Rotting Souls: Banshee Series Book 4
Rotting Souls: Banshee Series Book 4
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The dead return for vengeance…
Benton Bertrand is no ordinary teenager. He is a banshee -- cursed with the ability to sense death and see through the eyes of killers. Benton’s powerful scream can destroy supernatural evil. And it’s about to be put to the test…
Recovering from their last ordeal, Benton and his friend Nicole are horrified to discover a young girl plagued by malevolent spirits. Piece by piece, the helpless child’s body is harvested by an unseen presence. Using his para-normal abilities, Benton zeroes in on the vicious fiends stalking her: a ghostly pair of serial killers, led by a man whose blood is on Nicole’s hands.
As the reluctant teens struggle to banish these murderous spirits, Nicole must confront her lack of remorse for the life she has taken. She killed in self-defense, she had no choice. Or so she tells herself.
But her victims feel otherwise. Death has transformed these two hungry souls into something far more dangerous. Now, these undead killers stalk the night, eager to make Nicole pay.
And their reign of terror has only just begun…
An icy chill came along with that thought. It clawed up Benton’s spine and burrowed deep into his bones. He balled his hands against his knees, pushing his knuckles painfully down into his kneecaps. Keep still. Wait. Allow the lurking ghost to gather its nerve. A surge of adrenaline sharpened his senses, allowing him to track the soft sounds of the ghost as it crawled over the walls. It moved with a slickly tearing sound. Something between the sharp break of bone and the snap of sapling trees.
Benton knew he shouldn’t look. He had enough trouble sleeping without observing the twisted monstrosity that Oliver Ackerman had become.
Being riddled with rot and covered with grave dirt now seemed pleasant. But, as the ripping sound crept around to his left, he couldn’t stop himself from glancing over. The old man’s spine was forced into an almost perfect arch, forcing him to walk on his hands and feet. The bones of his fingers broke free of his skin like gnarled tree roots. They weaved through everything it touched. Constantly growing. Forcing him to snap his bones for every jerk forward. Ackerman met Benton’s eyes.
The fury within his eyes was a sight Benton was used to seeing.
The fear wasn’t.
“Is he back?” Zack called to him, careful not to cross the threshold of the open barn doors.
“He never left,” Benton replied absently.
Zack’s eyes grew wide, flicking wildly around like a startled deer. “Then where did he go? He didn’t come out here with us, did he?”
“Nah.” Benton didn’t take his eyes off of Ackerman as he waved a hand above her head. “He likes to hang out in the rafters. I think he feels safer off the ground.”
“Safer from what?” Meg asked, her voice somehow both meek and demanding at once.
It took a vast amount of effort to keep his eyes from rolling. An effort he only made because he knew Nicole was watching him carefully. “How would I know?”
“Ask him,” Meg said as if he were mentally slow.
“You ask him,” Benton shot back.
Zack pried one hand off of his camera to gesture wildly. Apparently, that was necessary to get his point across. “You’re the medium.”
“Banshee,” Benton and Nicole corrected in unison.
“What’s the difference?” Zack asked.
“I just warn you when you’re going to kick the bucket. I don’t chat.”
“But you can talk to him,” Meg pressed.
Benton took his eyes off of Ackerman just long enough to throw Meg an exasperated look. “So can you.”
She gnashed her teeth in frustration. “I can’t hear what he says back.”
“He never says anything back,” Benton countered.
In his peripheral vision, Benton watched the tag-you’re-it game play out for the hundredth time that night. Zack was normally the one who started it. The teen was desperate to get proof of the supernatural. Unfortunately, his patience had the lifespan of a fruit fly. Every time he was annoyed with Benton, he’d wave to Meg, silently telling her to do something about it. Meg instantly handed the task off to her identical twin, Danny. Out of the three, Benton liked Danny the most. Because she had enough sense to know that he wasn’t exactly excited about her existence. The downside of that was that she would go to Nicole for help.
“We all know by now that Mr. Ackerman isn’t exactly in a chatty mood,” Nicole said carefully, obviously looking for middle ground. Meeting Benton’s gaze, she smiled sweetly. “Maybe you could tell us what he’s doing?”
“He’s circling like a shark, and you’re having me sit here like chum.”
Nicole’s smile instantly faded. She began to bounce, shifting her weight between her feet with nervous energy. A small slither of guilt wormed its way through the pit of Benton’s stomach. Death had decided that they were besties when he was ten. It had messed with his perception of ‘normal.’ He sometimes forgot how hard all of this could be for someone on the outside.
