Authors: Wayne Batson
A Supernatural Thriller by
Wayne Thomas Batson
Copyright © 2013 by Wayne Thomas Batson
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the author
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Produced in the United States of America
First Printing, 2013
Baltimore • New York • Seattle
Thursday, July 4
This novel is dedicated to the Most High.
The principalities and powers of this dark world
serve only to make your light shine brighter.
…Ever your servant,
"Fans of Lee Child and Jim Butcher will love this series!"
Protector and punisher…
Hunter and hunted…
Down-to-earth and otherworldly…
John Spector, aka GHOST, isn’t your ordinary investigator.
He carries a shiny badge, a billfold ID, and a mysterious silver suitcase. His mission? Seek the forgotten ones, the abandoned ones, the ones no one else can or will help. Visit blunt force trauma upon the world’s blackest souls and deny the devil his day by any means necessary. And never stop. Never.
For more than a decade, the "Smiling Jack" killer has been posting photos of his victims on the Web, daring anyone to catch him, daring anyone to care. But when no missing person files match and no victims are ever found, the FBI closes the case.
Years later, a digital camera washes up on shore, and GHOST finds it. Each macabre photo becomes a clue that will lead GHOST and FBI Special Agent Deanna Rezvani on the trail of one of the most diabolical killers of this world…or beyond.
No one gets away with murder. Not for long.
Nothing like waking up and not knowing where you are or how you got there.
Unless of course you planned it that way.
Incandescent blue numbers glowed in the corner of the room, spectral figures, declaring the time 3:16, a.m. Something about the hour sparked a memory. I saw a flash-glimpse: gleaming, razor sharp steel. And blood.
I saw and I knew, but only for a moment. A great black wave washed the memory and my consciousness away. Memory Washing was pretty reliable. It took away the damaging things…and all the cognitive threads that might lead the mind back. It’s thorough because it has to be. The mind is a restless, cunning thing. Leave even a trace of an image, and the mind will dig, delve, and deduce until it rips the scab off of the memory itself.
A full Memory Wash takes about seven hours, basically, a night. It takes away the agonies, the vivid disturbing images, the people and places of previous missions, but it leaves all the rest. The functional memory remains intact.
A dreamless vacuum of time later, the clock showed 6:23 in the morning. The sun knifed across a chasm of darkness between the blinds and the bed. I lifted my head a bit, and the bed jiggled. Waterbed.
I hate waterbeds.
I rose up on an elbow and looked this way and that. My movement sent ripples through the bed.
Immediately I felt nauseous.
How on Earth did I let myself fall asleep on a waterbed?
The room was unfamiliar, a complete blank. As my eyes adjusted to the low light, Roman columns materialized in the shadowed corners and led my eye to a vaulted ceiling with intricate crown molding. Nice touch, but expensive.
To my right, across the still undulating bed surface, stood a triangular rack of dumbbells. The weights themselves were brushed silver but likely cast-iron beneath. They started at 50 lbs. and went up from there. That’s serious iron, even for someone like me.
Right of the weights, parallel to the overstuffed pillows at the head of the bed, stood a peculiar, black night table. It was shaped like a tree-ish hand and held a flat, silver-trimmed glass surface. A man’s wristwatch lay there. An expensive one—TAG Heuer. At least three grand. There was also a pair of earrings, silver with some polished black stone.
I hoped the owner of the earrings wasn’t the one who used those dumbbells.
On my left, in addition to the long, dark wood dresser with the clock and the wide, sun-separated blinds, was a full length mirror…one of those antique looking-glass-within-a-rotating-frame types. It seemed oddly out of place in the otherwise stylishly appointed bedroom.
There was a matching night table there on the left, half hidden by the pillows. A box of Kleenex rested there as well as a bride magazine, a pack of gum, and a hair band.
Recently moved in girlfriend or newly married,
Guy used to his own space, but having to accommodate new tastes.
Confirmation sat on a dresser across from my feet: a wedding portrait. There was a handsome, square-jawed man, hugging the daylights out of his bride, a brunette whose eyes were green enough for me to notice from nine feet away in a dimly lit room.
Just then, I became aware of a muted
sound…waves crashing. “I’m at the shore,” I mumbled. I didn’t remember being at the shore. I didn’t know the couple in the picture either. I sat up, looked at my wobbling self in the looking glass.
What in heaven?
I recognized my face: wispy, short blond hair, heavy, furrowed brow, slightly hooded gray eyes, square jaw, blocky cheekbones, and full, semi-frowning lips—but it all looked a little off. Like an incredibly skillful wax sculpture that had been in a hot room too long and melted just a little.
The sight made me cringe. No matter how many times it happened, I never got used to it. I needed a
. I needed it badly.
