As the title states, I have a new urban fantasy/occult suspense series coming out soon, the first book in the series at least. But before I talk about that, I want to talk briefly about my last series.
The Corvin Chance Chronicles as it was titled–my Irish urban fantasy series–was written by me but published by someone else. The series is good, but it was somewhat mishandled by the publisher, and as a result, it didn’t do as well as it probably should have. Lessons were learned on both sides. Thankfully, I’m getting the rights to the series back soon so I can republish it myself. I’m not sure how well it will do, but to be honest, I’m just glad to be getting back a product that I put a lot of time and effort into. At least it will be mine again. More news on that front once I get it.
Ethan Drake Series
In the meantime, back to my new series, which at this point I’m calling the Ethan Drake Series. The series title may change, we’ll see. The title of the first book is Infernal Justice and I hope to release it within the next few weeks. I’m just waiting on the editing and the cover being done.
The series will chronicle the adventures of police detective Ethan Drake, a man who doesn’t suffer fools, and who has seen more horror than most in his life. Ever since he saw his mother killed by a vampire when he was only five years old, Drake has made it his mission to seek justice against the supernatural elements of the world, or MURKs as he calls them (Monsters, Unnaturals, Reapers and Killers). He ended up working the combat department in a private company called Blackstar before leaving some years later to become a cop. Now he heads up the Occult Investigations Unit along with his partner, who happens to be a demon. Of course, he encounters much resistance along the way, from human and MURK’s alike. The first book basically introduces the main characters and follows Drake as he tries to solve his latest case, which involves a bodysnatching and occult going’s on.
Below, you can read the first chapter of Infernal Justice to give you a taste of what’s to come. Let me know what you think in the comments!
INFERNAL JUSTICE CHAPTER 1
“I love you, Daddy…”
I awoke to the sound of my dead daughter’s voice echoing in my head, a remnant of the dream—or rather nightmare—I’d been having. Bathed in cold sweat, I sat up on the sofa and groaned at the tightness in my skull before staring into the empty living room, half expecting to see her there, my angel, smiling at me, a light to my darkness. “Maddie…”
God, her voice sounded so real…but it wasn’t. She was gone and there was no bringing her back. Not even her ghost remained. Closing my eyes, I waited in vain for the pain to pass, even though I knew it wouldn’t. Only the Mud could dull things enough for me to function, and that was locked up in the bedroom, which meant I would have to get up and get it, but only after I’d had a cigarette. The TV was on and Apocalypse Now was still showing. I barely remembered putting the movie on before falling asleep, which meant I hadn’t slept for very long. Willard was on his way to kill Kurtz in the final scene. As I sat staring at the screen, smoking my first cigarette of the day—the first draw like sandpaper against my throat—my phone rang on the table beside me, next to an empty bottle of whiskey and my badge and gun. Picking up the phone, I saw it was Hannah Walker calling, or rather, the celestial being who now occupied Hannah’s body, who I still didn’t fully trust and probably never would. “Yeah?” I said upon answering, my throat hoarse as I took another drag.
“Ethan. You awake?” Walker asked.
“What do you think?”
“Right. There’s been another disturbance at Cave Hill Cemetery. More serious this time.”
“How serious? More serious than the dead dog we took away yesterday?” Walker used to work Vice, until she overdosed on a speedball and died. That’s when the demon took over her body, only no one else knows that but me. She became my partner two weeks ago, after the Police Commissioner reassigned me to the station sub-basement to handle the “special cases”.
“A grave was dug up.”
“I know, right? The press is already all over it. The one’s called Stokes and Routman are on the scene now.”
“What’d I tell you about talking like that? You wanna blend in here or not?”
“Yes, sorry. I mean Stokes and Routman.”
“Better. Isn’t their shift over? What’s this have to do with Homicide anyway?”
“Nothing, but they were near the cemetery when the call came in.”
“Is the body still there or was it taken?”
“It was taken. You think the two incidents are linked?”
“It would be a hell of a coincidence if they weren’t.”
“There’s obviously some occult connection going on. Why steal a body, especially one as famous as Barbara Keane’s?”
“Because some fuckwit probably thinks it has special properties, or maybe they just want to have sex with a corpse.”
“Sex with a corpse? Humans do that?”
“What, you think demons have all the fun? I know plenty of humans who’d turn even your stomach, Walker, the things they do.”
There was a moments silence, then Walker said, “Should I pick you up or do you want to meet me there?”
I thought for a second. “I’ll meet you there shortly.”
“Should I bring coffee?”
“I don’t know, you tell me.”
“There you go. You’re learning. Black, two sugars.”
I put the phone back on the table and stared at the TV while I finished smoking my cigarette. Kurtz was just giving his final speech, moments before he would meet his end at the hands of Willard. “I’ve seen horrors…” he began.
