Shadows' End: Death Hunter Series Book 6
Shadows' End: Death Hunter Series Book 6
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To stop the ultimate evil, Shane Ryan faces an impossible choice…
Retired Marine Corps sergeant Shane Ryan has seen his share of death and violence. And as far as he’s concerned, the best defense is a good offense. So when he and his friends manage to head off a supernatural attack at a nearby orphanage, he is determined to hunt down whoever is responsible for the carnage.
There’s just one problem. The evil behind all this is a hopelessly deranged young boy who has developed the ability to command the restless spirits of the dead.
Outnumbered and facing an evil beyond imagination, Shane and his allies must battle their way through an army of wraiths to get to this sinister child. But deep down, he knows there is only one way to bring this nightmare to an end.
The only way to stop the boy is to kill him.
Can Shane bring himself to do what must be done?
Chapter 1: Deceptions
The chiming of a bell brought Sally McCutcheon out of a bad dream, and she opened her eyes slowly, rubbing at them with both hands.
What, in the name of all that is good and true, was I drinking last night?
She had a vague recollection of Grey Goose Vodka, but little else. Sally couldn’t remember where she had gone out or who she had gone out with. She remembered talking about checking out some of the bars on the Upper East Side in New York City, but that was all.
Veronica will remember. Always does.
Sally moaned as she sat up, thankful for the darkness of the room. Her head was always sensitive to light after she had spent the night drinking. She ran her fingers through her hair to untangle the knots and stopped halfway through.
There were no knots to untangle. There was no hair to have been tangled.
Someone had removed it all.
With growing horror, her fingers explored the stubble on her scalp, her mouth dry. Someone had shaved her head while she slept.
When she lowered her hands, they were shaking, and her stomach twisted and turned. Leaning over, she went to turn on her bed lamp but, like her hair, it was missing. So, too, was the bedtable. Lowering her hands to the sheets, she jerked them back. They were crisp and rough, reminding her of hospital linens.
Above her, a light came to life gradually. As her eyes adjusted, Sally looked around her and took in the absurdity of the room.
She was in what looked to be a boy’s bedroom. There were newspaper clippings tacked to the walls, airplanes hanging from the ceiling by fishing line, and a baseball bat and glove beside the bed. There was a beaten chest of drawers off to one side, and the walls were papered with an absurd pattern of ducks in flight from a marshland. A single window occupied the left wall, and there was a door across from the bed. On a chair by the door was a pile of folded clothes and a pair of old sneakers on the floor beneath it. A battered and frayed dark blue baseball cap was hanging on the chair’s corner.
Looking down at herself, Sally was horrified to see she was naked. She snatched the top sheet off the bed and wrapped herself in it as she stepped onto the cold floor. In silence, she hurried to the window, pushed the curtain aside, and found only a blank wall.
The window was fake.
She clutched the curtain for a moment, her head swimming and her heart pounding. After a moment, she let the curtain fall back into place and took several stilted steps to the door. She tried the knob, and it turned. Holding her breath, Sally opened the door and let out a gasp of despair at another barren wall.
As she let go of the doorknob and staggered back, the door closed on its own. She reached the bed, climbed back up onto it, and pulled the sheet even tighter. Her mind was traumatized into numbness, and she sat, incapable of coherent thought.
A soft click and a whir caught her attention, and a heartbeat later, someone spoke. It was the voice of a boy on the cusp of manhood, his voice breaking as his words came through speakers hidden about the room.
She winced and squeezed her eyes closed.
“Oh, don’t do that,” he laughed.
“Where am I?!” she shouted, refusing to look around again.
“You’re at my house. My name’s Alex.”
“Can you let me go, please?” she asked, her head bowed, her voice tremulous. “Please, just let me go.”
“Oh, I can’t. You need to get dressed, though.”
“My clothes aren’t here.”
“Not your old ones,” Alex agreed, “but we have clothes in your size on the chair. You can put those on.”
She shivered, the sheet unable to keep her warm. Easing her eyes open, she got off the bed. Her eyes flickered around the room, searching for cameras.
“Don’t worry,” Alex laughed. “I don’t care that you’re naked. Just hurry up and get dressed.”
Sally hesitated, but the stinging cold urged her on.
By the time she finished dressing, she felt warmer, especially when she pulled the baseball cap on. She looped the sheet up over her and withdrew to the bed once again. Sally cleared her throat and then ventured a question.
“What happened to my hair?”
“Huh, oh, it’s gone,” Alex informed her.
“I know,” Sally whispered. “But why?”
“She doesn’t like girls,” Alex stated. “Just boys. Like, twelve-year-old boys, and you look like one. At least with your hair cut off and when you’re in boy clothes. So, that’ll be pretty good. She should be along soon. She’s kind of new.”
“I just want to leave,” Sally pleaded, looking around the room. “Please?”
“Why?” There was a sullen note to the question.
“Because I’m afraid,” Sally whispered.
Alex laughed. “You don’t have to be afraid.”
Sally didn’t respond.
“See, I’m not looking to have you scared. That’s not the data I’m trying to collect, okay?”
Tears filled Sally’s eyes and spilled down to the sheet. In a hoarse voice, she asked, “Then why am I here, Alex?”
“I want to see how she does it,” he answered. “I know what she did and who she did it to; I just don’t know how she did it. I’m curious. If it’s good enough, then she’s going to work with me. I guess you’re helping me find a new employee. Isn’t that cool?”
Sally choked back a sob.
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