Authors: William Massa
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense, #Action & Adventure, #Men's Adventure, #Occult, #United States, #Ghosts, #Paranormal, #Psychics, #Thrillers, #Pulp
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Copyright © 2015 William Massa
Critical Mass Publishing
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
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Also by William Massa
THE OCCULT ASSASSIN SERIES
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THE SILICON SERIES
THE SYSTEM: A SPACE OPERA
THE STORY SO FAR
After a decade spent fighting the enemy abroad and keeping his country safe, Delta Force Operator Mark Talon is ready to settle down with the love of his life. But Talon’s world crumbles when his fiancée becomes the victim of a murderous cult.
In the wake of his terrible loss, Talon dedicates himself to a new mission – hunting down twisted occultists around the globe and stopping them before they can unleash the forces of darkness upon an unsuspecting world.
In Spirit Breaker,
Talon must battle the terrifying forces of the afterlife.
THE DEAD WALKED the Earth.
At least for today.
Dia de los Muertos
, the Day of the Dead, and the streets of Mexico City bustled with morbid activity. Lukas Espinoza peered from the second-story window of his nightclub and soaked in the preternatural scene unfolding outside. A bobbing sea of skeletons, coffins, and death masks streamed through the arteries of the city, the procession moving to the steady, hypnotic beat of pounding drums.
His probing gaze roamed the mob. As one of Mexico’s top drug lords, Espinoza knew how to spot cops. His trained eye picked out the heavily armed police guards from the crowd, their presence unable to spoil the celebration. He chose not to worry about the law enforcement officers. If any screams should escape from his club, the drums and shouts of the surging congregation below would drown them out.
The festive atmosphere outside was the fusion of ancient Aztec beliefs in death with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints’ Day. While the people below used this day to reconnect with deceased friends, family members, and ancestors, Espinoza directed his prayers to
Unlike traditional Catholic Saints,
wasn’t the spirit of a living person but the personification of death itself. The grim reapress was the perfect deity for a man in his line of work. Besides the nightclub, Espinoza’s business empire counted sweatshops, drugs, and murder among its many revenue streams. Most people who worshipped the Goddess offered cigars, chocolate, tequila or fruit. They were deceiving themselves if they thought the reapress could ever be satisfied with such frivolous tokens of their adoration. To Espinoza’s mind,
only accepted the currency of blood—and he was about to make his payment.
A muffled moan emanated from the large space behind him, and Espinoza shifted his attention away from the festivities. Deep shadows cloaked the storage room on the top floor of his building. Usually, it contained a few crates of alcohol, a dusty desk, and a ratty couch. His eyes locked on the nude beauty dangling from the ceiling at the center of the room. She was strung up by her feet like a hog, the rope secured around steel rafters, her tawny body pointing toward the ground. The woman’s tight, small breasts somehow defied gravity as her long black hair, now caked with sweat and fear, brushed the dusty wooden floor. Her listless expression suggested a deep resignation to her fate.
The woman’s name was Camila, she was a nineteen-year-old dancer at the club, and she would die today by his hand.
Three robed, hooded figures surrounded the beauty, their faces painted like grisly skulls. Just like Espinoza, each figure wielded a rusty machete and was waiting for him to give them the word. Honoring
with human blood sacrifices had helped Espinoza secure supernatural protection and success in his extensive business dealings. Fewer and fewer of his drug shipments were being seized by US border guards since he’d started carrying out the rituals. It was almost as if Santa Muerte’s magic made his trucks invisible to the prying gringos’ eyes.
The thought of what lay ahead sent a thrill up his spine, and he clutched his machete tighter. As the leader, he would strike the first blow. Soon enough, metal would rend flesh and the plastic tarp underneath the catatonic girl would turn a dark red. His instructions to his men were clear: The blows were to be aimed at the torso and extremities as to extend the suffering of the sacrifice. The more savage the victim’s death, the greater the future reward from the goddess.
For a beat he peered into the woman’s eyes. He wanted—needed—to see the lights go out as she transitioned from the world of the living to the realm of the dead. Espinoza sucked in a sharp breath and addressed the Grim Reapress.
“Please accept my offering, Santa Muerte.”
His hands trembling with excitement, he raised his machete, summoned all the savage energy he could muster, and brought down the blade.
Sharp steel hurtled toward vulnerable flesh.
Then a second machete shot out and blocked the incoming blow with a clang that reverberated through the storage room. Sparks flew as one of the robed men parried Espinoza’s death blow.
