Authors: Steven Bannister
|Fade to Black|
Allie St Clair doesn't fit in at New Scotland Yard.
Hailing from a background of conspicuous wealth and privilege, she is gorgeous, Cambridge-educated and has just been fast-tracked to be the youngest woman promoted to acting Detective Chief Inspector in the history of the Metropolitan Police.
Her battle for acceptance at The Met is overshadowed by a bizarre and supernatural twist as a wave of sickening crimes sweeps London.
Dark forces older than time and family connections to The Archangel Michael, hurl her into a race from London to ancient Glastonbury to find the murderer and rescue a young police officer from a horrible death.
The ancient game of good versus evil is played out against the backdrop of the sinister Glastonbury Tor with devastating results for Allie and her family.
Her life is changed forever as she discovers why she alone has been chosen to partner with The Archangel to combat the satanic Mr Black.
Discover the gripping debut novel from Steven Bannister - the first in a series of tales that will explore the age-old mystery surrounding good versus evil from a number of perspectives.
Copyright 2012 © Steven Bannister
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
Bringing Fade to Black to life has been a singular experience. Since climbing up the slick, grassy side of a strange bump in the Somerset landscape some years ago—not knowing at the time that it was the legendary Tor and that regular flat spots I encountered as I ascended were tracks made by the Druids of antiquity—I suspect I was destined to write this story. Like the
Basilique du Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, something of influence dwells there.
My thanks go to my family for their support during the writing process. My gratitude also to website and cover designer extraordinaire Simon Brooke of Tiger Media, Claire, Dom, Sharon and Kim (collectively, ‘The Lab Rats,’ if you will) for their honest feedback and encouragement along the way. Finally, many thanks to ‘Amy the Eye,’ whose keen editing, sense of humour and super enthusiasm made editing fun. Be warned, it won’t be long before we go through all this again.
Cave diabolus redit
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 1Peter 5:8-9
Glastonbury, southern England
Eighty-seven-year-old Albert Mortlock shuffled once more from the bench in his tiny farmhouse kitchen to his living room. His hip reconstruction from four years ago had not yet healed. An over-full teapot in hand, he sank with a low groan into his favorite chair, a 1931 chesterfield original.
It had commanded the corner of the room by the wooden-framed window since the day it had been delivered. Like its owner, it was cracked and grey with thin, leathery skin bulging in the wrong places. It had been his father’s chair and Albert had been forbidden to sit in until his father had passed away. Fifty-one years he had waited, but that was his father—rules were rules. He frequently found himself thinking about his father and how hard he had made his life and Albert’s. He kept fretting over how it wouldn’t be long before he joined his father in that other world. And he had no desire to see the bastard again.
The fiddly, time-stained glass panels of the window ushered in the yellow, bright summer moon, by whose light he could see his roses in full white and red bloom. He admitted that even pruning his ‘babies’ had become more challenge than pleasure these days.
The tiny parcel of land upon which the cottage Albert had inherited stood had been part of a much larger farm that, according to family legend, had been owned by the Mortlocks, under one name or another since the Middle Ages. The landholding had once stretched across the marshes to the foot of Wearyall Hill. But that was history. Albert was happy enough with the acre that had been left to him. The cottage perched on slightly higher ground here in Ashwell Lane near Stone Down met all of his modest needs.
Albert looked past the roses to the slight hump in the neglected lawn, accentuated in the evening light and which he alone knew marked his wife’s grave. Forty-six years later, the grass was still a little greener there under the willow tree where Marion was buried. He mentally approved the view but thought for perhaps the hundredth time that his father really should have dug a little deeper.
German-born Marion had insulted them publicly one too many times, and his father, a World War I veteran, had finally snapped. He shivered at the memory and adjusted the faded wool rug around his knees—even in summer, he needed an extra layer. Whenever he thought of Marion, and it was quite often these days, he thought about his son. He had been put up for adoption at just six months old after his mother had ‘mysteriously run out’ on them. Albert had been known to speculate along with the townsfolk about where she could have run off to and with whom. Had even one of them bothered to visit him at Ashwell Lane, they would have discovered the truth.
