The following excerpt is from my horror novel. If you are into vampires, werewolves or zombies, this is not for you, but if you would like to be scared or at least worried about something a little less familiar, you might like The Hounds of Oblivion. It combines a bit of gore, a little mystery, a touch of humor and a pinch of sex as two friends try to solve a string of serial murders before the murderer kills or the FBI arrests them as prime suspects.
Friday ~ Early Morning
Jamie was still sleeping soundly when Clint slid out of bed and tiptoed to the bathroom. It seemed the very idea of someone dressed in ancient armor showing up in her bedroom with less than honorable intentions added a new dimension to their love life. She had been amazing the night before and today was a teacher workday. She didn’t have to go in until noon. He thought he had her all figured out by now, but he had been entirely wrong.
His new hydrotherapy shower felt exceptionally good as it pummeled the life back into his lethargic body. Renewed and refreshed, he made coffee, popped a bacon and egg casserole in the oven and walked out on the deck. The brisk October morning, rare in East Texas, further exhilarated him and made him shiver in his bare feet. Stretching his arms over his head, he popped his back and was very glad he had chosen this secluded plot of land for his home. Walking out on the deck in the altogether was not acceptable in most neighborhoods, but if there was someone hiding in the thick tangle of woods, sticker bushes and cedars bordering his property, then they deserved a peek for their troubles. Clint was no George Clooney, but he had been told he was easy to look at.
A rabbit sat on a stump under one of the pecan trees in his back yard, watching him from large dark eyes. The sight of the rabbit triggered the memory of a weird dream he’d had the night before. For some reason, he was riding around in Jamie’s car with the mannequin sitting in the front seat, looking for something. He squinted into the morning sun shining through the branches of the trees, trying to remember what they had been looking for, but, the only thing he remembered of the dream clearly was running over a rabbit out on the highway.
Back inside, he poured himself a cup of coffee, checked the casserole and headed for his desk. When he sat down, he turned toward the mannequin with the idea of toasting the armor that had brought new life to his relationship with Jamie. Astonishingly, the mannequin was gone! He set down the coffee and stood up slowly. He took a tentative step forward and then frowned. His breath came in short gasps and his face flushed in what could only be described as fear.
He looked around the den as he tried to remember how many drinks he’d had before bed last night.
He glanced out the window and then closed the blinds quickly before heading for his bedroom. There he found Jamie still sleeping and no sign of the mannequin. He checked the three extra bedrooms, the game room upstairs over the garage, all three bathrooms, the dining room and the front porch. No sign of the armor or the mannequin anywhere in the house. He went back to the bedroom, grabbed his clothes and got dressed.
When he made a second search of the house, he included the crawl-space attic where the Christmas decorations were stored in colored coded plastic bins, all the closets and storage cabinets. He walked through the mudroom and even looked in the washer and dryer. With a tingle of fear rippling over his scalp, he opened the garage door and stepped outside.
His truck was parked nearest the door. On the other side of the truck was a dark, green Kia Soul (without the hamsters as he always said whenever describing the car) his girlfriend drove. He crept around the truck and squinted at the car in the dim light filtering through the slotted windows on the garage door. His heart almost stopped when three things happened at precisely the same time.
The alarm went off in his truck, his eyes focused on the plastic expression on the mannequin’s face peering back at him through the Kia’s windshield and a dog howled outside the house.
“Shit!!” he yelled and jumped back, banging his head against the metal frame around the hot water heater. “Damn!” he said and reached for the back of his head.
The pain in his head burned like fire and it felt as if blood was gushing down his back, but there was no blood. The skin was intact. He cursed again as he went back to the Kia and managed to get the fully armored mannequin out of the car, while wondering whose dog was in his yard leaving surprise packages for his dress shoes. He opened the garage doors and looked outside, but saw no sign of the dog.
When he stepped back into the mudroom, the dagger fell from the belt and naturally struck the top of his barefoot a glancing blow, before skittering under the dryer.