The druglord glared at the fool who dared to interrupt the sacrifice. Even though Talon knew the Halloween get-up made him look like a member of Espinoza’s brotherhood, his eyes would give him away. They belong to a different breed of killer than Espinoza’s thugs.
Grim understanding flooded the druglord’s features as he realized someone had managed to infiltrate his sacrificial circle. The goon Talon was impersonating was still seeping red in the alley that ran along Espinoza’s club—Talon’s own personal offering to the goddess of death.
It would be the first of many.
Before Espinoza could retaliate, Talon brought up the machete and slashed the blade across the druglord’s exposed neck in one lightning fast move. A second mouth opened below the first, and a shocked Espinoza grasped his gushing throat with horror. Blood splashed the nude victim, whose eyes were now wild with panic.
As Espinoza slammed onto the tarp with a wet smack, Talon spun around just in time to meet the two descending machetes of Espinoza’s soldiers. Steel clanged against steel as the men hacked away at him while their leader convulsed and hemorrhaged at their feet. His rattling death gurgle was drowned out by the intense grunts of combat.
Talon parried the first few blows and chopped at the arm of one of his attackers. The man let out a guttural roar and stumbled backward, spraying crimson.
The second cultist drove Talon back, his hungry blade slicing the air left and right, seemingly everywhere. One more inch and he would’ve taken the top of Talon’s head off. Definitely too close for comfort. His opponent’s attacks became faster and more intense. Making matters worse, the massive bastard outweighed Talon by about fifty pounds and knew how to use his weight to his advantage. Espinoza’s soldier rushed Talon, machete up, and pushed him against the wall with ferocious force.
Blinding dust showered down Talon’s face. Without hesitation, he headbutted the skull-face, pulverizing cartilage. The machete-wielding cultist backed away with a sharp curse.
From the corner of his peripheral vision, Talon caught movement. The first man had dropped his blade and was drawing a pistol. Talon spun and launched his machete at the cultist. The knife cut through the air and found its target with the wet thud of steel burying into flesh. The cultist crumpled.
Unarmed, Talon faced the incoming beast of a man he’d headbutted seconds earlier. The cultist’s face paint was coated in perspiration, the white and black running together, distorting the features until they barely seemed human. The onrushing machete missed Talon by a hair’s breadth and bit into the wall, where it lodged itself in the wooden framing beneath the plaster.
Before the attacker could dislodge the machete and launch another attack, Talon snatched the man’s forearm and twisted it with martial arts precision. There was a sound of bone giving way, followed by machete clanging against the floor. He drove his elbow with savage efficiency into the cultist’s face, crushing the man’s larynx.
The cultist collapsed and stopped moving.
Talon took a step back, sucking in deep gulps of air while wiping the sweat off his features. He regarded the downed enemy for a beat before he turned toward the terrified naked woman still swinging from the ceiling. Her eyes met his with a haunted expression. She was in shock—and who could blame the poor girl?
Talon cut her down. Arms around her waist, he gently lowered her to the floor. He tore the duct tape from her mouth and offered up his robe so she could cover herself with it. Considering the state she was in, modesty probably was the last thing on her mind. Nevertheless, she eagerly clutched the robe and draped it over her naked form.
Approaching footsteps sounded from below. The fight had alerted Espinoza’s men.
Talon scoped the room, picked up the pistol the cultist had dropped, and considered his options. Blasting his way out of there was one option, but he doubted he’d get far. An army was waiting for him on the lower floor of the club. He might be able to defeat the first group of men, but reinforcements would quickly take their place once the shooting began.
Talon scanned the windows. He could use the fire escape and make a go for the roof, but there was the matter of the girl. In her current condition they’d never reach the roof in time.
As these thoughts wheeled through his mind, he sensed someone creeping up behind him. He made out a flash of steel as Camila drove a knife into him. Sharp metal cut through skin and muscle and Talon gasped, more out of anger with himself than pain. He’d let his guard down, and now it would cost him dearly. The woman’s eyes glittered with fanatical savagery. All this time he’d viewed her as a helpless victim, when in reality she was a willing participant in this madness.
Battling the occult shared a crucial element in common with fighting terrorism—sometimes it was difficult to establish who the good guys were. This was an asymmetrical conflict where the line between friend and foe could easily blur and distort. Talon wondered what would make a young woman welcome such a brutal end? Then again, how different was it from the young men and women who were willing to blow themselves up in the name of their God?
There was no time to dwell on it. Talon’s heart grew cold as he drove his fist into the beauty’s face. She collapsed in a string-cut sprawl, her unconscious head hitting the tarp right next to Espinoza, who stared at her with blank, dead eyes from behind a mask of gore.