“Yeah?” I said turning the TV off. “You and me both, pal.”
Pulling myself up off the couch, I walked to the tiniest bathroom—for me anyway—in Washington County so I could splash cold water on my face, which did a harsh job of waking me up, though not quite. I still needed coffee and the other stuff. Still in yesterdays shirt and trousers, I went into the bedroom that didn’t have a bed, but which functioned instead as a storeroom for all my shit. Inside I kept an extensive collection of weapons, stacks of old books and shelves filled with ingredients, some medicinal, some not. Taking a medium-sized glass jar of one of the shelves, I shook the purple liquid inside and stared at its murk for a second or two. Despite being used to the smell, I still recoiled when the acrid scent of the liquid inside the jar hit my nostrils. Placing the open jar on a narrow table that had used containers and spilled ingredients all over it, I took a small dropper bottle out of my pocket and used the dropper inside to suck up the purple liquid from the jar. This I did about six times, filling the dark glass bottle over half way. The last dropper full I squeezed into my mouth, wincing as usual at the taste, which can only be described as being like licorice mixed with blood, with just a hint of absinthe for good measure. Instantly, I felt the effects of the home brewed substance hit me, soothing my nervous system, smoothing over the turmoil already raging like a motherfucker inside me, pushing it into the background so it at least no longer interfered with my thinking. Now I could focus on the job without the darkness doing its best to fuck me up all the time.
In the living room I found my trench coat lying on the floor behind the couch. Picking up the tan trench, I gave it a quick shake before putting it on over my shirt and tie, noticing as I did that it was drizzling rain outside. Grim faced, I acknowledged the Fairview weather for being as predictable as ever before clipping my badge and holster to my belt. I stood for a moment, my muscles relaxing under the influence of the Mud. Another day ahead without my angel in it, I thought. Another day ahead chasing the darkness, sifting through the detritus it leaves behind like black scum. Someday I won’t have to do it anymore. Someday I’ll be dead and I can leave this world to its shit once and for all.
I can only dream.
The sarcasm behind the though wasn’t lost on me as I reached into my coat pocket and took out the small gold locket and chain that I bought Maddie for her sixth birthday, two days before she died. It hung around her neck as I held her in my arms, her guts spilling from her belly as her precious life drained away. Blood spilled from her mouth as she tried to mouth the word Daddy, the last word she ever spoke before her sad eyes glazed over and she was just gone, leaving me holding her limp body. She wasn’t the first person to ever die in my arms, though you’d think it was to hear me screaming at the time.
“Boss,” a raspy voice said behind me. “I feel your pain boss…”
I didn’t turn around to see the source of the voice. I didn’t need to. “Fuck off, Scroteface,” I growled. “Shouldn’t you be out with the other miscreants terrorizing the neighborhood pets or something?”
The Hellbastard made a familiar hissing noise, a sign of frustration. “We grow bored waiting in the shadows…”
“Nothing I can do about that.” I kissed the locket before putting it back in my coat pocket. “When I need you, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, fuck off and try to stay outta trouble, would ya?”
Scroteface—full name Scrotum Face—gave a dramatic sigh from behind me. “You’re the boss,” he said.
“That’s right you little shit, I am. And Scroteface?”
I looked over my shoulder slightly, but not far enough to see the diminutive demon standing behind me. “Don’t ever tell me you feel my pain again, you got that? If you do, I’ll teach you the real meaning of the word.”
“Of course, boss. Apologies, boss.”
“I’m going out now. If I need you, I’ll summon you. Until then—”
“Try not to kill anything or anyone, especially homeless bums. The people I work with think there’s a serial killer targeting the homeless.”
Scroteface sniggered. “There is. Us!”
“Just keep your fucking crew in check…and yourself.” I turned to look at the Hellbastard for the first time, who was perched on the edge of the couch, his long ears twitching and his pointed tail swishing lazily behind him as he focused on me with bulbous red eyes, which as ever, were full of mischievousness. “Remember, Hell is just a few words away…”
The demon flinched slightly at the mention of his birthplace. “Understood…boss. We just hanker for the old days…the blood, the violence…we wants it again.”
I knew full well the days he as talking about, despite trying to forget them. “Those days are over. I’m going to work now. Make yourself useful and clean this shit hole of an apartment up when I’m gone. And tell Snot Skull to stop leaving puddles of snot all over the fucking floor, it’s disgusting. There’s also a mutilated cat on the fire escape. Get it lifted.”
Scoteface stretched his wide mouth into something approximating a smile, revealing his yellowed, pointed teeth. “Consider it done, boss.”
I stared at him a second longer, then asked, “Why do I even keep you fuckers around?”
“Because you love us, boss?”
