Soul Taker: Mortlake Series Book 4
Soul Taker: Mortlake Series Book 4
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Marcus Mortlake’s greatest fear has returned…
For paranormal investigator Marcus Mortlake, the never-ending battle against the supernatural has taken a heavy toll. Despite celebrating another birthday and finding himself in a romantic relationship, he can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong…
Then he sees a phantasmal figure from his wounded past. Is it just a restless spirit? Or a harbinger of an ancient evil, lingering in the woods of his childhood home? When the ghost of another old friend appears with dire warnings, Mortlake can no longer ignore the signs.
A terrifying nightmare from Mortlake’s past haunts the streets. And its victims are the most innocent of all—young children. Mortlake is determined to put a stop to it before any more blood is spilled. But when all his knowledge and weapons prove useless, Mortlake realizes that his own fractured memories may be the key to stopping this sinister monster.
And unless Mortlake can unravel the secret in time, an even darker power will be unleashed upon the world…
Mortlake dreamed and knew he was dreaming.
He was close by the Devil’s Darts, the ancient jagged stones protruding from deep snow like broken fangs. They loomed in the field just beyond the garden, over the hedge. Marcus, tiny in an oversized coat, was building a snowman. His mother was helping, but not too much, letting her son shape a small lopsided creation.
“It’s very good, poppet,” she said, smiling down at him. “I’ll go and get a carrot for his nose.”
Little Marcus nodded astutely. He had a picture book about making a snowman. He had already got two lumps of coal from the shed and made them into the snowman’s eyes. Also, one of his father’s old scarves was wound around its neck. He continued to pat the snowman into shape with eager mittened hands. He wished his mother would hurry up with the carrot nose.
Then he heard a voice. It was deep, rumbling, and impatient. It was his father. He couldn’t make out the words or his mother’s reply. But he had heard such exchanges many times. He knew his father’s books were very important, and sometimes, there were things in newspapers called reviews that made him angry. His mother’s voice sounded again, placatory and soothing. The voices faded and the front door of the house swung shut, moved by a chill breeze.
Marcus hesitated. He suddenly felt very alone in the garden. The village was out of sight, its location revealed only by a few columns of smoke from chimneys. And he sensed someone watching him. The sun was setting over the woods, and the December sky was lurid with reds and purples.
Music sounded, remote and at times, almost inaudible. It seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere, the sound at once close and nearby. It was as if the sunset, the woods, the snowy landscape itself was haunted by it. He turned his head, trying to locate the source of the mysterious melody. It faded. Another gust of chill winter wind blew through the snowbound garden.
Don’t go, Mortlake urged his young self. Don’t listen, just run to the house! Run!
Twilight had begun to silver the landscape. Again, the boy heard the strange melodic noise in a minor key. It was beautiful, and rather sad, at first. Then it changed, and music somehow became speech. The words were seductive and frightening at the same time. Marcus knew that he should turn around, leave the snowman unfinished, and go inside. But he was enchanted and felt himself starting to walk to the garden gate.
“Marcus! Mar-cus! Come and see what I’ve got for you! Come and play in the woo-oods! Come with me and we’ll make a wonderful snowmaaan!”
The watcher knew his name. Marcus wished his mother would come back. He wished he could stop his hand reaching out and unlatching the gate. He wished that he could stop himself from walking out across the field, toward the hummock of the ancient mound, toward the fangs of stone. He stared down at his bright red rubber boots, willing them to stop. But they continued to crunch a trail in the crisp new-fallen snow.
The Devil’s Darts loomed closer. To his right lay Staley Woods. To the left, Hurleygreen’s Hole. The strange fluting voice faded then grew louder. Words shifted to musical notes and back again. He heard his mother now, calling his name. But her voice seemed very faint. The strange musical tones of the new voice were much stronger, filling his head with echoes.
“Marcus, Marcus, come with me! Come and play in the woods!”
A tall figure was striding past the stones, away from Hurleygreen’s Hole, approaching him diagonally as he trudged onward. It loomed closer as the light faded fast. Marcus, now quivering with fear, did not dare look at it full in the face. Above its brow, he could make out a crown made of woven branches of evergreen, interspersed with bright autumn leaves. The striding figure filled the entire world and huge hands lifted him onto its shoulder.
“Marcus, Marcus,” it whispered as it carried him away with huge strides. “I will take you to the wildwood, the winter wood, deep among the trees, where you can play forever with the other lost children. The lost children live forever. They never grow up, they never grow old—isn’t that wonderful, Marcus?”
The boy wanted to say that he wasn’t lost and he did want to grow up, but he found he could not speak. The wild logic of his nightmare had silenced him, stopped the cry for help. Terror mingled with confusion.
Again, he heard his mother calling him, her voice tinged with panic now
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