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Authors: Mark Lukens

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BOOK: The Summoning
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Charlie looked for a few moments, but he still couldn’t see a dog. He even called out to the dog as he looked. “Here, boy. Here, Fido. Spot? Killer? Cujo?”

Amber didn’t think that was funny.

“I don’t see anything,” Charlie said as he walked back towards her. He was still a big man even though he was in his early fifties. He was a hard and practical man; a stray dog probably didn’t scare him, Amber thought.

“Well, he was out there a few minutes ago,” she told him. “I heard him growling.”

“Take a stick with you when you go out there next time,” he said and gave her a sarcastic smile. He shut and locked the back door and then he looked at her. “You get a hold of Gary yet?”

“No,” Amber answered. “He won’t answer his phone. He’s probably drunk anyway.”

Charlie nodded like he knew that already. Gary could drink all he wanted, but he’d never be allowed back in Charlie’s bar again – he had told Amber that plenty of times. “Give me thirty minutes and I’ll give you a ride home.”


Oakland, California

A black Lincoln Continental drove down a crummy neighborhood street, and then it parked in front of Paco’s house. The houses on this street were squeezed in close to each other, and many front lawns had chain-link fences around them. A few of these fenced-in front yards had restless dogs prowling around inside. A group of young men hung out across the street, some of them sitting on the trunk of a car.

Jake shut the car off and pulled the keys out of the ignition. Lita sat next to him in the passenger seat. They got out without a word or even a glance at each other. They stood by the car in the night. They both wore dark clothing and sunglasses. They both had semi-automatic pistols tucked away inside their coats. They walked towards Paco’s house.

Paco, a thin man in his late twenties, waited on his front steps for them. He jumped to his feet when he saw them marching up his walkway. He wiped at his sweaty upper lip with the back of his hand and nodded at them in a greeting.

“Was it Ryan?” Jake asked Paco.

“Yeah,” Paco answered. “That’s why I called you.”

Jake and Lita stood right in front of Paco, very close to him. They stared at him through their dark sunglasses.

“You saw Ryan take your car?” Jake asked.

“No,” Paco answered quickly. “Lester saw it … he saw him do it. He told me about it. And I called you guys right away. I didn’t report it or nothing.”

“That’s good,” Jake purred. “You did real good.”

Paco smiled, and wiped at his face again. “I can get a hold of Lester if you want to talk to him.”

“We’ll talk to Lester soon,” Jake said.

Paco nodded nervously.

Jake reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. “How much do you think your Impala is worth?”

Paco hesitated. “I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Two thousand maybe?”

Jake stood very still.

For a moment, Paco thought he’d overstepped his bounds.

But then Jake finally nodded. “Two thousand, it is.” He counted out the hundred dollar bills quickly without any emotion on his face and handed them to Paco who took the money with his damp hand.

“How did Ryan steal your car?” Jake asked.

“Lester watched him do it,” Paco said quickly. “The doors were unlocked. He watched Ryan get in and look for the spare keys. They were under the floor mat where I always keep them.”

“You leave your spare keys in the car?” Lita asked him. “And your doors unlocked?”

Paco shrugged and gave her a nervous smile.

Lita stared at him. “I guess that’s how cars get stolen.”

“He knew where I kept the keys,” Paco said. “I thought he was a friend. I didn’t think he’d ever steal my car.”

Jake and Lita stared at the man for a long moment.

“I didn’t have anything to do with this,” Paco stammered out. “Whatever Ryan’s gotten himself involved with, I didn’t have anything to do with it.”

Jake and Lita glanced at each other, and then they looked back at Paco.

“Is there anything else that you can think of that could be helpful?” Jake asked. “No matter how insignificant it may seem.”

Paco thought it over for a minute. “Uh … Lester said that Ryan had a duffel bag with him … and he said that Ryan seemed wet. But it wasn’t raining. Hasn’t rained in days. It just seemed odd to Lester, that’s why he told me about it.”

“What about any blood?” Lita asked.

The question seemed to take Paco by surprise. “Blood? What do you mean?”

“Was there any blood in the area where Ryan stole your car?” Jake asked in a calm voice. “Like on the pavement. Drops of blood maybe.”

