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Authors: Jeremy Bishop,David McAfee

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Ashes and Dust

BOOK: Ashes and Dust
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REFUGE

Book 4: Ashes and Dust

 

Summary:

 

With the latest shift, the inhabitants of Refuge, New Hampshire find themselves in the charred, desolate landscape of a burned out, husk of a world. Using weapons recovered from the National Guard depot, Sheriff Helena Frost begins to organize the survivors into armed units ready to defend the town.

 

But the mystery woman known as Sally Field cracks under the pressure of constant and strange danger. Out of her mind, she makes a run for the town’s border and into the new, dead landscape surrounding them. While Griffin Butler goes in search of Renford Ellison, the elusive multi-millionaire scientist, Frost, along with Pastor Kenneth Dodge, leads a team to recover the woman and bring her back to safety.

 

Beyond the town border, Frost makes a startling discovery—this new world was not always a dry, dusty ruin. Something burned it, and Frost and her group are about to find out what.

 

Can Frost get her people safely back to town, or will the denizens of this blighted world forever add their bodies to the ashes and dust?

 

REFUGE is a serialized novel, co-authored by #1 Amazon.com horror author, Jeremy Bishop, and five other authors, including Amazon.com bestsellers Kane Gilmour and David McAfee,
USA Today
bestseller, Robert Swartwood, and newcomer Daniel Boucher. The novel will be released in five parts, every two weeks starting November 12, 2013, but it will also be available as one complete novel, as soon as the fifth episode is released. So read along as they appear or hold out for the completed novel. Either way, you’re in for a creepy ride.

 

 

REFUGE

Book 4: Ashes and Dust

By Jeremy Bishop and David McAfee

 

 

This is for my nephew Lex, who came into this world sooner than expected, but was no less welcome. I haven’t met you yet, kiddo, but I love you.

—D.M.

 

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

I’m going to keep this short and sweet. A huge thank you to Jeremy for letting me play in his yard. This was a difficult project on several levels, but it sure was fun. As always, thank you to Heather for putting up with me, and to my children for being my inspiration and purpose. Last, but not least, I want to thank you. Yeah, you. Your time is precious and irreplaceable, so thank you for spending some if it with Jeremy and me.

 

—David McAfee

 

 

INTRODUCTION TO A SERIAL NOVEL

 

REFUGE is a serial novel, co-written between five authors. This means the reading experience will be a little different from a standard novel. The best comparison for this scenario is a TV show. Each episode furthers a larger story, but it also has its own contained beginning, climax and end. REFUGE is set up in the same way, so that each novella is an episode, and the first five books are effectively Season 1. Also, TV shows use different directors and writers, meaning the show’s style, pacing and tone might shift week to week. While our team of writers strived to make each episode flow right into the next, you will notice subtle differences in writing style and tone, especially with newly introduced characters. At first, I felt unsure about this approach. I’ve never done it before. But once I started thinking about REFUGE, a town shifting between worlds, subtle changes in tone, voice, style, and so forth, makes total sense. So, I hope you enjoy the series and the unique experience created by each new co-author.

 

—Jeremy Bishop

 

 

Thou shalt be visited of the Lord with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.

Isaiah 29:6

 

 

1

 

Griffin held the M16 in his hands, remembering times past when he wielded similar weapons. When he’d shot them. When he’d killed with them. Each pull of the trigger put a scratch in the record of his mind, causing him to mentally skip, as the memories occasionally jolted him. But now...those scratches seemed insignificant, like someone had come in and switched the records. The scratches were gone. The weapon in his hands now held promise. Its purpose was pure. If only the songs on this new record weren’t so God awful.

He looked up from the weapon and turned his gaze to the backside of Memorial Park. The view, framed by lush, green maples, was the hotspot in town for vacationer photo ops. The White Mountains in the background had made it a stunning view. Still did. Except the mountains in this world were not the ones he was used to. Sure, the peaks matched the view from home, but the skirt of pine trees surrounding the lower three quarters of the mountains had been scoured away.

It was the same everywhere.

