The Leviathan: The Bell Witch Series Book 5
The Leviathan: The Bell Witch Series Book 5
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These survivors must confront the darkest secrets of their past…
Beaten, bloodied, and barely alive, the survivors of Black River’s cursed families have been cut off from their bloodlines for violating old traditions. But they continue their battle to end the evil of the Bell Witch and release the town from her reign of terror.
Pursued by the witch’s minions, the group takes shelter in the Leviathan, an abandoned opera house built a century ago. Its corridors exude supernatural power, and they soon discover that the haunted old building was designed for a very special purpose… to trap the Bell Witch within its walls.
But something else lurks within the ancient structure, something they never imagined in their darkest nightmares. And as the enemies close in, one of the survivors must risk their life in a devil’s bargain with this sinister presence.
Or none of them will survive the night…
Cussing under her breath, Mina Crane contemplated throwing her buzzing cell phone across the room. She jabbed at the touch screen that refused to recognize her fire-ravaged fingers. In a last desperate attempt, she coated her finger with her kneadable eraser. She was both relieved and insulted that it actually worked.
“Hello? I’m here.”
“Is everything all right?” Ha-Yun Davis asked instantly.
Mina tried to keep concern out of her voice, but it still seeped into the words. “I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?”
Even though she was in a relatively abandoned part of the library, Mina kept her voice to a whisper. “Yes. I misplaced my stylus and my fingers just aren’t cutting it.”
Ozzie’s parents had followed through on their threat and, for the first time in her life, Mina had been grounded. At times, it struck her as strange to be a college student subjected to punishment by her friend’s parents. Then she recalled that her own family had disowned her, and she was currently freeloading off the Davis family’s hospitality. It cleared the situation up quite effectively. Without them, she wouldn’t have survived the ‘accident’, let alone retained her grade point average in her classes during the aftermath. Without them and the professors who had customized an online program for her to take while recovering, she would have been thrown far from her life plan. She wasn’t sure how she could have taken that if it had happened and could only be grateful for everyone’s help.
Nervously, Mina fussed with the books before her. The sketches of trials and torture had become so commonplace in her research that she was able to mindlessly flip through the pages. She was systematically working her way through every library, bookshop, and historical research center in Dallas. It was humbling how little progress she’d made in researching witchcraft. There was simply too much cultural interference. She ran into brick walls every time she tried to sort reality from fiction.
After the normal questions about her health, the conversation turned to Mina’s curfew. She hadn’t realized how much time had passed until Ha-Yun mentioned it. Thirty minutes until I’m supposed to be through the door. The moment of panic about getting the bus back in time was swiftly swept aside when she recalled the second condition for her parole. Mr. and Mrs. Davis had agreed to let her leave the house so long as she only traveled using a town car service they had organized.
“I’ll let the driver know I’m on my way once I hang up. I hope the poor guy got a coffee or something.”
At this point, he would have been waiting for Mina outside of the university library for several hours.
“He’s still on the clock, dear. I’m sure he’s fine,” Ha-Yun said. “Now, you remember our deal. If you are a second late, you can kiss your privileges goodbye for another week.”
“Well? Get moving.” After a pause, Ha-Yun added a far more affectionate farewell and swiftly hung up.
Mina began to pack her belongings into her satchel. Her muscles protested after sitting too long, and her prosthetic leg chaffed against the stump of her leg. Enough time had passed for her to now have an idea of what the rest of her life was going to be like. The witch fire had left damage that was never going to heal, and there was only so much cosmetic surgery she could stand to have. Scar tissue still covered the vast majority of her body, and, while her face drew attention, the skin grafts had made it possible for her to get by without scaring small children. That was enough for her.
Working the satchel strap onto her shoulder, Mina gathered the other books and started through the stacks to return them. Classes were still in session, ensuring that only the main rooms of the library were populated. Since some colleges restricted access to their law libraries to their own students and members of the bar, Mina had been able to avoid talking to anyone. Having melted skin covering the majority of her body proved useful in this regard. While people noticed her, they were hesitant to question her about anything. Perhaps because they feared the wrong question might slip out. So far, their mutually ignorant cohabitation was working well for all concerned. Mostly herself.