I needed new clothes also. The outfit I wore: some kind of trench coat, a black turtleneck, and blue jeans—were torn and shot through with holes. It looked like I’d shared a hug with a pipe bomb.
I touched a few of the holes in my shirt where my pale flesh showed through, but there were no open wounds…no blood. But the flesh was dimpled, raised, and coarse. Clearly, I had taken a beating.
What happened to me?
I wondered. And why would I dress like this at the shore? I shrugged and flexed the stiffness out of my neck and shoulders. Sore, like after a hard workout, but without a clue as to why my muscles ached.
I heard a voice, outside the room, maybe even down a floor. “Ghost?” Man’s voice. Deep, confident, used to being answered.
The bedroom door opened. The man from the wedding picture walked in. Looked like he didn’t use the 50lb. weights anymore, but maybe the heavier ones.
I sat up, swung my legs around to hang off the edge of the bed. Again with the waterbed wobble. It was all I could do to hold back the hurl reflex.
“Cool, you’re awake,” the guy said. “Listen, I’m on my way to the office. The house is yours. Stay as long as you want. Shower’s in there.” He pointed to a door I hadn’t noticed on my left. “Use the pulse setting. It’ll help with sore muscles. And you might, uh…want to ditch those clothes. Help yourself to my closet. Seriously, I’ve got more clothes than I know what to do with, and we’re about the same size. Take whatever you need.”
I absently felt the shredded holes in my shirt. Needed the new clothes for sure. Then, I remembered having a suitcase, but it didn’t have clothes in it. It wasn’t that kind of suitcase.
“Thank you,” I said. “I’ll take a look.”
“Least I can do.” He shifted on his feet in the doorway a minute. “Are you going to stay?”
I said, “No.”
“At least stay till lunch. Lise will be home. She wanted to thank you again, make you something special. That’s how she communicates, you know? The language of food. I ought’a know.” He patted his stomach as if he might have a little extra there. He didn’t. “So, stay for lunch?”
“I can’t,” I said. “I have someplace I have to be.”
He blinked and nodded. “Look, Ghost, you told me you won’t accept money, but is there anything I can do for you?”
I asked, “Do you know where my case is? The silver one…looks medical or military or—”
He laughed and shook his head. “Right here.” He pointed at the foot of the dresser.
I saw it. Twenty-one inches long, fourteen high, ten thick. Silver hard shell, bulletproof, impregnable to anyone but me. I was glad to see it. No matter how deep a wash I went for, I would make sure I remembered my silver case.
The man drew closer to the bed and held out his hand. It trembled slightly. His confident expression melted. His eyes were sad, and there was a tremor in his voice. “I don’t know what to say. I owe you everything. Everything—do you know what that means?”
I nodded and shook his hand. I knew exactly what it meant to owe everything. But I had no idea why he owed
anything. I almost asked, but he continued.
“A week ago, I was on the verge of losing it all,” he said. “Then you showed up. Thank God for you, man. People just don’t get involved like that. People don’t help anymore, y’know? Listen, you ever need anything, you know where to find me.”
I didn’t know where to find him. Aside from somewhere near crashing waves, I had no idea where I was. But that didn’t matter. I would never take him up on the offer. He was a thread of memory that would eventually be taken in the wake of the Memory Wash.
“Thank you,” I said.
He let go of my hand. He laughed one of those half-annoyed, half-exasperated snickers. “No thanks to me. Thank you, Ghost. Seriously…thank you.”
He left. I heard a door slam shut downstairs. A potent engine growled to life and purred out of a drive.
I stood up, headed for the bathroom, and again noticed the weight rack. “Just curious,” I muttered. I went to the weights and selected a dumbbell with 120 lbs. printed on the side. I curled it once, twice, a third time. It felt good. I could have kept going, but what was the point?
I started the shower and stepped in. I checked my chest and stomach, finding numerous yellowing welts and a series of strange ribbed stripes…like cat scratches, long healed over. I put the shower head on pulse setting and turned to let the hot water soothe my back. The first steamy drops hit the top of my shoulder…and burned.
I winced and stepped out of the stream. I already knew what I’d find, but I reached anyway. Three wounds, three to four inches long, deep enough to not be fully healed—and stinging like hellfire.
“Careless,” I muttered, watching the blood wash off of my fingers and disappear down the drain.
Shade for sure,
Probably more than one, unless it was a Knightshade.
I shuddered and stepped back under the water. At last, the resetting began.
I felt the familiar tingle and closed my eyes. My flesh began to tighten, muscles filled with energy—everything about my physical body felt sturdier, tighter, and stronger. But, thanks to the dowsing in water, other abilities would be dampened for a time. That was something else I never let myself forget.