This new world was a dull, grayish brown, and the only difference in shades was where the shadows made the grays and browns darker. Then there were the trees. What was left of them. Looking down the hill of Main Street, streaks of black lined the distant landscape, all pointed away from Refuge, as though whatever had killed this world had originated from their town. Some trees remained standing, but they were little more than burnt, branchless spires. Gravestones for a dead world. There wasn’t a speck of green or any other color outside of the town line, and no signs of anything living that might be crawling through the rocky crags. Just sand, rocks, gravel and the occasional burnt sentinel tree.

As he stood and stared down the street at the desolate landscape, a warm breeze added to the world’s intolerable heat. The breeze in town normally would have carried the smells of pine, honeysuckle and heather. And while some of that remained within the town’s circular border, the scent of the world around was overpowering. In this place, the only smells that the wind brought to his nose were those of ashes and dust.

And Griffin had already smelled, tasted and fought enough ash for a hundred lifetimes. He strangely felt himself missing the world of endless freshwater ocean. Nothing had tried to eat them there. The air had smelled clean. And the wind had mercifully removed the collection of ash from the dark world, though he spotted remnants now and again, stuck in cracks and crevices around town.

“Here,” Avalon said, handing him a magazine for the M16. She was fully sober now, and the cravings had become little more than dull aches, though she still suffered from the occasional full body sweats and stomach cramps. She looked a little bit more like herself, strong like her mother, but they say addictions are for life, so he kept a close eye on her.

He took the magazine, slapped it in, racked the slide and made sure the safety was engaged. He gave the weapon a onceover, looked down the sights and handed it to Radar, who laid it on a picnic table, where Frost was assigning weapons. “M-16,” Radar said to Lisa, who jotted the information down in a notebook.

They were creating an inventory to get a complete picture of what had been recovered from the National Guard Depot. They had uncovered two additional weapons caches at the depot, but the collection of documents bearing Renford Ellison’s scrambled name had all mysteriously vanished. Griffin had kept his discovery of the name between Radar, Winslow, Frost and himself, with the intention of visiting the old man, once the town’s safety had been secured.

The picnic table was covered in an assortment of assault rifles—M-16s mostly—handguns and grenades. While he inspected the weapons, Frost assigned people to emergency response teams and handed out rifles to the folks in town with experience...which included Jared Loomis.

While Griffin had a professional respect for the man—they both had served in the military, though Loomis hadn’t seen battle—Loomis’s heart belonged in Hollywood, where he and his good looks had worked as an actor for several years. He’d been in a few commercials, but he’d never scored a big role. Feeling dejected, he’d joined the military, served the minimum number of years and came home to Refuge. He taught drama at the high school in Ashland. His side job seemed to be flirting with every woman in town, including Frost, whom he had dated in high school.

Griffin eyed the man as he accepted a weapon from Frost, flashing his perfect teeth and giving her a wink. Frost seemed unfazed by his charms, until he said something that made her laugh.
Either make it official or quit being a whiny bitch
, Griffin told himself.

Maybe someday. Right now, romance took a backseat to survival. Not that Radar and Lisa were having any trouble. They seemed to grow closer every time he saw them. In a way, their strengthening bond gave him hope that things could get better. Or at least, that something good could still come out of Refuge, despite all they had lost. Becky. Sam. Dana. Jimmy. And Carol was still on the ropes.

Kyle was still with her, monitoring her health, but the doctor had requested that Winslow leave the house. The man’s nervous energy wasn’t helping. Winslow begrudgingly agreed, but kept a radio on his hip, so Kyle could keep him informed about any changes in his wife’s health.

“Griff?” Frost walked toward him. “You all right? You look like you swallowed a lemon.”

“I’m fine,” he said. “It’s just the dry heat. I prefer my heat humid.”

“You might be the only one in town that does,” Frost said, looking back at the groups of people surrounding them. Most were dressed for summer. Shorts and T-shirts. It looked like a busy summer day, if you ignored the array of guns. “We’re just about done here. I want to keep the rest of this—” She motioned to the picnic table holding what remained of their armament. “—back at the station.”

“Okay,” Griffin said.

“What I’m trying to say is, I can handle it from here.”

Is she asking me to leave?
It seemed out of character for Frost, but maybe Loomis—

“If I recall correctly,” she said. “My job is to protect Refuge. Yours is... Well, I think it’s time you had a chat with our town’s elusive benefactor.”

