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Authors: Graham Masterton

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Walkers

BOOK: Walkers
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Walkers

 

By

 

Graham Masterton

OUT OF INNOCENCE CAME FORTH UNSPEAKABLE EVIL...

Henry was the first to
reach the body, while Gil and Susan walked cautiously closer, and then stood
watching. It was the body of a beautiful young girl,’ naked, like a peacefully
sleeping mermaid. Never in their most traumatic nightmares could they have
imagined the convulsive violence which followed...

Then each is visited
by a mysteriously androgynous figure who reveals that the girl had been used as
innocent host to the most hideous malevolence known to man, a horrific presence
that, through grotesque acts of impregnation, is madly insinuating itself into
the bodies and minds of thousands of unsuspecting people. The only hope is to
destroy the original evil seed and together, Henry, Gil and Susan become NIGHT
WARRIORS, an ancient Order of men and women charged with the power to enter and
search for the abomination in a fantastic dream world of soaring exhilaration
and searing terror, driven by the inescapable reality that if they fail to find
the beast, then the beast will certainly find them...

‘For one thousand
years, Devils shall live in the dreams of men, and hold dominion over the dark
realms of the night. But then shall come a company whose name shall be the
Night Warriors; and it shall be charged unto them to banish the Devils and to
rid the darkness of all evil influences forever. And those who are Night
Warriors shall be secret, and their names shall not be known. Nevertheless they
shall be counted as the greatest heroes of any age, and they will be remembered
in the chronicles of Ashapola for all eternity.’

The Great Book of
Darkness, Chapter IX, published by the Camden Society, 1844.

CHAPTER
ONE

T
he three of them approached the body
on the beach as if their meeting had been preordained. Henry was the first to
reach it, and he hunkered down beside it, but wouldn’t touch it, while Gil and
Susan walked cautiously closer, and then stood silently watching, with their
bare toes half buried in the sand.

‘No doubt that she’s dead,’ said
Henry, in his clear lecture-room voice. He brushed back his white windblown
hair with his hand.

‘I thought it was a dog, at first,’
said Gil. ‘You know, an Afghan or something.’

Henry stood up. ‘I guess we’d better
call the police. There’s nothing that
we
can
do.’

Susan kept her arms folded close
across her tee-shirt, and shivered.

Henry said, ‘Would you and this
young man like to go call the police? I’ll stay here and make sure that nobody
disturbs it.’ He hesitated, and looked down at the body, and then corrected
himself by saying, ‘Her.’

Susan nodded, and the two of them
jogged away across the beach. Henry remained where he was, his hands clasped
behind his back, tall and stooped in the silvery mist of the early morning.
Almost unseen, the grey Pacific disobediently roared as the moon tugged it inch
by inch away from the shore, and seagulls shrieked like anxious women as they
swooped for fish. It was April, but it was chilly, and the sea-mist would
probably envelop the coastline for most of the day.

Henry hadn’t yet been to bed. He had
been sitting in the study of his beach-house all night, under the light from
his brass-shaded lamp, working on his new article for
Philosophy Today:
‘The concept of life after death’, by Professor
Henry Watkins. He had been writing in thumb-cramping longhand, and rewarding
himself after the completion of every page with a large vodka and tomato juice;
and so at six o’clock he had taken a walk along the beach not only to clear his
mind often centuries of philosophical morbidness, but the cumulative effects of
twelve large Bloody Marys.

And here she was, lying dead on the
sand, a naked young woman. Stark and direct proof that everything he had been
writing all night was pretentious nonsense; hot-air balloons and horse-feathers.
He felt almost as if he had been fated to find her; as if stern gods had
directed his footsteps this way, to show him in the most jarring way possible
just how ridiculous his theories were. Nobody can ridicule the living quite as
effectively as the dead.

She was laying face down, her bare
skin covered in fine grey grit. Her long blonde hair was ribboned with seaweed,
and fanned out on the beach like a mermaid’s. One dead hand seemed to be
clutching at the sand as if she had been trying to stop herself from being
dragged out to sea again, as if to be drowned twice was more than she could
endure. Her body was so white that in the pearly-grey mist it was almost
luminous.

Henry walked around her. Alone, he
felt suddenly so sad for her that he found that his throat was tightening up,
and that the sea-wind was bringing tears to his eyes.

Perhaps he was drunk, but she could
have been any one of his philosophy students, she was so young. Although her
face was hidden, she couldn’t have been more than nineteen or twenty years old.
She had a long, well-shaped back, and wide-flared hips. One of her legs was
drawn up, so that he could glimpse blonde bedraggled pubic hair. There was a
fine silver chain around her left ankle, but that was all the jewellery she
wore. The white blue-veined curve of one half-exposed breast showed that she
had the kind of figure that most men would turn around to look at twice.

The sea foamed briefly around her
outstretched foot, and then retreated, as if it had sourly decided that it had
done enough.

Henry thrust his fists into the
pockets of his fawn-coloured windbreaker and deliberately turned away, towards
the cliffs. He had never had children of his own.

His four-year marriage to a lady
oceanographer from the Scripps Institute had been barren in every conceivable
sense. He had learned to drink during that marriage; he had also learned to be
alone. Now he taught philosophy to successive waves of cheerful young men and
women, and occasionally played chess with his next-door neighbour; and that was
sufficient to make him feel fulfilled.