“Yeah, sure, because I love your ugly asses so much. I’m going now. Bye, you little bastard.”
“Love you too, boss,” Scroteface called out as I was heading out the door. “Have a good day at work.”
Sarky bastard, I thought as I headed down the hallway toward the stairs. The Hellbastards could be a real pain in the ass at times, but they were also useful in my line of work, which these days, was more than just regular police work. Back in the day when I worked for Blackstar, we used the Hellbastards a lot, given the dangerous nature of the missions we used to go out on. When I left and joined the police department, I had little need for bastard demons to do my dirty work, except on very rare occasions. As a cop, the only monsters I dealt with were the human variety, and after the madness of Blackstar, that’s how I liked it. But in the last few weeks, things have changed a great deal, so I summoned the Hellbastards back into service again, figuring I would need their assistance, given the nature of the work I’m doing now. I was also trying to find out who killed my daughter and my ex-wife only two weeks before. Blood would be spilt by the time I was done, a lot of fucking blood, and the Hellbastards liked nothing better than to spill it with me.
I slowed my pace as I came to the end of the hallway, spotting the girl sitting in the stairwell. Her name was Daisy and she was twelve years old. I’d come across her a few times as she sat reading a book. This time she was reading Abarat by Clive Barker, I noted. She had mousey brown hair cut into a rough bob and her skin, what I could see of it under her tatty dressing gown, was pale, her body a little too slender, as though she didn’t eat enough. There were also dark circles under her eyes, as if sleep was something she only got on occasion. Normally when I met her sitting out there, it was because she wanted to get away from her alcoholic mother or one of her mother’s boyfriends. “Hey,” I said, stopping to talk to her.
“Hi, Detective,” she said, looking up at me with deep brown eyes that didn’t hold much in the way of joy, and had probably witnessed too much in her short lifetime. “You going to work?”
“I am. Why are you sitting out here this early in the morning? Your mother again?”
“Her new boyfriend just crashed into our apartment drunk. They threw me out to get some privacy.”
I set my jaw at the thought of a parent throwing their kid out at this time of the morning just so they could have sex in peace. “I’m sorry,” was all I could think to say.
“Don’t be,” she said. “I don’t want to hear their rutting anyway.”
“Here.” I took a ten spot out of my pocket and gave it to her. “Go to the cafe around the corner and get yourself some breakfast. At least you can stay warm in there. It’s freezing out here.”
She hesitated a second before taking the money. “Thanks, Detective. You’re a real gentleman, you know that?”
“Am I? Don’t tell anyone.”
She smiled and winked at me. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
“You coming then? I’ll walk you down.”
“I’m going to finish this chapter first. Things are just starting to get interesting.”
“Okay, I’ll see you later then.”
“Catch some bad guys, Detective.”
Walking out of the apartment building to the street outside, I paused for a moment to look up at the gun metal gray sky, turning my collar up against the persistent rain before glancing around the street. I live in Longford—though most just called it Old Town—south of the river, in an area that’s not only a shit hole, but has a well-earned reputation for violence and every other crime you could think of. The row houses across from me were dilapidated, some of them boarded up, and nearly every street light had been smashed by the dealers who stalked this place for most of the day and night. After Angela kicked me out two years ago, this is where I ended up, in the asshole of the city with the rest of the shit stains who live around here: the junkies, the pimps, the gangbangers, the dealers and every other kind of lowlife in between, and that’s not even including the supernatural elements that regularly haunt this place, most of them in search of human meat.
“What’s up, copper?” a raspy voice said as I was walking to my car.
I turned around to see a bearded face amongst a pile of dirty rags bundled inside the doorway of what used to be a pharmacy before it closed due to being robbed so many times, just like every other business around here. The man in the doorway was called Jed, an old homeless guy who I’d pumped for information on a few occasions. Very little happened here without him knowing about it. “Morning, Jed,” I said as I opened the driver’s side door of a black Dodge Charger, the front half of which was covered in dark gray primer. “Anything interesting happen last night?”
“I saw some dealer get stabbed, right over there.” He pointed to the corner across the street. “Screamed like a bitch he did.”
“Did he die?”
“Not as far as I know.”
“Pity. Catch you later, Jed.”
I started the Dodge’s engine and let it idle for a moment as I lit a cigarette, taking a few drags before pulling off with the window cracked an inch to let the smoke out. On the radio, the news had already picked up on the bodysnatching at Cave Hill. “In a strange turn of events,” the female broadcaster said, “the body of convicted murderer, Barbara Keane, has gone missing from the cemetery where she was interred just two days ago after her state execution. Local police have yet to give any statement regarding the incident, although the priest who conducted Keane’s burial ceremony, Father Mike Brown, was earlier asked what the reason might be for the bodysnatching, to which he replied it was the Devil’s work. More news on that as it comes in…”
The Devil’s work, I thought as I drove across town toward Cave Hill. Everything is the Devil’s work in this damn city. People didn’t know the half of it.
