likely to ever be used, but the brass still realized the necessity of taking that precaution. Had whoever done this been successful at getting the bird off the ground, it would have just been a big Roman candle.
He chuckled nervously. A very big Roman candle.
Then he remembered those professional-looking splices. What if they'd somehow gotten hold of a functional nose cone? He stood up. He'd have to enter the silo and climb the access ladder to see what was on top of this baby, just to be sure.
A glint of light seen from the corner of his eye distracted him, and he turned to see what had caused it.
Now, that's weird, he thought.
There was a framed photograph on the wall behind the control panel. Somebody had taped some kind of old cross over it using lots of duct tape. The flash of light must have been a reflection off the edges of glass not hidden by the cross and the tape. But where had the light come from? The control room was six floors underground, so there were no windows. Maybe the generator had missed a beat, and the lights had fluttered.
He wondered about the cross. Was it supposed to be a symbol of church over state? He couldn't make out what the picture was but figured since it was here it was likely to be either the commander-in-chief or a national monument. The cross looked ancient and valuable, but he figured it was just a cheap reproduction. Nobody would leave something valuable like that just to make a point. He'd seen enough weirdness in his travels to know that whatever message a kook intended didn't have to make sense to anybody but the nut-job himself.
He started toward the access hatch for the silo but stopped when he heard a sound. It made every hair on his body stand on end. It almost sounded like a whisper. He turned in a slow circle, looking everywhere, seeing nothing that would account for the noise.
He had almost convinced himself he was imagining things when he heard it again. He was more convinced it had been a whisper but the only word he thought he understood in what might have been a sentence was "Deal." Then, a hissing sound, followed by what sounded like "still deliver" and more sounds fading out.
He was alone in the control room, yet he didn't feel alone. The whisper came again. He scanned the room, seeking its source. As his eyes swept past the cross-covered photograph, he saw another flicker of light. He stepped closer, looking right at it and saw a third. His mind wandered to those pictures sold at the novelty stores where lights in the scene lit up or went on and off. But that would require a battery, which would have run down many months ago.
He needed to see the back of the picture frame. Maybe there was a microchip and battery pack hidden back there.
The duct tape didn't come off without a fight. It had been there long enough that most of the glue stayed on the wall as he pulled the tape away. When he had enough of it pulled loose, he was able to pry the old-looking cross off the front of the framed picture. Tape dangling, he turned it around and studied the side that had been up against the glass. He thought it might be pewter with silver accents, and it was intricately engraved. If it was a fake, it was a good one. He set it on the floor and leaned it against the wall below the picture.
Straightening, he now saw the photograph in the frame was of the White House. But there was something odd. There was a man standing on the other side of the wrought iron fence in the foreground, his hands holding onto the railings like a prisoner grasping the bars of his cell.
The man whispered, "Come closer."
For a moment, Chief Warrant Officer Chuck Crowder thought he'd lost his mind. And then he did.
Unable to resist the command, he moved his head closer to the glass. A shadowy nose emerged through the glass, the face it was attached to coming out next. The head, trailed by smoke, wafted from the photograph, then the shadow-shape of a man's body formed nose-to-nose and chest-to-chest with the solid one of the chief. The shadow advanced, and the shadow body merged with its counterpart.
For several moments, nothing happened. Then the arms of the former CWO Crowder tensed, and his fingers flexed. His head turned left then right. His gaze fell on the old cross, and he stepped back, away from the powerful icon that had prevented his escape for 710 days.
Turning, he spotted the handheld radio sitting by the keyboard. This was followed by thoughts of killing Sergeant Kelly.
He regarded the ruined control panel. I came so close, he thought. Now to finish what I started.