So far, it’s been in and out of the top 100 in superhero fiction since June and in the top 100 for Dark Fantasy at least once or twice a month. I’ve been getting emails from folks wanting a second book and I already started one four years ago but poor sales made me shelve it.
Here’s the cover for DARK BARGAINS – the second in the Marshall Conrad series.
Look for it in July 2015.
I grabbed Walter by the scruff of his flabby neck and ran like hell as he let out a wail in protest.
“Stupid freaking cat,” I growled as I glanced over my left shoulder only to see the pair of
smoldering red eyes cutting through the blackness of the pine forest. Walter wasn’t helping any as he dug his claws into my chest as I cursed the day I bought my overweight feline at a garage sale for ten dollars.
The psychic visual I’d received that led me to the abandoned cabin nestled snugly amid decades of new woodland growth was supposed to be where I’d find eight-year-old Victoria Jenkins after she was reported missing by her parents four days ago. The Greenfield Sheriff’s Department was treating her disappearance by following standard protocol, first issuing an Amber Alert within two hours of the time she was supposed to arrive at her after school program. Her mother issued a tearful plea for her safe return at a news conference the following morning and me? I’d spent two straight nights combing the streets from up on high, keeping a vigilant eye out for a red Chevrolet Venture minivan that she was reported to have climbed into by a substitute teacher who assumed it was one of Victoria’s parents picking her up from school.
The migraine, like all the migraines that are a tell-tale sign of a Vanguard’s ability to foresee a crime before it is perpetrated hit me just as Marnie Brindle and I were settling down to watch a chick flick on Netflix. (So sue me, I’m expanding my horizons.) It offered two clues: One was the abandoned cabin and the other was that Victoria would be locked up inside an old refrigerator and left to suffocate. It didn’t tell me about a largely hairless monster with claws that tore could tear through the magical shield I’d invoked to protect Walter and me, and it sure as hell didn’t say the refrigerator inside the cabin would be empty or that I’d be rescuing my cat.
Walter hissed loudly as he dug his claws deeper into my chest, naturally, this only acted to piss off the four-legged demon thing that was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Instead of barking at my stupid cat as it chased us up a winding path that lead to where I parked my new old car, a 1995 Chevy Cavalier no less, it belched a jet of corrosive dog vomit which nearly took my head off as I dove behind a fallen log.
Evil? You bet! Bent on tearing out my throat? Why not? Such is the life of Greenfield’s only resident meta-human and part-time destroyer supernatural beasties.
Like demonic dogs, for example.
The creature crashed through the log sending splinters of dried wood in every direction and throwing me about thirty feet in the air. Walter the stupid cat landed against the trunk of a giant blue spruce and skirted straight up out of harm’s way. Did I mention he’s a treacherous bastard?
“Damn it, I’m a cat person!” I snarled as I landed flat on my back.
The demon thing gave its head a shake and bared its teeth as it readied to pounce. Shiny threads of saliva dribbled down from its three-inch fangs as a deep throaty growl sliced through the relative silence of the woods and straight into my bowels. I scrambled behind a large boulder and spotted an opening in the forest canopy where I could take to the skies. The dog-monster let out a mind-numbing howl that I could feel in my fillings as it charged.
Of course I was going to cut and run, I might look like an idiot most days, but I have the good enough sense not to duke it out with giant hairless K-9’s on their own turf. I’d have a better shot at taking the beast down from the sky. The creature leaped into the air and snapped at my boot heels just as I pushed off the ground.
“Not so tough now, huh, Fido?” I snapped as I floated to a safe distance. The creature blinked a couple of times and then it let out a loud sneeze. Its crimson eyes narrowed as the monster coiled back on a pair of hairless rear legs that glistened in the moonlight.
And that’s when the unexpected happened.
Fido launched its body off the ground like a missile aimed straight at me. I pushed higher to avoid having one of my legs ripped off, and that’s when gravity decided to play a trick on me. Instead of falling back to the earth, the creature continued its ascent. The damned thing could fly.
“Walter!” I shrieked, as the fat fur ball dove into my arms. I clenched my teeth and shot into the clear black sky like a rocket. I didn’t even bother to look behind me this time-I didn’t have to because I could hear the demon cutting through the wind current behind me.
Oh, and he let out another corrosive hork of dog vomit.
I grated my teeth together as I climbed higher and higher into the air. Walter dug his claws into my neck as I held onto him for dear life.
No sign of Greenfield’s third missing kid in as many weeks. Only a demonic dog from some weird ass region of the Unseen World bent on tearing out my throat and probably picking its teeth with my cat’s bones. I wasn’t stupid enough to think the demon dog was responsible for whatever happened to Victoria Jenkins; if anything, its presence at a location where my psychic radar told me I might find the little girl was evidence enough of a much larger plot because whoever had taken her obviously knew about me.
Walter hissed and spat as the creature slammed into my midsection sending me spinning wildly out of control. It was clear I wasn’t going to out fly the damned thing so I decided to think outside the box. I broke into a quick dive as wind currents buffeted my body. Below me was a carpet of pine forest as far as the eye could see so I tossed Walter into the nearest tree and headed skyward once more. I glanced over my shoulder to see the creature gaining on me, the wind flapping its lips back to reveal a set of razor sharp teeth that were only moments away from digging into my forty-something frame. But there was something else, too, a throbbing hum of willful intent pouring off the monster.
I reached out through the darkness in order to tap into it – what I had planned was probably going to be my only shot at taking it down. I gathered the energy together into a tight bind and instantly I could feel my own powers charging, as a jolt of energy surged through my veins. My eyes blazed furiously as I gazed quickly at my hands to see them glowing with emerald energy and that’s when I struck out at the monster.
I flew straight into its path; my fingers digging into its rubbery cold flesh. It yelped as I pummeled it with my free hand; my fist connecting with its giant maw over and over again. All the while, we spun around in a tangled jumble of limbs and I could see the ground coming fast. I pivoted my body enough so the creature would crash land first, absorbing the shock of our fall to the earth.
We struck the ground like a meteor; the impact sending me careening into a pine-tree with enough force to split its trunk in two. And it hurt like a bastard. My entire body screamed with pain as I slid into a heap at the base of the enormous tree. I gazed out through the darkness to see if there was any movement from the crater and I got back to my feet with a loud groan; my glowing eyes lighting up the gloom of the forest. I hobbled over to the crater and peered over, half-ready for the monster to leap at me and tear my throat out. And imagine my surprise to see only a German Shepherd whimpering like a puppy like it had just lost its mother. Its neck had been shaved clean down to the skin and there was fresh blood seeping through a strange symbol that looked almost like an ancient Egyptian Hieroglyph that had been carved into the poor dog’s skin.
“Shit … a proxy,” I said quietly as I climbed into the hole. The dog wagged its tail as it caught a glimpse of me and whimpered again.