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Authors: Graham Masterton

Tags: #Horror

Fire Spirit

BOOK: Fire Spirit
9.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Recent Titles by Graham Masterton available from Severn House
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Graham Masterton
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
First world edition published 2010
in Great Britain and in the USA by
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2010 by Graham Masterton.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Masterton, Graham.
Fire Spirit.
1. Arson investigation–Fiction. 2. Genetic disorders in children–Fiction. 3. Horror tales.
I. Title
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-100-2    (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6875-6    (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-239-0    (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
hey caught her in the parking lot of Casey's General Store, as she was stowing her shopping in the trunk of her car. It was dark, and raining, and a blustery wind was blowing, so she didn't hear them coming up behind her.
One of them seized her around the neck and clamped his hand over her mouth. She let out a muffled whinny of shock, like a young antelope being pulled down by a lion, but then he dragged her violently backward, away from her car, so that she dropped her bag and her shopping scattered across the ground.
She twisted and struggled, but he was much too strong for her. He forced her across the asphalt, her feet dancing through the puddles, until they reached a black panel van that was parked in the darkest corner of the parking lot, under a broken floodlight.
Another man banged open the van's rear doors. He was wearing a mask, bone-white and totally expressionless. Then yet another man came into her line of sight. He, too, was wearing the same kind of mask, except that his mask was scowling. He held up what looked like a twisted black bandanna in front of her face.
‘Listen to me, young lady,' said the man who was holding her around the neck. His voice was thick and breathy, as if he had asthma, or a heavy cold. ‘We're going to gag you. While we do that, I recommend that you don't try screaming, OK? If you do, we'll hurt you, and that's a promise.'
She tried to jerk her head from side to side, but the man's hand was gripping her jaw so hard that she could barely move it. He was wearing a leather glove and it tasted new and sour.
‘Are you going to keep still?' he asked her. ‘We don't want to hurt you, but we will if we have to.'
!' she protested. She could only breathe in short, shallow snorts and her heart was thumping painfully hard against her ribcage. But she remembered what she had been taught at self-defense classes: if you stand no chance of fighting your way out, it's always safer to give in. The man lifted his hand an inch away from her mouth, let it hover for a moment, and when she didn't scream he said, ‘Good girl, excellent.'
The scowling man immediately pulled the bandanna between her jaws and tied it in two knots behind the back of her head. She swallowed saliva and almost choked herself.
‘Is that hurting you?' asked the first man. She nodded, and made a mewling noise, to tell him that it was, but all he said was, ‘Good. Excellent.'
The expressionless man produced a pair of black nylon handcuffs and looped them around her wrists, zipping them tight. Then the three of them took hold of her together and heaved her bodily on to a blanket in the back of the van. She kicked out at them, catching the scowling man hard in the left hip. He didn't say a word, but roughly pushed her flat on to the floor and seized her ankles, so that the expressionless man could fasten them together with another pair of nylon restraints. The two of them pulled the blanket right over her, and slammed the doors shut. Seconds later, the van's engine started up and it slewed backward out of its parking space. She felt it jolt over the speed-hump across the entrance to the parking lot, and then veer sharply to the left.
She lay in darkness, half-stifled by the blanket, swallowing and swallowing because of the gag. At first she was too shocked to cry. She found it almost impossible to believe that this was actually happening. When she had walked out of Casey's she had been worrying if she had enough crunchy peanut butter at home. Now she didn't know if she was going to live or die.
The van swerved right, and then left, and then right again, and each time she was rolled from one side of the floor to the other.
She couldn't help thinking about her car, with its trunk still wide open and her keys dangling in the door. And then she thought about Heidi and Joanna, who would be home from school in less than twenty minutes. How were they going to get into the house? And who would take care of them if anything happened to her?
How would Daniel take the news? Maybe Daniel didn't love her any more, but they had been married for seven-and-a-half years, and they were still close friends.
The van drove on and on, bumping and swaying, and she began to grow increasingly panicky and claustrophobic. The blanket was coarse and heavy and reeked of cigarette smoke and she found it difficult to breathe. Her jaws ached from the gag, and the nylon restraints were cutting into her wrists and ankles. Her right shoulder was bruised from hitting one of the wheel-arches when she rolled over, and every time the van took a left turn she hit it again.