“Shit,” he said again as a burning pain coursed up his leg.
After a bit more struggling, he got the mannequin back to the den and situated in the corner, then went back for the dagger. A coat hanger stuck under the dryer managed to drag out the dirk along with a lost sock, Jamie’s yellow lace thong and a huge dust bunny. He really needed to pull the dryer out and clean the dust and lint from around the works before he had a fire.
He threw the sock and panties into the washer, crushed the life from the dust bunny before tossing it in the trash and then took the dagger to the sink in the kitchen. He was lost in thought as he washed the dust and grit from the knife, wondering how the hell he managed to get drunk enough not to remember taking the mannequin out to the Kia. How could he have gotten that drunk and still felt good this morning? His thoughts wandered, and then, the idea perhaps Jamie had done it occurred to him. He pushed the idea aside because he was the one who had experienced the goofy dream. Sleepwalking? He’d had a lot on his mind… but, damn! He would have to do something about that before he killed himself or someone else. Driving in his sleep? He shuddered at the thought.
Without warning, he spun around and threw the dagger at the mudroom door, surprising even himself.
Gladys Mills screamed as the sharp point sank into the door facing very near her right shoulder. The woman pressed her hands to her face and continued to scream until he ran across the kitchen, grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her.
“Gladys!” he shouted at her. By the time she shut up, Jamie had already come running into the kitchen shouting his name in panic dressed only in a flimsy nightie.
“Jamie!” he let go of Gladys and spun on his girlfriend. “Hush! Stop it! It’s alright!”
Gladys leaned against the door jamb with one hand pressed to her heart. She wore three blue curlers on top of her head and carried a fireplace poker in her hand.
“My God! Gladys!” Jamie turned in confusion to their nosy neighbor, who lived across the street. “What is going on?” She looked from Gladys to Clint and back to Gladys. “What happened?” Her eyes focused on the hilt of the dagger protruding from the door facing.
“Gladys scared the shit out of me!” he said and backed across the kitchen, putting the bar between himself and his neighbor and her fireplace tool. She could have cracked his skull with that thing, if she had not panicked.
“Well, I was scared, too, Clint Evans!” the older woman frowned and pursed her wrinkled lips. “You could have killed me!”
“What?” Jamie spun on Clint again.
“Jamie, please,” Clint said and held up one hand. “Please go and get dressed. I’ll fix Gladys some coffee. You’d like some coffee, wouldn’t you?”
“Well, I guess so,” her frown relaxed a bit. “But don’t you leave me with him too long, Jamie.”
“I’ll be right back,” Jamie assured her. “Then, we can sort all this out.”
Clint grabbed a mug from the cupboard and offered a chair at the table to Gladys. She sat down, but held the poker across her lap.
“Cream and sugar, right?” he asked from memory. Gladys was one of those neighbors that never missed an opportunity to make herself a nuisance.
“Yes, that’s right. I’m sorry I scared you, but I saw the garage door open and what with all these murders and stuff, I thought…”
“You’d come over and see if I was dead?” he asked and smiled as he set her cup in front of her. He pulled out the opposite chair and sat down. “No such luck.”
“Now, that’s not right, Clint!” she said and picked up the coffee. “I brought this poker because I was scared of that dog.”
“Oh,” he nodded and the smile left. “The one I heard howling earlier? You heard that?”
“I sure did. I saw him. He was big, black and ugly,” she said in disgust. “I’m a cat person, I am. I don’t want a bunch of strays hanging around here chasing my Beauty and Loverboy. They’re getting old now and I don’t think they need to be running around, climbing trees.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he nodded. “Did you see if it had a collar? Maybe I could catch it and find the owner.”
“I don’t think so. Besides, it was big… too big for you to just grab him. He’d probably bite your arm off. It was running through the underbrush away down toward the river. Didn’t get a good look at it. It was big, I tell you.”
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