House of the Dead: Cult of the Endless Night Series Book 1
House of the Dead: Cult of the Endless Night Series Book 1
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There is no escape from death itself…
Ghost hunter Shane Ryan has cheated death countless times. But death has a funny way of collecting what it’s owed. And when James Moran asks Shane to retrieve a group of deadly spirits and their haunted items, the retired Marine finds himself wading into battle with supernatural evil once more.
Traveling to the estate of deceased media mogul Arthur Hempstead, Shane quickly discovers there is more to this case than meets the eye. Hempstead was more than just a collector of occult objects… He died intent on drawing on power for his own nefarious ends.
But Shane quickly finds out Hempstead was not the only one eager to harness the power of death itself. And unless Shane Ryan can stop them, they’ll unleash an evil greater than any he has ever faced.
But first, he’ll have to survive a haunted house of horrors. And cheat death one more time…
Chapter 2: The Cult
Shane sat in a plush antique armchair with a cup of coffee that was far fancier than anything he’d ever make for himself. There was a spice to it he couldn’t identify, and a richness from the freshly ground beans that James had prepared while they spoke.
It was a lot better than what he made at home. Not that he had any intention of putting that much effort into his coffee.
“Hempstead was a member of a group of like-minded individuals. Collectors of haunted paraphernalia—”
“Are they a cult?” Shane interrupted.
“What? Why would you ask that?”
James said from his matching chair.
“Is this a group of rich, high-profile people who secretly collect ghosts?”
“Indeed,”James said with some hesitation.
“Then it’s a cult,” Shane told him.
Nobody got together to collect the dead in secret if they weren’t a cult. They didn’t need to use the word; they just needed to act like a cult.
“Regardless of titles, these are the individuals who tasked me with retrieving the items. Hempstead was a member of the group—”
“Cult,” Shane interrupted.
“Group,” James continued. “And since he has died, they want possession of his things. Cult or not, they’re doing legitimate business, so I can’t fault them for that.”
“Did they kill Hempstead?” Shane asked.
“Goodness, that’s well out of my purview. I’ve dealt with these people for some years now, and they seem harmless for the most part.
Where you see a cult, I see... idiots?
Maybe that word is too harsh. Fools? They’re naïve, Shane. They’re rich and powerful, like you said, and they learned of this world beyond rationality.
It enticed them so. And they did what anyone with more money than good sense might do. They turned it into a game.
‘Who can collect the most and the best?’ That sort of thing.”
“What do they do with them? These ghosts they collect.”
“It’s a bit like baseball cards, I think. Faberge eggs, even. They don’t do anything, strictly speaking. It’s just a matter of who can find the rarest.”
“How would anyone even know? Is there a ghost appraiser out there?”
“Well,” James said somewhat sheepishly. “I believe they rely on my expertise in some cases.”
“Huh,” Shane grunted, taking another sip of his coffee.
“Which brings us to this very moment. I would need you to go to the Hempstead estate and retrieve the seven items.”
Shane had expected the request from the beginning of James’ tale. It was a tall order, to say the least. Seven ghosts at one time were bad odds for anyone, no matter what kind of skills they brought to the table.
“And before you decide, know that there is one more catch,” James added.
“I’m all ears.”
James glanced at Shane’s torn ear and smiled tightly.
“All seven need to be intact.”
Shane finished his coffee and set the cup on the table between them.
“So, all of them trapped in their item, stored, and returned here,” he clarified.
The task was far from impossible. Theoretically, at least. Bags of salt. Lead boxes. It was doable— provided he could find the items and secure them before the group of spirits teamed up to take him out.
“Anything else to be concerned about?”
“Indeed. I only know what three of the items are,” James told him.
Shane felt the urge to laugh.
“I like you, James, but you do realize trying to find a thing, when no one knows what the thing is, could be considered an impossible task to some people?”
“I do. But you, at least, have ways of determining what items you’re looking for.
Ways most others wouldn’t know about.”
“Why don’t your clients give you the rund own of what they want?”
“They don’t know either. That’s the problem. Hempstead, it seems, went a little rogue from the group. These are people with some degree of social status, people in the public eye. As you can appreciate, they don’t want or need this part of their lives to become public. They do things very hush-hush. But Hempstead had decided on adifferent path.”
“What does that mean?” Shane asked.
“From what I gather, it was Hempstead’s belief that a ghost represented immortality. It was a paradox in his mind that he believed to be true. In dying, one could live forever. In this case, living meant being a ghost forever.”
Shane shook his head. That was a new one. Most people who knew about ghosts didn’t look at them with rose-colored glasses like that.
“Did Hempstead off himself?” he asked.
“It seems like he had become a tad unbalanced,”
James admitted. “He had become convinced that ghosts held power, insight, and more. They were an evolution, according to him.”
“But you said the ghosts were loose. Why would he release his collection if he thought they were so special?”
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