Authors: James P. Sumner
BOOK 4 IN THE ADRIAN HELL SERIES
JAMES P. SUMNER
First published in Great Britain in 2015.
Copyright © James P. Sumner 2015
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
I’m lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. Outside, the morning light is gradually getting brighter, shining through the thin curtains at my bedroom window. I glance over at the clock on my bedside table. It’s almost six a.m.
I rub my eyes, clearing them of any grit, and look to my right. The woman next to me is lying on her back. The thin bed sheet at her waist; her exposed breasts slowly rising and falling with each breath as she sleeps. I look farther down the bed, following the sheet as it rests gently over her naked body.
I smile to myself and look back at the ceiling, thinking how lucky I am. My mind flicks to the checklist of things I need to do this morning and, after a few minutes of thinking, I come to the conclusion that I’m not going to get any more sleep, so I may as well make a start. I throw the cover back and swing my legs over the side of the bed, sitting there momentarily before standing and padding across the carpet, over to the bathroom.
A few minutes later, I come back out, feeling more refreshed and wide-awake. I walk over to the nightstand and put my jeans on. As I move to the dresser to get a new T-shirt out of the drawer, a voice disturbs me.
“Hey, sexy,” says Tori. “Where d’you think you’re going?”
I smile at her. “Sorry,” I reply. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
She smiles back. “You didn’t. What time is it?”
“Just after six.”
“You’re up early…?”
“Couldn’t sleep,” I shrug.
“You have the nightmare again?”
I take a deep breath and nod silently.
For the past couple of years, I’ve rarely slept more than a couple of hours a night. I keep having the same recurring nightmare. The nightmare itself is different each time, in terms of where I am and who’s with me. But what happens is always the same. Whoever’s with me is in trouble, and they’re screaming for me to help them. I reach out, with every intention of rescuing them, but all of a sudden, a gun appears in my hand, and I shoot them instead of saving them. As they die, their skin falls off their body, and the skeleton falls to the floor. I look down and see that I’m walking through a graveyard, and as far as the eye can see in every direction is a field of bones, with a river of blood flowing through it. I want to escape it, but I sink into the ground as I try to run. As my body disappears completely, that’s when I wake up, covered in sweat.
The same dream, every night.
“Come here,” she says.
I walk back over to the bed and sit down on the edge. She moves over to me and puts her arms around my waist, pressing herself against my back and squeezing gently. I put my hand on her arm and smile.
Tori Watson is beautiful. She’s thirty-five years old, but could easily pass for ten years younger. She has an incredible body, and I know every man in town has a crush on her. She has these captivating brown eyes, and a smile that can light up the room. Her long, curly hair is flame red and rests on her shoulders. She’s absolutely flawless, and I have no idea how I’ve managed to get a woman like her. But I’m sure as hell not complaining.
She kisses my back. “It’s okay, they’re just dreams, Adrian,” she says.
I turn to look at her, gazing into her eyes, before smiling and leaning in to kiss her soft lips. It feels like kissing heaven itself, each and every time. After a moment’s embrace, she pulls away, a mischievous look on her pretty face.
“You don’t gotta rush away just yet, do you?” she asks.
“I can spare a few minutes for you, I’m sure,” I reply, smiling.
She pulls me on top of her, and we kiss and laugh like people in love ought to, as we do what people in love do best.
A few minutes turn into twenty, but I eventually get dressed and head downstairs while Tori takes a shower.
I live in the apartment above the bar that I own, which I’ve named The Ferryman. I love running the place, and it’s the most popular drinking establishment in town. The locals are great, and the out-of-towners we get passing through are nearly always friendly. I’ve made the place look exactly the way I think the perfect bar should look like. After all, it’s not like I’m short of capital to invest in it. It’s the kind of place I’d go and drink in. Pool tables, good beer, a jukebox full of classic rock music, and saloon style doors, like in the Old West.
