Monday, December 22, 2014
Deadly Prayers excerpt (wip) by Victor J Banis
Victor J Banis, in the raw. This excerpt is from Deadly Prayers, the latest in the Deadly series. Still a work in progress – no sales information, no links, no cover art. The only constraints are from the plots and characters prior to it in the Deadly series
Excerpt: Deadly Prayers
The highway turned inland and shortly after that they took a road that turned off it, followed along a stone wall for half a mile or so, until they came to a gate with signs on either side that said Keep out. Private Property. No Beach Access. Violators Will Be Towed.
“This is it,” Chris said.
The gate itself was unlocked but heavy and its mechanism not easily understood, so it took both of them to struggle with it before they got it open and were able to drive through. As he got out to close the gate after them, Stanley had the odd sensation that he had just committed himself to something, though he had no idea what. He had an irrational urge to suggest that they turn around and go out again. Which was silly – he was here, after all, for rest and relaxation—had practically been guaranteed both, and if you couldn’t trust the word of a friar…
“Someone walking on my grave,” he told himself and climbed back into the car. He was partial to omens, however, and the sense of some impending trouble never quite lifted itself from where it sat weightily on his shoulders.
The road so far, even this side trail, had been mostly well tended, but it deteriorated badly beyond the gate, challenging even the sturdy Honda’s shock absorbers. Chris drove slowly, trying carefully to stay within the sometimes deep ruts left by earlier passengers.
“Not very Edenic,”Stanley said aloud.
“Well, one supposes the caretakers did want to discourage the casual visitor, didn’t they? You never knew who was going to be after your apples.”
“In this case, I’m thinking cherries – these dears at the monastery are supposed to be virginal,” Stanley said.
“Sugar, if you want to put it that way, you and I are probably supposed to be virginal.”
To which Stanley could only harrumph noisily. One of the difficulties with really close friends is that, more likely than not, they knew you too well.
They crested a steep knoll and suddenly the way spread out before them, even the road seeming to smooth itself out. In the distance they could see the monastery itself, looking like someone’s idea of a medieval fortress. Two small stone cottages, about twenty yards apart from one another, sat between them and the monastery proper. Although they were on the headlands, they could not yet see the ocean, but they could hear its sibilant murmur, and its unmistakable tang filled the air. From somewhere nearby a bird – a jay, Stanley thought – scolded them noisily.
Scolding us for what? Stanley wondered. We haven’t done anything yet.
He turned his attention to the land spread out before them. It was austere, sere even, but not without a certain bucolic charm. Stanley recognized some of the plants growing nearby – that was juniper there, surely, growing alongside the lane, wasn’t it? – but many of the plants were just dark green foliage to him. Far off to their left he saw the unmistakable silver green of olive trees – a long time martini drinker, he recognized them, at least - and a row of cypress stood like brave sentinels in the middle distance.
All in all, after the rigors on the incoming lane, it looked, if not entirely hospitable, certainly not forbidding either. Maybe a place for convalescing. Better than that hospital, surely – and what was the alternative? Their apartment? With Delightful popping in and out, as he imagined it. No, that wasn’t an acceptable alternative. This desert-like landscape was surely preferable to that. He’d sort out the flowers later.
e’d sort out the flowers later.
“Father Brighton’s is the first cottage,” Chris said. “The Briars, it’s called.”
They parked in front of it. The cottage was unprepossessing, with no porch, only a front stoop, and a pair of straggly bushes, briar laden, which suggested where the cottage had gotten its name. There was a window on either side of the closed door, curtains carefully pulled over the panes. The front yard, which was nothing more than clumps of grass sprouting here and there from the sandy soil, was closed in by a crude wooden fence so low that an intruder would need only to step over it, shunning the gate that hung somewhat awry at the entrance way.
“I’m surprised he hasn’t come out to greet us,” Chris said. “Michael is always so happy to see folks.”
“He knew we were coming, and he must have heard the car, or at least my last yelp when we bounced off that rock.”
Once again, Stanley had that strange conviction that they should turn around and leave—but they could hardly do that, could they, now that they were here? Certainly Father Brighton would have heard them arrive, and would wonder why they left without a word. Some premonition, however, told him that this visit was already not going well.
The gate, perhaps predictably, creaked loudly when they pushed through it. There was no answer to Chris’s knock at the door, not even when he had repeated it, a bit louder than the first time.
Stanley reached past him and tried the door. It was unlocked and swung inward easily. It was only midafternoon but the interior, with its curtains closed over the small windows, was as dark as twilight, and silent, a silence so utter it disdained even an echo. It was a minute or so before they could see.
A scent of firewood told them that a fire had died out on the hearth some time earlier, perhaps the previous night. Someone was seated in the chair before it.
“Michael?” Chris said, taking a tentative step forward.
There was neither reply nor movement from the chair. Premonition became certainty. Stanley stepped past Chris, rounded the chair to look down at the man seated in it. It was certainly Michael Brighton. Only, not the laughing vivacious friar he’d met just a short while before.…
“He’s dead, Chris,” he said, shivering as if an arctic wind had suddenly blown over them. All he could think was, I knew it.
Bodies. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t seem to get away from them.