It was relaxing to be within the rows of case law after days of delving into Wicca and Witchcraft. Like a touchstone of sanity that let her regain her bearings. Legends might change over time, added to and polished to better entertain their audiences, but law kept to statements of facts. It was a welcome respite to read about witch trials in the same emotionless clarity, even if hindsight had drawn some of the ‘facts’ into question. If nothing else, the witness lists left a paper trail. And given time, determination, and perhaps an unhealthy amount of obsession, she was determined to use these to track Caroline Winthrop.
As a child, Cadwyn’s ancestor had sent Katrina Hamilton to the noose. Her testimony had been the final, critical blow that ended Katrina’s reign of terror upon the Bell family. At least, the one she had raged as a flesh and blood woman. No one could have anticipated what Katrina would become after her death. In turn, Mina doubted that Katrina had realized what her torture would turn Caroline into. A witch hunter. If the rumors were in any way accurate. Mina contemplated the thought as she shelved another book. And if they bothered to credit a woman with any of it. From the trials she had read so far, the few witch hunters that the courts acknowledged were men. She forced another book into place as the thought struck her. Even if they didn’t give her credit, the town would have paid her, and there would be a record of that. It was another thing to add to the list of starting points that would likely lead nowhere.
Balancing the stack in the crook of one arm, she trailed down the mostly abandoned aisle. Few people had need or interest for long-abandoned 1600s laws. There was something satisfying in sliding the books back into their place amongst their brethren. A particularly large book slipped from her fingers to flop loudly against the floor. With a stifled sigh, she awkwardly crouched down to collect it. Her eyes lingered on the old sketch in the bottom right-hand corner, depicting the admittedly strange trial of a witch’s familiar. Generally, the animals accused of such activity were either omitted altogether or appeared nonchalantly in the dissolution of property paperwork. For reasons she couldn’t fathom, this particular mastiff had been given a public execution.
Her searching hand jerked back when the pages suddenly thrashed as if pushed by an unfelt wind. It settled on a court depiction of an execution by fire and Mina paused. Fire was more of a European thing. In America, hanging was the preferred method of execution. The monochrome image filled Mina’s mind, chasing out everything else until all she saw was the agony and fear sketched into the woman’s face. Mina knew intimately what it was like to burn. When she had thrown herself into Whitney’s ritual fire, with the bones of the Bell Witch lodged within her gut, she had thought she was going to her death. She had prayed for it before long. Memories consumed her as phantom flames sparked across her skin. Heated air surrounded her, making her lungs blister and burn with every breath. She had never known how loud a fire could be. It had drowned out even her screams. But I survived. Mina used the thought as a shield against the onslaught of memories. I survived. And I’m not the same as I was. Mentally or physically.
Protected by the thought, Mina whispered, “I’m fireproof.”
The night in a hotel, when a mysterious hag had tried to murder her in her bed, Mina had spontaneously combusted. Flames had come from within and destroyed everything around her. But she had been left unharmed. Even her prosthetic melting against her skin hadn’t been enough to leave a mark. It wasn’t something she could summon or control. Despite her best efforts to scientifically examine the phenomena, she couldn’t replicate the conditions. It had only happened twice, both times when she was fearing for her life. Swallowing thickly, she lifted her gaze to the ceiling, hoping to find an elaborate and fully functioning sprinkler system. Unwilling to yield to her growing fear, Mina smirked, mimicking the cocky disinterest Basheba Bell had whenever threatened.
“You’re going to have to get more creative.”
The pages flipped again when she reached out to take it. A second later, it settled, revealing an image that was printed across both pages. Not a witch trial. She knew the technique of werewolf interrogation from the fringes of her research. Movement suddenly entered the picture, like a moment in time playing out before her eyes. The inquisitor dragged a knife over the captive’s flesh, slicing off large patches to search for the layer of fur believed to lie beneath. Blood coursed from the wound, thick and red, welling until it dripped from the pages and stained the carpet. The captive bucked wildly and screamed, though she couldn’t hear any of it. Couldn’t do anything but watch as the image turned to face her. Jeremiah! She slammed the book closed, sparing herself the image of her brother being tortured.
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