The years had passed, and the townspeople he had known had all died, and now there was nobody around who remembered he had even been married. He had never heard from his son, and that was fine with him. The child had probably been spared the same fate as his mother. He reached to pour himself the fresh brew, spilling some of the hot, weak liquid on his rug. He puffed a little more than usual at the effort—his emphysema from a lifetime of pipe smoking was now poised to claim his lungs.
Lifting the hot tea and blowing gently on it as he always did, he turned to look up through the larger window at a view of which he never tired. Glastonbury Tor rose almost from his backyard, and from this vantage point, it seemed to touch the now fully-risen gibbous moon. He saw it then. An intense, crimson light hovered directly above the tower at the summit of the Tor. It remained for a few more seconds, as he knew it would, and descended the side of the Tor nearest his cottage. A ripple of anticipation teased him as it crept steadily towards him. Albert had not expected to ever see the light again, but he knew now that his years of mumbled prayers had been answered. Albert’s father, his grandfather and all his ancestors stretching back a thousand years had seen the light and played their role. Albert was not about to break that tradition.
That light, Albert
, lived forever. He waited calmly for it to come to him. It arrived at his window, pulsating as per the ritual. As was expected, he rose to his feet, clutching at the arm of the chesterfield as he did so. He faced the light directly and bowed to it. After a moment, the light stopped pulsating and grew impossibly,
bright before moving steadily away across his back garden to the west. Albert stood for a few more moments, then maneuvered himself easily back into his chair—his hip perfectly functional, the emphysema in his lungs banished for his remaining years. He had, like the men in his family, in exchange for physical redemption, given permission to the crimson light—to
—to live among mortals once again.
Albert knew that, as a consequence of his actions, ordinary, decent, men, women and children would forfeit their lives in unimaginable,
ways until permission was withdrawn from the light. The townsfolk had come to know him as the kindly old gentleman who had served so earnestly in the Glastonbury General post office for nearly seventy years and to whom they had once given a civic service award—but he knew the truth—he was a killer—just like his father.
: BBC Four, Roseanne Palmer
‘Once again, Glastonbury Tor has excited paranormal fever in Britain. It seems that on Saturday and again last night, strange lights were seen ‘orbiting’ the Tor and 14th century St Michael’s Tower which sits at its peak. A flood of calls on both nights to Glastonbury’s Centre for Paranormal Studies has experts again scratching their heads. According to the reports, reddish lights were seen hovering above the Tor on Monday night at 10:14 pm and exactly 24 hours later, an intense white-blue light appeared. According to many the lights seemed to actually
the tower. Earlier today, Rector of Glastonbury Abbey, Reverend Nevin Creeley, dismissed the sightings as ‘over active ‘imaginitis’ and reminded everyone that re-runs of the X-files and Alien movies had been screened on free-to-air television this week.’
Palmer to camera left
“In the studio tonight we have arguably Britain’s foremost authority on Celtic myths and legends, Professor David St. Clair.
“Professor, is Reverend Creeley right? Are we looking at a bad case of ‘imaginitis?’
: (laughing) “Well it’s a great word, Roseanne, but I’m not sure it does the good folks of Glastonbury justice.”
: “So you think the strange lights are real then?”
“Well, I understand fifty or so calls have been received—it’s doubtful in my view, at least, that so many people would have been so stimulated by sci-fi movies that they have somehow joined in a mass hallucination.”
: “Interesting—so what could the lights be?”
: “What they could be has been a matter of speculation since the fourth century—that’s how long people have been ascribing mystical powers to the Tor. Of course, that coincides with the new spiritualism and awareness of ‘otherworldly’ possibilities that seemed to take hold at that time—particularly in southern Britain.”