Now her eyes filled up with tears, and she started to make a thin, repetitive squeaking sound in the back of her throat. She couldn't think why these three men had taken her, or what they could possibly want. It couldn't be for money. Daniel had his own insurance business, but he wasn't wealthy, and neither were her parents.
She closed her eyes so that her wet eyelashes stuck together and she thought of a prayer.
Dear Virgin Mary please please protect me from harm. Dear Virgin Mary please don't let these men hurt me. I don't want to die. Dear Virgin Mary all I want is to go home and hold my children close to me.
The van slowed, and turned, and jolted up and down, and then came to a stop. She lay under the blanket, listening. She heard men's voices, although she couldn't distinguish what they were saying to each other. Then she heard the van's front doors open, and felt the suspension rocking as the men climbed out.
There was more conversation, and then the rear doors opened. One of the men leaned over her and pulled the blanket away from her face. It was the expressionless man.
‘So sorry for the bumpy ride,' he said, but his mouth was only a horizontal slit cut into his mask and so she couldn't tell if he meant it. The only distinctive sound she heard was the way he said ‘sho shorry', with a strong South Philly accent.
‘Hurry it up for Chrissakes,' said the thick-voiced man who had first grabbed hold of her. They pulled her by her ankle restraints out of the back of the van and stood her up on her feet, holding her upper arms to keep her from falling over. Now she saw the thick-voiced man face-to-face for the first time. He was wearing a mask, too, but his mask was laughing. A mad, hysterical laugh, like The Joker.
She twisted her head around, trying to see where she was. The van had parked in the front driveway of a pale green two-story house on some long, straight suburban street which she didn't recognize. There was nobody else in sight. The glistening-wet sidewalks were deserted and the trees were thrashing in the wind with a noise like the ocean.
The scowling man dug his hands under her armpits, while the expressionless man grasped her ankles. Together they lifted her up and carried her toward the house, both of them shuffling crabwise. They climbed the front steps on to the porch, while the laughing man took out his keys and opened the front door.
‘Welcome,' he said, then coughed, and had to stand still for a moment with his fist pressed against his mouth. When he had recovered, he said, ‘Come along in.'
Inside, the house was gloomy and smelled of damp. The laughing man held the front door open while his companions carried her into the hallway and stood her up on her feet again. He went across to an ugly little plywood side-table and switched on a lamp with a naked bulb in it, so that the hallway was filled with harsh white light. Then he closed the front door, and bolt edit, top and bottom.
She stared up at him, her eyes wide. He came close to her and tilted up her chin with his leather-gloved hand.
‘Hey, are you
?' he asked her, in his catarrhal voice. ‘There's nothing worse than feeling helpless, is there? Nothing worse than not knowing what's going to happen to you, neither.'
She looked around, trying to see if there was any other way out. There was a half-open door on her right-hand side, but that looked as if it led only to a living-room. At the far end of the hallway there was another door, blocked with a stack of dining chairs and an ironing-board.
‘Come on through,' said the laughing man. He opened the living-room door and went inside, and the other two men gripped her upper arms and forced her to hop and stumble after him. The living-room was at least thirty feet long, with one wall painted maroon and the other three cream. The smell of damp was just as strong as it had been in the hallway, only there were other smells, too – a
smell, like dried blood; and Raid fly-spray; and curdled milk; and stale cigarette smoke.
On the opposite side of the room there was a rough stone fireplace, its grate clogged with half-burned newspaper and cigarette butts. Above it hung a framed print of a forest in fall. What she found most disturbing, though, was the furniture, what there was of it. Four mismatched armchairs with deeply-soiled upholstery were arranged in each of the four corners of the room, around a stringy, worn-out rug. But in the center of the rug lay a large mattress with striped ticking, and countless stains in the middle of it, some dark, some pale, some that were no more than spatters, others that looked like aerial photographs of dried lake-beds.
The laughing man laid a hand on her shoulder and gave her a pat. ‘It all comes down to this, in the end. Sooner or later, we all end up in hell.'
He nodded to the scowling man, who reached up and loosened the knots at the back of her head. The laughing man tugged the bandanna out of her mouth and dropped it on to the floor. She didn't scream, although she felt like it. She realized that if he had taken the gag off, there was no chance that anybody could hear her. She had seen the empty streets outside. On a wild, wet evening like this, everybody would be sitting indoors in their La-Z-Boys, with a can of beer and a pepperoni pizza and their TV turned up loud.
BOOK: Fire Spirit
9.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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