“He doesn’t make any vocal noises,” Benton said in a gentler tone. “But he only seems interested with people inside the barn. He hasn’t even looked at you guys.”
It didn’t stop Nicole from bouncing around like a trapped rabbit, but she seemed pleased that he was making an effort with her friends.
It had been quite a month since the Slaughs had swept across the Alberta plains, hidden within a storm that did just as much damage as the monsters themselves, and Nicole’s friends were still hanging around. Necessity had drawn them together. They needed the twins and Zack if they were ever going to make it back. And somewhere along the line, everyone had just sort of assumed that it was the new status quo. Nights like these proved why this was a stupid idea. Nicole’s little experiments with the unknown had consisted of blood pressure cuffs and EMF readers. Zack and the twins leaned towards poking the unseen monsters and watching Benton get his butt kicked.
See, this is why I hate people.
A sudden burst of frost encased every cell of his being, crashing his body temperature, making him shiver violently. Benton snapped back around, searching for Ackerman, finding the spirit barely an inch away from him. Rage flared in the dead man’s eyes. It crashed over him in a frozen wave. Dust billowed up around Benton as he hurriedly scrambled over the dirt floor, desperately increasing the distance between them. Ackerman’s decayed lips twisted into a snarl as he retreated, climbing back up the wall to disappear into the shadows around the rafters. Zack’s camera flash broke the night like lightning. Benton winced, lifting one hand to shield his eyes.
“Benton,” Nicole gasped. “Are you okay?”
“What happened?” Meg snapped.
At the same time, Zack demanded, “Where is he?”
Benton lifted a shaking hand to point into the exposed rafters.
“You scared him off?” Zack said. “What the hell? We’re trying to get him on camera.”
Benton glared in Zack’s general direction, still blinking away the stars in his eyes.
“Yeah, I know your dumbass plan. He startled me.”
Zack bristled, his broad shoulders hunching up like an angry cat. “No one will believe us without proof.”
“You. Not us. I’m not putting my fingerprints on this train wreck.”
Zack bared his teeth in frustration. “You have something to say?”
“Only the blatantly obvious,” Benton shot back. “You can’t convince someone of something they don’t want to believe.”
“I was convinced.” His chest damn near swelled up with pride.
“You were attacked by a hundred monsters and witnessed a banshee scream destroying them,” Benton countered. “Yeah, that’s the exact same as being shown a photo or two by some jerk online.”
A string of barbed wire coiled tightly within the pit of his stomach, the sensation making his skin crawl and forcing him to snap around on instinct. Ackerman had started to circle him again, bleeding in and out of the shadows. His progress was marked by the snap and crackle of his twig limbs. While he could hide from Benton’s sight, Ackerman couldn’t smother the sensation that he provoked. The pain in Benton’s stomach. The pressure at the base of his neck. The sleet that worked through his veins. A sudden light made him jump. A cry clogging his throat, he whipped around to find Nicole leveling the beam of her mobile’s torch onto him.
“Your lips are turning blue.” Concern laced through her words.
Meg made a fascinated grunt and clicked off a few more photographs. It seemed that she never got tired of seeing him in ghost induced hypothermia.
“Maybe we should take a break,” Nicole said.
“But we haven’t gotten the photo yet,” Zack protested. “You can hold on a little longer, right Benny-boy?”
Benton remained silent. He had been ten when Death decided to let him in on the game, filling his dreams with brutal murders. The thing that made that special brand of torture endurable was that it all stopped, or at least eased up considerably, when he woke up. That had changed after coming to Fort Wayward. Now he had to deal with the supernatural insanity while awake, too. So far, he wasn’t all that impressed. Not that he wanted Zack to know that. He might be pathetic, but he had some measure of pride.
“He’s been doing this for two hours,” Nicole pressed, her sweet tone hardening around the edges. “It’s about time for a break.”
“He’s fine,” Zack sighed.
“His teeth are chattering. And look at his fingertips. That’s the start of frostbite.”
“Nicole,” Zack swung his arms out as he twisted his torso towards her. “Do you maybe want to leave him with a shred of masculinity?”
Strike one, Benton thought with a smirk. He watched with growing amusement as Meg and Nicole turned in unison to fix Zack with a sharp glare. Even Danny returned from her position as a lookout to let Zack know he had messed up.
“I’m confused, Zack,” Meg said, crossing her arms around her chest. “Explain to me what exactly is demeaning to a man about a woman showing concern.”
“You know what I mean,” Zack dismissed with a snort.
Strike two. Benton bit his lips to hide his grin.
“No, I don’t,” Danny replied. “Come on. Explain it to me.”
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