“No,” Paco answered, “Lester didn’t say anything about blood. I’m sure he would’ve said something about blood if he’d seen it. I didn’t see any on the ground that I noticed.”

“Did Lester know which way Ryan drove?” Lita asked.

“North,” Paco answered. “He followed Ryan as far as he could, but then lost him on the highway.” Paco hesitated for a moment. “That’s all I know. I swear.”

Jake and Lita nodded.

“Okay,” Jake finally said.

Paco seemed relieved that it was over. He hurried back inside his home.

Jake and Lita left Paco’s yard and walked back up the cracked sidewalk to the black Lincoln. Jake sighed as they walked. “It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “Ryan should’ve been dead. I shot him three times. He should’ve been injured and bleeding at least.”

“Maybe you didn’t shoot well enough,” Lita replied.

Jake ignored her comment. He thought back to yesterday. Ryan was running to his pickup truck with the duffel bag of money. Jake shot him as he got inside his truck; he knew he’d hit him all three times. Ryan should be dead on the side of the road somewhere, slumped over in his truck. But instead, he ditched his truck and stole Paco’s Impala.

They got back inside the black Lincoln and shut the doors.

A man sat among the shadows in the back seat. He was dressed in a dark suit and he wore thin leather gloves on his hands; the black gloves were longer than usual, tucked up under the cuffs of his white shirt. “Well?” the man asked.

“Ryan took the car, Mr. Murdock,” Jake said as he glanced into the rearview mirror. “But we’ll find him.”

Jake started the car and they drove away.


The town of Edrington was quiet and peaceful, the eastern sky was beginning to lighten, but the sun hadn’t peeked up over the line of mountains in the distance yet.

Ryan tossed and turned in his bed. The bed sheet was twisted around his sweaty body. He teetered on the edge of sleep as he heard footsteps in his bedroom. Someone was walking across the wood floor, walking towards him, getting closer and closer to his bed.

He opened his eyes and looked around, but there wasn’t anyone in the room with him. Just the remnants of his dream, he thought.

But then he heard a rustling noise at the foot of the bed, like something grabbing at the fabric of the bedspread – he could even feel the bed shaking a little underneath his body.

He sat up quickly and stared down at the end of his bed. He saw hands reaching up from the edge of the bed and grabbing onto the bedspread – they were ruined hands with smashed fingertips and deep scars twisting through the pale flesh. The hands grabbed at the covers, like a person trying to pull himself up from the floor. Ryan could see the top of the man’s head rising up from the foot of the bed. He could see the shock of red hair.

“You’ll never be able to hide,” the red-haired man whispered. “We’ll always find you.”

Ryan started to scream but then he …

… jumped awake, choking back a nightmare scream; his arms were up and ready to defend himself.

He sat up and stared down at the foot of the bed – but there was no one there. His eyes darted around the room as his breaths came out in quick and ragged gasps. There was no one in the room with him. He looked at the bedroom window and he didn’t see anything out the window except the silhouette of the tree branches against a dark blue sky that was lightening more and more by the minute.

Ryan breathed out a long breath, shuddering, his body beginning to tremble.

It was just a dream, he told himself.

He was about to get out of bed. He needed to get up and move around, splash his face with cold water – he knew he wasn’t going back to sleep any time soon. But as he was about to swing his legs over the side of the bed, he felt something move in his lap, something small but heavy. And then he saw it.

It was a folded-up straight razor – the old-fashioned kind. The handle was made of wood and it looked old and weathered. And there was something carved into the wood of the handle. A word. A name.

Ryan tried to grab the straight razor with two fingers, like he was picking up something too disgusting to touch, but the razor slipped from his slick fingers and fell down into a crease in the sheets between his legs. He fished at it with his fingers, and then found it among the damp sheets. His fingers folded around the straight razor and he felt a slight electrical charge racing over his flesh, and he felt an instant wave of nausea flood through him.

He flung the straight razor across the room. It landed with a thump on the floor and then slid across the floorboards and rested against the far wall.

Right underneath the window.

Where it had come from in the first place, his mind whispered.

