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Shadows of Deceit: Cult of the Endless Night Series Book 2

Shadows of Deceit: Cult of the Endless Night Series Book 2

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Collecting ghosts is the ultimate thrill. Can Shane Ryan stop a powerful cult from such deadly obsession?

Barely escaping from his last brush with death, Ghost hunter and retired Marine Shane Ryan is hot on the trail of the sinister cult who betrayed him. This evil cabal seeks to capture and control an army of violent spirits. And unless Shane can stop them, they’ll unleash an evil deadlier than anything he has faced before.

But this supernatural conspiracy is bigger than Shane ever imagined. Finding the leader will be hard enough. Killing them may prove to be impossible. As Shane works his way through the ranks, he quickly discovers that his target may not even be alive…

The trail of clues leads to Boston, where Shane must draw upon every ounce of his training and experience.

It will take a miracle for Shane to come out on top.

Will he survive? Or will this be the end of our embattled hero?

195 pages

Chapter 2: The Road Ahead

The alcohol dulled the pain in Shane’s muscles. He followed James through his quiet, old house to a small office space where he kept his accounting and other business-related dealings.

Unlike the rest of the house, this room was devoid of decoration and seemed sterile and uninviting. There were papers and folders organized in cubbies, several file cabinets and boxes, and a computer that looked more than a decade out of date on a plain aluminum desk. It was a room designed for efficiency and little else.

James pulled a folder from one of his cubbies and flipped through a series of invoices and other paperwork until he came upon what he was looking for. He pulled out a small bundle of papers and set them on the desk.

“I have had dealings with several members of the same group, this Endless Night cult. Arthur Hempstead was one, and there are others here, like Wesley Phillips and Carson Bothwell. But when I was hired for this job, the most detailed information was provided by a couple based in Concord who I have known for perhaps five years.”

James shuffled his papers and pulled one out, turning it to face Shane.

“Preston Martell,” Shane said, reading over a handwritten invoice. Martell had purchased a handful of items from James, though they all seemed to be of the boring, everyday variety. Shane had no idea if James invoiced his customers for haunted items and if he did, how he wrote it up in a way that wouldn’t seem absurd to anyone else who might end up reading them. Surely the IRS didn’t know about ghosts and the prices people paid for them.

“His wife Lucy accompanied him to the store and seems intimately aware of the details of what her husband does,” James explained. “Mr. Martell was the chief contact for the purchase of Hempstead’s home after he passed away, and the one with whom I had the most dealings.”

“So, who is he?” Shane asked. James handed him more papers, most of which seemed to cover details of the purchase of Arthur Hempstead’s estate and its transfer to James Moran. There were details in the contract relating to the items that Shane was sent to gather. It was almost laughable to see it written out as a business transaction.

Rich people would do anything for a tax break, it seemed, even documenting their underhanded purchases of haunted items from former cult members.

“Preston Martell is the son of Lawrence and Patricia Martell. You might have heard of them. They made their fortune in sugar, and the family still owns massive plantations. Preston focused most of his business interests on currency exchange. He made an obscene fortune in a single day some years back with a lucky or unlucky turn of the markets.”

“A single day?” Shane asked.

James nodded. “North of two billion, I heard. There was some speculation that perhaps he had acquired some information illegally, but as far as I know, he was never prosecuted for anything. That was quite some time ago.”

“Two billion in one day? Wow,” Shane said, focusing on what seemed like the more bizarre detail.

“In an afternoon,” James corrected. “Since then, he’s dabbled in many ventures. Philanthropy as well. But he has also become a highly motivated collector of haunted items behind the scenes.”

“Hempstead made it clear that the cult was using ghosts to rig the game in its members’ favor. Doing things unseen in the shadows to help make money for these collectors. Maybe that’s how Martell made his big score.”

“I suppose a mole that remains unseen to the general public could help in certain money-making schemes,” the older man conceded. “Regardless, Martell is the likeliest candidate I can think of to point you to the leader of this group. His collection is not what I would consider outstanding, but he is a high man on the totem pole, at least in terms of my dealings. Now that Arthur Hempstead is gone, at any rate.”

Shane nodded, reading over the address on the invoice. Concord was upstate, maybe a half-hour’s drive from Nashua. Nice place with lots of history, but not where he expected to find a villainous billionaire with an army of ghosts and a cult of murderous rich people at his beck and call.

“You don’t think this guy is the cult leader,” Shane said. He realized as he said it that he was not asking a question. James shook his head.

“I don’t. Preston Martell seems astute enough as a businessman, and he’s generally pleasant to deal with. But I don’t get a sense from him that he’s quite so... powerful?”

“Another cog in the machine,” Shane offered.

“Likely. But closer to the top than the others I could name for you. I think he’s the likeliest bet for finding what you need. His family’s money is older than the others. And I gathered when I first met him that he had knowledge of ghosts for some time. It seemed a bit like old hat to him. So, he might have been in the game for a while.”

“What’s in his collection?”

James pursed his lips and thought for a moment.

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