Read The Portal ~ Large Print Online
Authors: Christopher Allan Poe
She had nowhere left to hide…
Vivian Carmichael has been hiding in the San Bernardino Mountains for more than a year. Far from cell towers and video cameras, she thinks she’s finally found a safe place to raise her four-year old son Cody. Until the night he crawls into her bed and whispers two words that fill her with terror.
Now running for her life, she’s horrified to learn that her estranged husband Jarod is not quite human anymore. Can she unravel the mystery of her family’s dark secret before he can steal her son, claiming her as his next victim?
From the first page of The Portal, Christopher Allan Poe sets the scene for a chilling paranormal thriller that builds with cunning intensity in every chapter. Just when you think it’s safe to take a breath…wham…the stakes are raised even higher, and now you’re snared in the trap of a great book. You simply can’t walk away. Evil lurks in many forms, and this is a strongpoint of Christopher Allan Poe’s skill as a writer. The Portal’s villains aren’t cliché. In fact, Jarod can, in small ways, earn your sympathy as he relives moments from his fragmented childhood—little snapshots that have lead towards the corruption of his soul. Taylor, Reviewer
is one of the best paranormal thrillers I’ve read in quite a while. Once I picked it up, I absolutely couldn’t put it down. I just had to know what happened next. Poe painted a picture of a villain and a world that intrigued and fascinated even as it terrified me. Every time I thought the heroine was going to escape, something came along to trip her up. I think I’d bitten all my fingernails off by the end of chapter four.The world building and character development are superb, the story well written. One thing I especially liked was the number and variety of villains. Jarod Carmichael, Kevin Stromsky, Mr. Vincent—I couldn’t decide which one I hated most. They were all so perfectly despicable. And there is no shortage of good guys either. From four-year-old Cody and Vivian, his mother, to Detective Torres, the solid dependable cop, to Jay-Jay, a hoodlum with heart, the heroes battled for good against staggering odds.
This one’s a keeper, folks.
A BLACK OPAL BOOKS PUBLICATION
Copyright 2011 Christopher Allan Poe
Cover art by Christopher Allan Poe
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved
eBook ISBN: 978-1-937329-12-9
God, how did she ever get into this mess?
“You two have been charged with possession of illegal weapons.” She relaxed slightly. If they’d matched her prints, the kidnapping charges would’ve come up.
“Before we start, would you like anything to drink?”
“Can we just get this over with?” She realized that she was biting her lower lip and stopped.
“I’m not sure that Russell Cotters would like that.”
“Deputy Cotters.” He walked back and sat across from her. “You know, the officer that we found strangled to death in your hospital bathroom this morning.”
God no. They had her.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
“Drop the act, Vivian. We know you’re not Sarah Hoffman. You’re only going to dig yourself deeper.”
“He was dead when I woke up,” she said.
“Then how did you get out of the cuffs?” He paused, but what could she tell him? That a psychopath named Stromsky who worked for the Carmichael family had murdered that officer? What about the boys that Jarod had killed last night? They were going to pin this on her.
All of it.
ivian woke to
an ocean of darkness that filled her lungs to capacity. Frantically, she groped her nightstand. Something banged on the floor. Where was her inhaler? There. She puffed and puffed again, but her short breaths could only take in so much.
Her chest loosened. Exhausted, she lay back. Underneath the splash of raindrops outside, Cody’s muffled voice came from the hallway. Her bedroom door creaked open, and a sliver of light blinded her.
“Mommy?” His silhouette clung to the doorknob with one hand. The other dragged Mister Vincent on the floor behind him. “Are you okay?”
“Everything’s fine.” She lifted her blanket. “Come to bed.”
Seconds later, he cuddled against her chest. She breathed deep the scent of baby shampoo. God she needed to be more careful. Just one slip and he would be alone in this world. Then what? Some chemical substitute to fill the void? Crime? Jesus, she would never let it come to that.
“Mommy,” he whispered.
“Mister Vincent is sorry.”
She closed her eyes and prayed for sleep. Although Mister Vincent painted the kitchen walls in shades of peanut butter yesterday, whatever mess lay beyond her door could wait until morning. “It’s fine.”
“He didn’t mean to let him in.”
She almost sat up to check. No, everything was locked. The Trenton Security System was armed, and the dead bolts were three feet above the door handles. Well beyond Mister Vincent’s reach.
“It was just a bad dream, baby,” she said. “Not real.”
He sat up on his knees and put his hands on her cheeks.
“Mommy,” he said.
“Go to sleep.”
“I have to tell you something, but I promised not to say it out loud.”
“Fine,” she said. “But then you’ll lie down.”
He nodded, leaned over her, and whispered in her ear, “Daddy’s home.”