I suppose at this point, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’ve been up to since you last saw me, so let me fill in some of the gaps for you as best I can…
It’s been two-and-a-half years since I killed Wilson Trent and Jimmy Manhattan. I spent a week or so afterward trying to go about my business as I always used to—working with Josh and killing people for money—but it didn’t last. By finally putting my family to rest, I managed to bury my demons at the same time. I had no reason, and more importantly, no desire, to keep killing people after that. I had a quarter of a billion dollars in my bank account and absolutely nothing to do. I talked things over with Josh, and he was genuinely happy for me that I’d reached this place in my life.
But, he explained that while he felt the same way about our old job as I did, he needed a new challenge. He wasn’t ready to give up and retire just yet. We’d shaken hands and parted company and, while we still speak occasionally over the phone, I haven’t seen him since that day. I think of him often, but at the moment, we simply live in different worlds. I don’t know what he’s doing, and I suspect he not only doesn’t know what I’ve been up to, but he wouldn’t believe me if I told him, either.
I came here, to Devil’s Spring, Texas and bought this property, turning it into The Ferryman. It took me six months, but the unlimited budget helped, and it didn’t take long to start doing really well.
It’s where I’d met Tori. She applied for a waitressing job a couple of weeks after I opened. She was just great, and she made me laugh. I loved the fact that I was starting over, y’know… she didn’t know me—she didn’t know Adrian Hell. She only knew the guy who was new in town and had recently opened the bar, and I liked that. We got on really well and soon became friends.
One night, after she’d been working for me a few weeks, a couple of guys came into the bar. They were loud and drunk, and one of them used to date Tori. It had ended months before, but the guy seemingly had trouble letting go. And don’t get me wrong, I could understand
a guy would find it hard moving on from a woman like Tori, but causing trouble in my bar was something I couldn’t tolerate. I gave them a warning to calm down when they got a bit rowdy with some of my locals, but then Tori went to collect their glasses and one of them grabbed her, started hurting her and shouting at her, calling her names.
For a brief moment, the old
came back. I walked over to them, dropped the guy who had hold of her with a couple of well-placed punches, then threw him and his friend out on the street, with the clear warning never to set foot in my bar again, unless they had an overwhelming urge to vacate this mortal coil.
I’d taken Tori into the back to see if she was alright. She’d slapped me across the face, angry that I’d stood up for her, and insistent that she could handle herself. I’d told her I had no doubt that she could, but the gentleman and proprietor in me felt compelled to step in, and if she had a problem with that, it was tough. She’d smiled, then we’d kissed, and two years later, we’re living together above the bar.
As I walk into the bar, I hear the yawn, stretch, and scratching of claws on wood as Styx stands and walks over to me.
Styx is my dog. He’s a big, white-gray husky wolf. He was a stray who had randomly wandered into my bar one night as I was closing up. I remember looking at him, watching as he stood his ground and bared his teeth, snarling at me. But I did nothing. I just stared back at him. I let him see the animal that once lived beneath the surface, and he’d soon backed down. He’d lay motionless and let me approach him and stroke his head. I then gave him a bowl of water, and he’d licked my hand as a thank you. And he’d never left.
I’d spent some time trying to train him, but it hadn’t been necessary. I don’t know how old he is or where he came from, but he’s a helluva good dog, and intensely loyal to me. It was like we’re kindred spirits, or something. He sleeps in the bar at night, and sits in the corner by the door when we’re open for business. The locals were scared of him at first, but soon learned to love him. They know he’s placid and friendly, as long as they’re respectful. Any trouble in the bar, and he’ll chase you out in a heartbeat.
He strolls over, rubbing his head against my leg and looking up at me with his tongue hanging out of his mouth. I lean down and pat his head.
“Hey boy,” I say. “Quiet night?”
He barks once and walks off into the back, where his water bowl is. I need to remember to buy him some more food later…
I stand near the bar, looking out at the room. The doors are over to the left. The open expanse of the bar area is quiet, with chairs stacked upside down on tables. The lights above the pool tables are off, as is the jukebox against the right wall, just before the restrooms.
I reach behind me and feel for the light switch just inside the door to the back room. I flick it on and the bar lights up. I smile to myself, like a proud father as I walk over to the doors to unlock the shutter and raise it, ready for the day ahead.