Authors: Thomas E. Sniegoski
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban
“The most inventive novel you’ll buy this year . . . by turns funny, unsettling, and heartbreaking.”
New York Times
bestselling author Christopher Golden
“Tightly focused and deftly handled . . . a smart and playful story.”
“Engagingly believable characters in a series noted for flashes of humor despite its overall serious tone. . . . Followers of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files will enjoy.”
“Engaging [and] tightly written. . . . You won’t find a dull moment.”
Sacramento Book Review
“At turns frightening, tender, heartrending, and full of twists and turns.”
News and Sentinel
“A fun book . . . a thought-provoking book.”
“A very powerful, very personal tale that is equal parts gut-wrenching, heartwarming,and awe-inspiring.”
—The Ranting Dragon
“A fun, fast ride that takes advantage of a strong setting and interesting characters.”
—The Green Man Review
“A treat . . . one of the better noir fantasy–meets–gumshoe detective series on the market today.”
—Monsters and Critics
“Fast-moving, well written, and wonderfully enchanting.”
The Remy Chandler Novels
A Kiss Before the Apocalypse
Dancing on the Head of a Pin
Where Angels Fear to Tread
A Hundred Words for Hate
In the House of the Wicked
In the Midst of Fire
A Deafening Silence in Heaven
THOMAS E. SNIEGOSKI
A ROC BOOK
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
For more information about the Penguin Group visit penguin.com.
First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Copyright © Thomas E. Sniegoski, 2016
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
The demonists /Thomas E. Sniegoski.
“A ROC book.”
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
For the real John Fogg, thanks for the awesome name, and for being such an amazing guy.
John W. Fogg, III 05/14/1948—11/01/2013
Love and gratitude to my lovely wife, LeeAnne, whose help on this book was invaluable. Love and thanks also to Kirby for keeping it real, and making my office smell so sweet.
Special thanks to my brother from another mother, Christopher Golden, the amazing Jessica Wade, Ginjer Buchanan, Jim Moore, Howard Morhaim, Kate Schafer Testerman, Nicole Scopa, Frank Cho, Thomas Fitzgerald, Dale Queenan, Larry Johnson, Pam Daley, Mom Sniegoski, Dave Kraus (gone, but never far from my heart), Kathy Kraus, and the demonically infested down at Cole’s Comics in beautiful Lynn, Massachusetts.
It’s a lovely day for an exorcism!
Nine years ago
ohn Fogg preferred the company of ghosts.
Although he appeared perfectly relaxed at the podium in front of the standing-room-only crowd, he would much rather have been prowling the shadows of an abandoned insane asylum in search of vengeful spirits, or listening for the sound of a ghostly child’s laughter near a Tennessee lake notorious for the lives it had claimed through the centuries.
He had spent the last ten years of his life traveling the world and studying the weird, the unusual, the paranormal, his eyes opened to a secret reality of wonders, and the potential for great danger. Some of the
he had discovered did not care to be looked upon, and sought to close his eyes—permanently. But John Fogg had also learned to fight back. From the myriad faiths of the world and their most holy, he was taught the sacred rituals of banishment, of exorcism, and the demonic entities that roamed the planet unseen, un-believed in, learned to fear him.
He was promoting his latest book,
Spirits Around Us
, regaling the audience with a tale of poltergeist activity in the Philippines that had sent his jeep plunging into the jungle and nearly cost him his life. With a smile, he informed the group that both he and his driver had survived the crash with only minor bumps and bruises, and that their mysterious accident had more to do with poor automobile maintenance than the angry machinations of spirit creatures.
The crowd laughed, and some applauded as Fogg’s eyes darted down to the Cartier watch on his wrist. Thankfully, it was time to wrap up and deliver his trusty catch phrase.
“I’d like to thank you all for coming tonight,” he said, smiling appreciatively, briefly making eye contact with as many as he could of those crowded into the main floor of the large bookstore. “And ask you to remember . . . that the world is a far stranger place than you realize.”
He paused, feeling their anticipation. He could see some of their mouths begin to move, reciting what had become his signature signoff. It would have made his Nana beam.
“From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us. Thank you, and good night.”
The room erupted in applause, and he offered a wave and a smile as the store manager approached to escort him to the autograph area set up in the back of the store. She was an older, blond woman wearing an oversize sweatshirt with a cat on the front, but it wasn’t she who caught his attention as he was about to turn away from the lectern.
From the corner of his eye, he saw another woman, and was compelled to look back.
She was sitting in the center of the room, and he was surprised that he hadn’t noticed her earlier. She was stunning, with skin like porcelain, and hair as dark a black as he had ever seen. She wore black jeans and a gray T-shirt with the yellow and black Batman symbol emblazoned upon her chest. It was her eyes that captured him, holding his gaze—even at this distance he could see that they were the most striking shade of icy blue.
She realized that he was staring at her, and raised her hand. “Mr. Fogg,” she called out.
John gently pulled his arm from his escort’s grasp, and lifted his eyebrows to acknowledge the young woman. “Is there something I can do for you?” Her eyes reminded him of Arctic ice, but they had a warmth that drew him in.
She gave him a smile, and it was something John wouldn’t have minded seeing again, and again.
“I’d like to thank you for dragging the science of parapsychology out of the darkness and into the mainstream.” She held up a copy of his first book,
, as a smattering of applause broke out from those who had stopped to listen to their exchange.
He acknowledged her thanks with another smile and a nod.
