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Authors: Gregory Lamberson

Tortured Spirits

BOOK: Tortured Spirits
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SPECIAL EXCERPT

Six machetes broke through the roof, withdrew, and reappeared, the sound of their blades grinding against the plastic roofing almost unbearable.

Andre aimed his machine gun at the roof.

“Don't do it,” Stephane said. “You'll do more damage than they are.”

Andre held still.

“How're you guys doing?” Jake said to Louider's men at the door.

“Fine,” one of the men said.

Then a loud crack echoed through the building, and the first zonbie dropped through the ceiling.

Jake shoved his flashlight in his belt, drew his Glock, pressed it against the zonbie's left temple, and fired. He heard the spewing of liquefied brain, then the zonbie collapsed and his soul rose.

Two more zonbies fell to the floor around him. Stephane's laser sight cut the room in half. Two muzzle flashes later, Jake stood alone again.

“Thanks,” Jake said, spots flashing in his eye.

“Don't mention it,” Stephane said.

The door crashed open, and Louider's men screamed in stereo.

REVIEWS FOR
COSMIC FORCES

“The writing is top-notch, the story compelling, bringing comparisons to F. Paul Wilson's
New York Times
best-selling Repairman Jack novels.”

—K. L. Young,
Strange Aeons Magazine

“Cosmic Forces is a fast moving, intriguing, action-and-horror-packed read that is a creative tour de force, one that will leave readers equally thrilled and breathless.”

—Norm Rubenstein,
Horror World

“The Third Helman hard-boiled urban fantasy horror tale (see
Personal Demons
and
Desperate Souls)
is an exciting entry as the tough sleuth with a heart fights monsters from the otherworld and from his plane. Readers will enjoy his three investigative cases as all roads lead to those who abuse power, whether they are from hell, earth, or otherwise.”

—Harriet Klausner,
Midwest Book Review

“Heaven and hell. A private eye who's had enough with supernatural phenomena. This is the third volume in Gregory Lamberson's Jake Helman Files, and boy was this one hell of a read! … The nod to H. P. Lovecraft is a good one…. I'm eager to find out what else is in store for Jake in the next novel.”

—John Rizo

In memory of Michael Louis Calvillo

Published 2012 by Medallion Press, Inc.

The MEDALLION PRESS LOGO

is a registered trademark of Medallion Press, Inc.

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment from this “stripped book.”

Copyright © 2012 by Gregory Lamberson

Cover design by Arturo Delgado

Edited by Lorie Popp Jones

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro

Printed in the United States of America

ISBN# 9781605424064

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

First Edition

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I wish to thank my wife, Tamar, for the English into Spanish translations used in this novel and Helen A Rosburg and David Tocher for English into French translations. I also wish to acknowledge the creators and writers of the TV show
Wiseguy,
which ran on CBS from 1987 to 1990; their fictional Caribbean Isle Pavot is the inspiration for my Pavot Island featured in this book.

As always, I thank the crew at Medallion Press for their continued support: Helen A Rosburg, Ali DeGray, Adam Mock, Heather Musick, Paul Ohlson, James Tampa, Emily Steele, Lorie Jones, Arturo Delgado, and many others.

ONE

Busker Boy stood just outside the alley in the shadow of the French Lily Hotel as the sun, as hot as some long forgotten circle of hell, descended over the French Quarter. Not that standing in shade did much good: on this, the first day of July, New Orleans boiled like crawfish over an open fire. The temperature had reached 100 degrees that afternoon, with humidity making the thick air feel fifteen degrees hotter.

The heat continued to radiate from the sidewalks into the evening, clinging to Busker Boy's short-sleeved shirt and flesh like napalm. What he put himself through to make a little pocket money …

Despite his moniker, Busker Boy was neither a busker nor a boy. At thirty-six, his boyish good looks had grown flaccid, his face weighed down by the bags and crow's-feet around his eyes. His longish blond hair showed no signs of
gray yet, and he still resembled a surfer from California. Born Charles Alcotto, he considered himself a man of many talents: con artist, pickpocket, burglar, occasional stickup man. He'd earned his name and reputation rolling the various street musicians who crowded the sidewalks of New Orleans, and once he'd become known among the populace, he moved into other areas of low-end crime.

Busker Boy breathed in the humid air. God, this heat was killing him. He just wanted to make his move and go home to his ratty one-room apartment not far from the French Market for a cool shower.

As the sounds of live jazz wafted out of the green brick hotel behind him, he spotted his mark. Every night for two weeks the man returned to the French Lily around this same time. Every night his driver dropped him off on the one-way street facing the hotel's rear, where a handful of gray-haired black men played brass instruments. And every night he took the shortcut through this narrow alley to reach the hotel's front entrance.