“Why? Because of an anagram?” Pastor Ken Dodge approached, a gun on his hip and a rifle over his shoulder. Before Griffin could ask where he’d heard about the anagram, the pastor hooked a thumb toward Winslow, who was sitting on a picnic table, nervously tapping his feet. “Winslow told me. Do you really think he’s involved in...
this
?” The pastor glanced at the barren mountain range.

“Between the retrofit, his signature on the building plans for those obelisks and the anagram with the heavily armed, phony Guardsmen, I’d say he’s our prime suspect.”

“The old man?”

Griffin turned to find Charley Wilson standing behind him. His hand had been bandaged, and he appeared sober. Charley glanced at Radar, gave him a nod and said, “Boy.”

Radar replied with a half smile that appeared to take all his willpower.

As much as Griffin didn’t want to include Charley, the man had earned a bit of respect, having resisted torture at the hands of mercenaries pretending to be with the National Guard.

“Ellison isn’t much better than an invalid,” Charley said. “I’m not sure he can get to the shitter without help from that nurse of his. Turkette.”

“Maybe. But he can still talk. And he’s the only name on my list.” Griffin said.

“You’re wasting your time,” Charley said.

“Yeah, well,” Griffin said, “it’s my time to waste.”

Charley sighed. “In that case, mind if I tag along?”

Griffin looked at the man. Charley was the last person he expected to be helpful, but maybe the experience at the Guard depot had changed him for the better? Still, the man was injured, and that made him a liability, for now.

“Thanks for the offer, but no,” Griffin said. “You need to let that hand heal.”

Charley waived him off. “You don’t need to beat around the bush, man. We both know why you don’t want me along.” He motioned like he was drinking a beer.

“Things can change,” Griffin said. “That’s your call.”

Charley shook his head and turned to Radar. “Later, boy.” With that he started toward a group of locals chatting it up inside the gazebo.

“Winslow,” Griffin said, wasting no more mental energy on trying to figure out Charley.

The old scientist stopped tapping his feet and looked up quickly. “Huh? What?”

“You’re with me,” Griffin told him. It wasn’t a request.

“What? Why?” Winslow slid down from the table. “I need to be here in case—”

“Carol is stable.”

“For now.”

“We’re not going far,” Griffin said. “If we hear anything, I’ll drop what we’re doing and come back.”


If
we can come back,” Winslow added.

Griffin didn’t argue the point. It was valid. While they hadn’t seen anything living in the world around them, it didn’t mean they wouldn’t. “I need your brain. If we discover anything—”

Winslow waved his hands at Griffin. “Fine. Fine. But let’s make it quick.”

“I’m coming, too.” Avalon’s voice.

Griffin turned around to face her. “Why don’t you stay here and help Sheriff Frost? She could probably use a hand.” In truth, Griffin wasn’t sure what he would find when he reached Ellison’s mansion. It was safer in town—someone laughed, pumping an M-16 in the air—maybe.

“I’m coming.” Avalon crossed her arms and fixed him with a stern look. He recognized the look well; it was the same one her mother used to give him when she refused to compromise. He called it her Granite Face.

Thinking of Jess still stung, but not as much as it used to.
Time heals all wounds, they say.
Or maybe other things helped. He glanced at Frost. The momentary look softened him. “All right,” he said. “But you’re not leaving my side.”

Avalon nodded. “Deal.”

“Hey,” Frost said, tossing him a set of keys. “Take the cruiser. And make sure he sees the badge. Even rich people respect the badge.”

Griffin caught the keys and smiled. He’d heard Becky say the same thing once. He turned to Radar and Lisa. “Help out where you can. Feel free to crash at my place.” While the rest of the town organized, Cash had been tapping Griffin’s house into the new, local power grid. “Maybe take a hot shower when Cash is done.” He turned to Avalon and Winslow. “Montgomery Burns awaits.”

Avalon laughed at
The
Simpsons
reference.

Winslow frowned. “Who?”

“Never mind,” Griffin said, heading for the car. He glanced at Avalon walking beside him. He was glad that she was with him. That she was returning from her drug-induced mania. But he already regretted allowing her to come along. If he thought Ellison knew something, but was holding back... He wouldn’t want Avalon to see what happened next.

BOOK: Ashes and Dust
3.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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