“However, you did write something to which I take great offense.” She flipped through the book, a piece of paper she’d used to mark her page fluttering to the floor as she began to read aloud. “‘I have never encountered a medium who was able to convince me that his/her talents were genuine. Sure, there were the occasional few who offered interesting information that proved semiuseful to an investigation, but I remain unconvinced that most so-called mediums have a direct line to the spirit realm, as so many claim.’” She closed the book and placed it beneath her arm. “I realize it’s been some years since you wrote those words, but do you still feel that’s true?”
Fogg chuckled nervously. “Why do I get the feeling that I’m being set up?”
The young woman smiled again. “Not setting you up, Mr. Fogg. Just looking for an answer.”
“Okay,” he said slowly, buying himself some time by stepping forward to the first row of chairs. “How shall I word this?” He considered what he was about to say, then took a deep breath. “Since that book was written, I must say that I’ve had many more relatively successful encounters with mediums.” He paused again. “But I’m still not convinced,” he finished.
“Not convinced, even though you admit you’ve had successful encounters since—”
successful,” John interrupted. “Mediums have accompanied me on cases and shared that ghostly entities were sad, or that their name was Frank, or that they wanted us to leave a particular location.”
“But that’s not enough for you.”
Fogg shook his head. “No, not really.”
“Do you believe that those messages, no matter how inconsequential you feel they are, came from spirits inhabiting those areas?”
“I believe that some people are more adept at picking up random signals—like tuning in a weak radio station. They are able to catch words, phrases, names here and there, but are they actually communicating with the spirit world? No, I don’t think so.”
“So you wouldn’t call those people mediums?”
“Not in the true sense, no,” Fogg said. “They are more than entitled to call themselves what they like, but I’m looking for the precise definition of the word—someone who has the ability to converse with spirits just as
are talking right now.”
“So those who pick up these . . . sporadic signals,” the woman continued to press. “In your mind, they haven’t really earned the title of medium.”
“No,” John admitted, then placed a hand on his chest. “But that’s just me.”
The woman nodded, ever so slightly, then turned to leave. “Thank you,” she said.
“Excuse me,” Fogg called out as she stepped into the center aisle. “I didn’t catch your name.”
She stopped. “You didn’t ask me.”
“What is your name?”
“Theodora, Theodora Knight.”
The name was familiar, and then it dawned on him. “Your mother wouldn’t happen to be Agatha Knight?”
“As a matter of fact, she is,” Theodora replied.
“Ah, now I see.” He slipped his hands into his pockets.
“Do you, Mr. Fogg?”
“John,” he corrected.
“All right, John,” she said. “What is it you see?”
“I see the daughter of one of the world’s preeminent mediums, come to defend her mother’s honor.”
“My mother’s honor is perfectly fine,” Theodora retorted.
A few years before, Agatha Knight had appeared with John on a network news segment that focused on the paranormal. She had refused to show off her supposed psychic ability, then stormed off the set when pressed. The incident had done little to change his opinion of mediums, and their oft unreliable talents.
“Remember, it was she who refused . . .”
“My mother didn’t feel that it was polite to relay information that wasn’t meant for public knowledge,” Theodora told him. “So she said nothing.”
“In other words, the spirits didn’t want to talk to her?”
“I’m sure your grandmother would have conversed with her just fine, only what she had to say wasn’t for common consumption.”
“My grandmother?” John asked, startled, an uneasy smile on his face.
“Your grandmother,” Theodora confirmed. “She wanted to speak with someone that night, but it wasn’t my mother, and it wasn’t a television audience.”
John chuckled. “Okay, so who was she there to speak with, if not a medium of your mother’s reputation?”
“Before your segment, my mother was supposed to participate in a separate story involving the passing down of psychic gifts. I was to be with her that night, but I was feeling a bit under the weather—a stomach thing, not very pleasant.”
“So it was you my grandmother wanted to talk with?”
“That’s right.” Theodora’s icy blue gaze bored into him as she cocked her beautiful head slightly to one side.
John suddenly felt a familiar chill, and his spine straightened. “Is my grandmother here now?”
“And is she speaking with you?”
“And is that something you might share with me?”
Theodora turned and headed up the aisle toward the front of the book store. “She said you should take that stick out of your ass,” she tossed over her shoulder with a laugh.
Fogg couldn’t help laughing as well. “Is that it?”
The young woman stopped but didn’t turn to face him. “And that you should offer me a job on your television show.”
“That hasn’t even been announced yet,” he said, taken aback.
“Well, after it is, your grandmother thinks you should offer me a job.”
“And what exactly would you be doing on my show?”
Theodora turned and stared at him with a dumfounded expression. “You know, I was hesitant to agree with her, but now I see that she’s right.”
John began to walk toward Theodora.
“You really aren’t the sharpest crayon in the box.” She shook her head and pushed through the doors, out of the store and into the night.
Fogg chuckled. That box-of-crayons analogy was something his grandmother had often used to describe members of their family.
But she’d never used it to describe him.
He stood for a moment, staring at his reflection in the bookstore’s glass doors. Maybe this time she was right.
His musings were interrupted as the manager in the cat sweatshirt eagerly grasped his arm and directed him to the back of the store where a line had formed in front of a long table piled high with his latest work. Apologizing profusely, he allowed her to lead him behind the table to greet his fans, making a mental note to call his producer at the Spirit Network in the morning.
How about we add a medium to the show?