At least, it was sufficient to stop
him from taking two bottles of sleeping-pills and going to bed with a copy of
Thus Spake Zarathustra.

His students at UC San Diego called
him Bing, because of his faint resemblance to Bing Crosby. He had grown his
hair to try and make himself look more like Timothy Leary than Bing Crosby, but
the nickname had stuck.

After five minutes or so, Gil and
Susan came back down the concrete ramp which led up to the oceanside
parking-lot, and half jogged, half walked across the sloping beach.

‘The police are on their way,’ Gil
said, breathlessly.

‘Thank you,’ Henry acknowledged.

Susan said, ‘I never saw anybody
dead before.’

‘She was young, too,’ Henry
remarked. ‘Nineteen, twenty.’

They waited, uncomfortable and
fidgety. There was no sound of a police siren yet.

The sea kept on snarling, and the
seagulls fluttered silently against the wind.

Gil said flatly, ‘I was just
jogging, you know? I really thought it was a dog at first.’

Susan couldn’t take her eyes away
from the body, from the fanned-out hair and the clutching hand, and the
shoulders sparkling with grit.

Gil was one of those young Southern
Californian men who defy immediate classification. He could have been a student
or an automobile mechanic or a barman or anything at all. He was very thin,
very tanned, with a narrow serious face and a prominent freckly nose. His hair
was thick and dark, and mussed up into a fright-wig by the wind. He wore a
navy-blue sweatshirt with
Crucial
stencilled
on it in white, and sawn-off denim shorts.

Susan had all the hallmarks of the
spoiled but rebellious daughter of a middle-class family. Her fair hair was cut
short and spiky, and she wore a white Italian-style tee-shirt with red and
green lightning flashes on it, and white satin running-shorts that were tighter
than tight. She was plump faced but pretty. Henry could see that in two or
three years some very striking features would emerge from that teenage
round-ness. Her eyes were already large and blue and dreamy lidded, like the
eyes of one of those girls in a romance comic.

‘I guess the police will want us to
make statements,’ said Henry.

Now they could hear the
whip-whip-whip-whooo of a distant police siren, followed by the scribbling of
an ambulance.

‘What can we say?’ asked Susan. ‘We
just found her here, that’s all.’

‘That’s all we have to say,’ Henry
reassured her.

The police car drove right down the
ramp on to the beach, and drew up only fifteen feet away. It was hotly pursued
by an ambulance from the county coroner’s office.

Henry and Gil and Susan waited in
silence as three detectives climbed out of the police car, and two medics
noisily dragged a folding stretcher out of the back of the ambulance. A second
police car arrived, slewing across the sand, and two uniformed officers got
out.

The detectives came over and looked
down at the body, standing with their hands on their hips. Two of them were big
bellied and white, Tweedledum and Tweedledee; the third was lean as an
adolescent wolf, a dark-eyed Hispanic with a drooping black moustache and a
cinnamon-coloured three-piece suit that looked as if it had been chosen by his
wife at Sears.

‘Lieutenant Ortega,’ he announced
himself. These are Detectives Morris and Warburg.’

‘Henry Watkins,’ said Henry.

‘And these young people?’

‘We haven’t had time to introduce
ourselves.’

‘You don’t know them?’

‘This is the first time we ever met.
I guess we all caught sight of the body at the same moment.’

‘Your name, please?’ Lieutenant
Ortega asked Gil.

‘Gilbert Miller.’

‘And yours, young lady?’

‘Susan Sczaniecka.’

Lieutenant Ortega said over his
shoulder, ‘You get those names?’

Detective Warburg said, ‘No, sir.’

Lieutenant Ortega let out a short,
testy breath, and then went across to inspect the body. He stared at it for a
very long time; then walked around it; then peered at it close with his hands
on his bended knees, still without touching it.

‘Any of you people know this girl’s
identity?’ he asked, without looking towards them.

‘No,’ they replied. Henry felt
strangely guilty that he didn’t; but he supposed that everybody felt the same
when they were interviewed by the police.

‘Looks like a straightforward drowning,’
said Detective Morris, clearing his throat as if he were about to give a
recitation. ‘Kind of early in the year, but the pattern’s familiar. Nude
bathing off Cardiff Beach, too much to drink, and there’s a pretty sharp
undertow there, once you get out a ways. You get pulled out to sea. It’s cold
in April, you die of hypothermia in less than ten minutes – that’s if you can
swim. Then the tide brings you down here.’ He checked his watch. ‘Right on
time, I’d say.’

Lieutenant Ortega stood up straight.
‘You people were down on the shoreline exceptionally early,’ he said, waving
his finger loosely from Susan to Gil to Henry.

‘I was jogging,’ said Gil. ‘I hurt
my leg in a motorcycle accident last December. I have to jog for a couple of
hours each day to exercise it.

Early morning is the only free time
I get.’

Lieutenant Ortega raised his
eyebrows at Henry.

‘I, um – I was working on a magazine
article all night,’ Henry explained. ‘I live right up there. . .the cottage
with the white-painted balcony. I finished up around five-thirty, then I
decided to take a walk.’ He hoped Lieutenant Ortega couldn’t smell his breath.

Lieutenant Ortega turned to Susan.
‘How about you?’ he asked her. ‘Exceptionally early to be down on the
shoreline, wouldn’t you say?’

Susan said, ‘Guess it is.’

‘So what were you doing here, so
exceptionally early?’

BOOK: Walkers
13.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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