She jumped up and turned on the light. It crashed to the floor. Her car keys! She needed them. They had to get out.
“Where is he? Where did you see Daddy?”
“Ouch,” he cried.
She looked down and realized how hard she’d grabbed his shoulders.
“I’m sorry, baby,” she said. “I didn’t mean it.” He lowered his head. “This is really important,” she continued. “Like when Mommy needs her inhaler.” He nodded. “I need you to tell the truth. Where did you see Daddy?”
“Walking in the trees.”
She pulled up the mini blinds and wiped away the condensation on the window with her hand. Their van was parked next to the forest, at least thirty yards from the cabin. She put on her shoes and grabbed her keys.
“Come here,” she said.
He ran in front of the toppled lamp. Shadows raced across the walls. She leaned down, and he wrapped his arms around her neck. In the hallway, her knees nearly buckled. The front door swung back and forth in the wind. Leaves blew through the living room into the hall.
Cody clutched his bear. “He didn’t mean to let him in.”
“I know he didn’t, sweetheart. Don’t worry. We’ll make sure Mister Vincent stays safe.” She hugged Cody’s head against her shoulder. “We all need to be very quiet now.”
Carefully, she stepped over the creaky second floorboard. Slowly. Don’t panic. The power in the cabin went out. Shit. Following the meager light from the front door, she picked up her pace.
“I can’t see.” Cody’s voice seemed to thunder.
“Shhh, you have to stay quiet.”
The basement door directly behind her opened and clicked shut.
“Hello, Vivian.” Jarod’s voice froze her in place. His footsteps thumped close. Breath smothered the nape of her neck. “‘Till death do us part. You do remember, don’t you?”
She steadied her legs. Cody needed her to be strong.
“Honor and obey, too.” Her joke, their joke failed to produce any laugh. He just kept breathing, heavy and slow in the darkness.
“I told you it was an accident,” he mumbled, as if something filled his mouth.
“Cody almost died, you son of a bitch.”
“You stole my fucking son,” he shouted.
She bolted down the hallway. In her wake, his footsteps shook the cabin. She reached the front door, grabbed the handle, and slammed it shut behind her. A thud rocked the house. He must have smashed into it.
She almost continued, but stopped. He’d run three miles a day when they were married. Every single day. And she was carrying Cody. He could barrel them down within seconds.
She fumbled with her keys and locked the top bolt. Last month, she’d installed the dual key dead bolts to keep Cody from opening the door. Fat lot of good that did, but now they had a use far greater. There was no turn latch on the inside. Only a keyhole. And the bars on the windows meant that Jarod was now locked inside.
The door rattled. A thunk rumbled through the mountains. She took off for the car. Above, the storm clouds broke. Flashes of lightning exposed his Humvee parked off the driveway. They were more than an hour from any town. Visions of their capsized minivan, forced from the road by the military vehicle, filled her head.
Thwack. The repetitive cracking gave away Jarod’s position as she raced to the Humvee. Inside the left wheel well, she found Jarod’s magnetic Hide-A-Key. Thank god some things never changed. She unlocked the gigantic door and lifted Cody into the backseat.
“Put your seat belt on,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” he cried.
She opened the driver’s door and climbed into the vehicle. Switches and panel readouts sat all around her. Could she even drive this stupid thing? Where was the ignition? There. She turned the key. The engine roared.
“Mommy,” Cody shouted.
Something snapped the glass. An explosion of nuggets sprayed her face. Jarod reached in and grabbed her sweater. She screamed. Broken and jagged, some fused together, his teeth dripped saliva.
The corners of his lips twisted as he shouted, “He’s mine.”
She punched the accelerator. Mud puddles sprayed over the windshield, blurring her view. Running alongside, Jarod yanked the steering wheel. The Humvee lunged toward a tree trunk and sideswiped it.
His shriek, guttural and inhuman, echoed through the cab. She slammed on the brakes to regain control. Something brushed her leg. His severed hand twitched in her lap. Forcing back her nausea, she slapped the thing onto the passenger floorboard and punched the gas.
At the end of the driveway, she turned left. Where could they go? Erika’s house? No. If Jarod had found her here, he might have people waiting for her there.
For the last year, she’d planned for this, and none of it mattered. Along with their clothes and cash, she’d also left every inhaler behind as well.
In the backseat, Cody sobbed.
“It’s okay, sweetie.” She reached back to hold his hand but found only a toe. “It’s over. We’re safe now.”
They could get out of this if she could just get down the mountain. Tammy probably still lived in Los Reyes. That was only a two-hour drive. They could
get out of this.
A blue dashboard light knocked back her hope as she sped around the final bend of Chesterfield Road. She closed her eyes and prayed over the sound of Cody’s sobs. The gas gauge flashed empty.