Ryan jumped to his feet and he hurried around to the foot of the bed – no one there. He rushed to the bathroom. He didn’t know why, but he was suddenly afraid he was going to puke.

But he didn’t. He leaned over the toilet for a few moments, dry-heaving until the nausea passed. Then he washed his face with cool water and stared into the mirror. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and he could see the three knotted scars on his torso.

The bullet hole scars.

He shook his head as he stared at himself in the mirror. He couldn’t dismiss the straight razor. Someone had put it there in the bed with him; someone wanted him to see it. Maybe it had been Victor or Tom. Or Carol.

It must be a clue to his past. Whether he wanted to or not, he had to face it. He had to go get the straight razor and look at it. He needed to see what was carved into the handle.

Ryan went back out to the bedroom and walked over to the window. Just being near the window frightened him. He felt an unreasonable fear that the red-haired man was going to rise up outside from the bottom of the window, floating in the air, smiling at him, leaving bloody smears on the glass with his ruined fingertips as he pawed at the glass.

But there was no one outside the window.

And the straight razor wasn’t on the floor.

He looked and looked, but it wasn’t there anymore.

It had
been there, he told himself. It was just a dream – only a nightmare.


Ryan got dressed in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. He grabbed his light jacket and left his bedroom. He locked his door with the skeleton key and stuffed it into his pocket. He glanced down the hall at the other doors, but he didn’t see any movement, no doors shutting quickly and silently. He turned and headed for the stairs.

Ryan snuck through the dark house, through the living room, into the dining room, and then he stopped. The light was on in the kitchen. He crept towards the doorway to the kitchen and he saw Carol.

He entered the kitchen and Carol turned and smiled at him. “Good morning, Ryan. Sit down at the table. I made some breakfast for you.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Ryan said as he walked over to the table and sat down.

“I know I didn’t,” Carol snapped, but she still smiled at him as she brought over a plate heaping with scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, and sausage patties. She set the plate down in front of him.

Ryan dug into the plate of food. He had never tasted anything so good; he couldn’t stop eating, and after five or six bites, he looked up at Carol who was staring at him with a perplexed expression. “Sorry,” he muttered around a mouthful of food. “It’s just so good.”

“And it’s your favorite, isn’t it?” Carol asked him as she gave him that strange smile of hers; it never seemed like a happy smile, more like a slightly amused smile. And there was always something in her eyes – like she was studying him.

Ryan nodded. “Yeah,” he answered her even though he didn’t know if this was his favorite food. But she seemed to
that it was his favorite.

She walked back to the sink.

Ryan watched her as he took another bite of food.

She stood at the counter and made two ham and cheese sandwiches.

“I’m surprised you’re already up,” Ryan said as he took another bite of food. “I was planning on sneaking out early before I woke any of you up.”

“I’m always up early,” she said without turning around to look at him. “I don’t sleep well. Sometimes I have nightmares.”

Ryan felt an instant lump in his throat and he struggled to swallow the next bite. The food now felt like a stone in his stomach. He wanted to tell her that he suffered from nightmares too, but he wasn’t sure he should. He wasn’t sure if he could trust her yet. He wasn’t sure of anything. He needed to be careful here, he thought, but he didn’t know why.

Carol put the sandwiches in small clear bags and stuffed them down into a brown paper sack. She folded the sack over three times in neat, tight folds and brought the bag to the table.

“I packed you a small lunch.”

“You didn’t have –

She interrupted him. “I talked to Buddy last night; he knows you’re coming to the jobsite today.”

“Thanks, Carol. This means a lot to me. I just hope this Buddy guy doesn’t mind too much when he finds out I don’t have much experience.”

Carol gave him her razor-thin smile as she stared at him. “Oh, I think once you get there, you’ll know what to do.”


Ryan showed up at the jobsite. He hadn’t really planned on working, but he had to follow through with the story he’d told Carol and her wonder-twin tenants. But he didn’t really mind the idea of working. Something about the idea of working with his hands appealed to him. It would be something to keep him busy and take his mind off of things for a few hours – it might be a welcome relief.

BOOK: The Summoning
13.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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