Children to the Slaughter: Slaughter Series Book 1
Children to the Slaughter: Slaughter Series Book 1
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Melington has changed.
There is an evil lurking in the darkness, under the beds and behind closet doors. It seeks vengeance and retribution and will not be denied.
No one knows this more than Alan Carter. Returning to his hometown after a twenty year absence, he is resolute in uncovering the truth behind his sister’s abduction and the strange disappearance of children. Joined by his childhood friend, Alan finds himself thrown into the middle of a conspiracy led by the town Council as it desperately tries to hide its secrets from the world.
No child is safe in Melington, and Alan Carter needs to stop the curse that has haunted his hometown for generations. But as Alan’s brushes with death become more frequent, he finds himself running out of luck.
Jeremiah tried to put more distance between him and the others without appearing to empathize with the prisoner. He frowned as he noticed dark stains in the snow and quickly realized they were splatters of blood. The prisoner was bleeding, but there were none who cared.
"We're going to rip you into pieces!"
The woman's shrill voice brought Jeremiah's head up. He watched in dismay as the prisoner stumbled and fell to one knee, then immediately kicked as another pulled heavily on the rope tied to his wrists. He fell face first onto the path, and in the midst of even more kicking, he was pulled to his feet and carried along.
"Leave him on the ground!" a man shouted. Jeremiah was unable to discern who the voice belonged to, but he felt sure he recognized it. The others cheered in approval.
"Drag him along!" came another shout, and Jeremiah quickly realized that if he did nothing, the man would suffer more than was needed.
He picked up the pace and helped the helpless half naked man back up to his feet.
"This is your doing, Jeremiah," the man whispered angrily, his words coming in one long breath that was followed by a deep moan of pain. His teeth clattered mercilessly against each other, and even through the heavy coat, Jeremiah felt the sting of the man's cold grip.
"This was not my decision, Copper," Jeremiah answered, his voice equally low so no one would hear him. "I was not your judge..."
Copper Tibet groaned as Jeremiah wrapped the man's arm around his neck and proceeded to help carry him.
"Let him go, Jeremiah!" someone shouted.
"I say hang him here!" another replied.
Jeremiah ignored the townsfolk, lowered his head once more and pushed forward, distraught that he was now in the midst of the mob. He did not believe Copper Tibet was innocent, but he knew the man did not deserve this. There were rules, but everyone in Melington had decided to ignore them, including the Council.
The mob moved along, following the path until it opened into a large clearing where a market had once been held. Jeremiah remembered his childhood, when his father had brought him along to the market so they could sell their farm's produce. It had always been a very colorful and busy place, rich with friendly faces and a New England charm.
It was a desolate field now, dotted with the skeletons of large maples, a place where the people of Melington would carry out Copper Tibet's death sentence.
Jeremiah was led to one of the larger maples, now fully carrying Copper's weight as the big man drifted in and out of consciousness. Jeremiah's lips moved in silent prayer for mercy.
Hands lifted the dying man off Jeremiah and carried him swiftly to the large tree, a rope tossed over one of the thicker branches while a noose was adjusted around Copper's neck. Jeremiah watched the man's eyes flutter as he tried to stay awake. He wanted to shout to him to let go, and release himself from the life he was still clinging onto.
"Copper Tibet, you are hereby sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of two children."
Jeremiah looked over at Chairman Cole, frowning in disgust as he listened to the man speak. This was not right. This was not justice. Jeremiah couldn't believe how primal the townsfolk had become.
These were men and women he had grown up with, people he knew well and invited into his own home. Seeing them now, the snarls on their faces, the words they spat at Copper, made him second guess everything he believed in.
They wanted a victim. They wanted someone to blame, and the minute they had been given someone who fit the desired profile, they had taken action.
All of a sudden, Jeremiah felt a rush of guilt. Had he acted on emotions as well? Was an innocent man being hung because of him?
Jeremiah opened his mouth in protest, but was instantly distracted by Copper's cry of pain. Three men stood to one side of the tree, heaving on the rope that tightened around the man's neck. Copper's big frame slowly rose off the ground, his bare feet sliding and slipping in the snow until he was lifted off the ground. His hands grasped the noose, crying out in anger as he tried to stop it from suffocating him. He thrashed about in the air, somehow finding strength to fight back, forcing two other men to join the others as they resisted the big man's efforts to break free.
"I will see you all dead for this!" Copper screamed, his voice suddenly clear, eyes wide as he stared out in fury at the mob before him. Some of them took a few steps back, suddenly frightened by the man's newfound strength, one or two looking at each other uneasily as Copper screamed and cursed.
The sight of the big man swinging in the air almost made Jeremiah heave. He closed his eyes and turned away, wishing he could shut Copper's voice out completely.
"You hang an innocent man, you fools!" Copper cried out. "Your culprit walks free amongst you, and you hang me? I will see you all burn in hell!"
Jeremiah decided he had enough. He began to walk away when a hand grasped his arm and stopped him.
"Where are you going?"
Jeremiah looked into the eyes of Chairman Cole, the frown on the other man's face as deep as his determination to see this through, was reflected on Jeremiah's own face. Jeremiah pulled his arm back forcefully, pointing angrily at the hanging man behind him.
"This isn't right, Cole," Jeremiah hissed.
"You put him at the top of the list, Jeremiah," Cole spat. "You will stand here with the rest of us and see this through."
"This isn't justice!" Jeremiah shot. "I never agreed to this!"
"This wasn't your choice."
"Neither should it have been yours," Jeremiah countered. "He should have been delivered to Hartford!"
"And what then?" Cole asked. "This is the rightful punishment. You wanted justice for your daughter's death, and I am delivering it."
"Do not drag my child into this," Jeremiah threatened.
"I will do whatever I must," Cole spat. "This burden is for all of us to bear."
"I will have nothing more to do with this," Jeremiah said.
Cole grabbed him by the arm again, and Jeremiah was ready to throw a punch at the man when a loud crack pierced through the night. Both men turned to Copper, their eyes wide in horror as the branch above his head heaved against the weight of his thrashing. The man was getting weaker, but he still had an unbelievable amount of fight left in him.
He might actually break free, Jeremiah thought.
Jeremiah's head snapped around to Cole as the words echoed through the field. The Chairman glanced briefly at him before repeating the order, and Jeremiah Carter watched in horror as several members of the small mob raced to where Copper hung and pressed their torches against his skin.
Copper's screams pierced the night. Jeremiah fell to his knees in the thick snow, his eyes wide in disbelief as he watched Copper Tibet burn. He couldn't decide what was worse, the screaming, or the smell of burning flesh, but he knew that this night would haunt him to the day he died.
"I curse you all!" Copper screamed. "From the pits of hell I will come for you. Your children will never be safe! Do you hear me? Your children will never be safe!"
Jeremiah felt the world around him spin and darken. He fell to the ground.
The last thing he heard was Copper Tibet's screams of vengeance.
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