The man, who appeared slightly younger than Busker Boy, favored jeans and a polo shirt and wore his strawberry blond hair parted at one side. Four scars divided the left side of his face; Busker Boy felt certain some hellion had left her mark on the sucker. But the parallel scars did not cause the man to stand out in a crowd. The blackbird did. At all times the man carried the large raven in a cage so tall its base scraped the sidewalk.

When the man had reached the middle of the alley, Busker Boy turned, revealing himself. The approaching man
narrowed one eye at him and stiffened. Busker Boy, who had real muscles from years of weight lifting and amateur boxing, saw no flab on him. The bird appeared even larger up close, two feet long from beak to tail feathers.

Ricky and Sheldon stepped into the opposite end of the alley behind the bird man. The Pascel brothers were Creole, their faces bronze, with wide noses, thick lips, and eyes almost the color of their skin. They stood over six feet tall, with gangly arms, and Ricky's shoulders stooped as though he carried a bucket of water in each hand. Busker Boy used the Pascel brothers for backup because they were easy to order around and had no problem doing wet work.

Jake Helman stopped in the alley outside the French Lily Hotel, where he had been staying for the last three weeks. The hair on the back of his neck prickled:
perp fever,
a holdover from his NYPD days.

The muscular Caucasian man ahead of him stood a little over five and a half feet tall, even with platform shoes. A golf hat with a little green feather in its band topped his all-white outfit. The man's thick chest pushed his arms back, and a predatory smile sliced his face. Jake hadn't seen him before.

Jake knew even before he glanced over his shoulder that the two men he had passed on his way into the alley, who had stood with their hands deep in their pockets, now followed him. A pair of light-skinned black men with
matching eyes and hair: brothers, probably twins. One exhibited the nervous tics and twitches of a crackhead; both projected danger.

Jake turned back to the man in white, who moved forward. He cursed himself for letting his guard down just because he was close to his home away from home. A mélange of laughter, loud talking, horns, and the aroma of New Orleans cooking overloaded his senses. Without glancing at Edgar, he tightened his hold on the cage's handle.

The man in white tapped the brim of his hat. “Happy evening, stranger. That's some interesting cargo ya got there.” His voice dripped like honey mixed with gravel.

“It's just a pet,” Jake said in an even tone.

“A pet, you say? What kind of pet is that?”

“A raven.”

“Oh, like Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. You sure that bird isn't gris-gris?” The words came out as
gree-gree.

“I'm sure.”

“You know what gris-gris is?”

Jake nodded. A gris-gris was a voodoo charm.
Interesting deduction.

“What you doing in N'awlins, captain?”

Jake turned his back to the hotel's brick wall, with the man in white on his right and the bronze-skinned thugs an equal distance on his left. “None of your business. Tell your men to stay away.”

“You lookin' for someone?”

Jake raised his left foot and drew his .38 from its ankle holster. He aimed the revolver at the bronze men, who
stopped but did not raise their hands.

The man in white smiled. “Oh, looks like you got the drop on us. But I think you're bluffing.”

Keeping his revolver leveled at the bronze men, Jake faced the man in white. “Try me.”

“You stayin' at the French Lily. You shoot one of us, you have to shoot all three of us. You have to kill us dead, like bugs. I don't think you want to draw that kind of attention to yourself. It's unproductive.”

He's right.
Jake had just committed a serious mistake. He had always believed a man should never draw a gun unless he intended to use it. “What do you want?”

“I think we'll take your blackbird. I think you'll pay to get it back.”

“Why don't you just rob me now?”

“I bet you'll pay a lot more for your
pet
than you've got in your leather.”

“What makes you think so?”

“You take that bird everywhere you go, fella. I seen you in restaurants and on the banquette. You take it wherever you spend your days. That blackbird is worth a lot to you, and that makes it valuable to
me
.” He held out one hand and snapped his fingers.

Jake felt sweat on his brow. He couldn't gun down the men, and he couldn't take all three of them by hand while protecting Edgar. Even a warning shot could land him in jail for the night, and jail time meant being separated from Edgar. “Not gonna happen.”

“You want to play tough? We can play tough.” The man
nodded to his companions, who advanced on Jake. “We won't kill you because then we won't get paid. But we'll beat you bad.”

Jake dropped to one knee and jammed his .38 into its holster. When he hopped up, Edgar's cage remained on the dirty ground.

BOOK: Tortured Spirits
5.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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