When I pulled up at the cemetery twenty minutes later, I had to park behind all the news vans, squad cars and forensics vans that were blocking the gates, tutting because I knew I would have to run the fucking gauntlet just to get inside the graveyard. And as if on cue, half a dozen reporters came running at me like dogs as soon as I got out of the car, pointing their microphones and recording devices at me, all of them talking at once, firing questions at me that I had no intention of answering. Most of them knew me, calling me by name as they barked their questions at me. “Detective Drake,” the loudest of them said, a man named Gordon Jenkins who worked for the city’s biggest TV news station. “Do you have any leads yet?”
“No comment,” I said.
“Who do you think stole the body?” he asked back straight away.
“Is this connected to the Satanic ritual that took place yesterday in the cemetery?”
I was about to say no comment again when I paused to look at the reporter, who was in his late thirties and dressed in a flashy dark suit. At six foot four, I towered over them all as they stared up at me waiting on scraps of information that I had no intention of giving them. “What Satanic ritual is that?” I growled. “We found a dead dog. I wasn’t aware of any Satanic ritual.”
“But we know about the pentagram carved into the dog’s head,” a female reporter said. “That’s a Satanic symbol. Do you think devil worshippers stole Barbara Keane’s body, Detective Drake?”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” I said. “Now get the hell away from me before I dump you all into Keane’s empty grave for a closer look.” I finished my statement with a smile as I took some satisfaction from seeing the disappointment on their faces. No doubt the captain would be pissed if my brief non-statement ever made it on air, but then what did I care? I didn’t answer to the captain anymore. I only answered to the commissioner, and Commissioner Lewellyn didn’t give much of a shit what I did as long as I got the job done. The job that he had outlined for me, which didn’t include talking to the press, I’m glad to say.
Two uniforms manned the gates of the cemetery, both of whom I nodded to as I walked inside to make my way up the hill and across to the scene of the crime. The rain had now turned from a drizzle to a steady downpour, and I saw that the crime scene technicians had already erected a tent over the open grave to maintain the integrity of the scene. Detectives Jim Routman and Russell Stokes stood outside the tent, their hands dug into their coat pockets as they hunched their shoulders against the rain. Turning to look at me, I sensed their displeasure at my presence, something I was well used too. I enjoyed being the source of their discomfort anyway. Walker broke away from them and came to meet me with two styrofoam cups in her hands, one of which she handed to me. “Black, two sugars.”
“Thanks,” I said as I took the cup, just as everything suddenly seemed to shift out of focus, turning the falling rain into a single wall of water in which we were both momentarily suspended. A side effect of the Mud in my system. It would pass.
“Are you all right?” She was staring at me, as she often did, though she didn’t know I was on anything. A lot of things just confounded Walker.
“Why the hell wouldn’t I be?”
“Should I answer that?”
“No, just tell me what we got.”
Walker stared at me for another few seconds with her dark Asian eyes. Her Visage—the shadow of her true demon form—hovered barely visible above and behind her, unseen unless you knew what you were looking for. And even if you did see it, you’d probably dismiss it as a trick of the mind anyway. People have an inbuilt knack for explaining away—or outright denying—the strange things they see everyday. “The groundskeeper, one Jack Kemper, came across the open grave this morning,” Walker said as she moved a lock of dark, wet hair away from her face. “The coffin had been forced open and the body was obviously gone.”
“He see anything?” I asked as I stabbed a cigarette into my mouth and lit it with a silver zippo, which had been a gift from my ex-wife, before she started hating me. Before she was killed. “Like who did it?”
Walker shook her head. “He gave a statement to one of the uniforms. He didn’t see anything.”
“The CST turn anything up yet?”
“At least four sets of footprints, not including the groundkeeper’s. Possibly teens due to at least one small-sized tennis shoe print. We’ll know more later, I’d say.”
“An empty cigarette packet that might give us fingerprints.”
I nodded with approval. “You know, you might actually pull this off.”
“Pull what off?” she asked, frowning.
“Passing as human.”
She didn’t know whether to be pleased or angry at my comment. Not that I cared very much either way. Demons are creatures that were forged in the asshole of the universe, and therefore became the greatest assholes in the universe by default. A simple theory, but one I’ve rarely if ever had disproved. I was hoping Walker would prove me wrong, though I didn’t hold out much hope. So what if she turned out to be a total demon asshole like all the rest? As long as she did her job right with this asshole right here. So far, I had to say the demon in Walker’s body wasn’t the worst I’d met. It seemed to have maintained most of Walker’s personality traits and general disposition, picking up where Walker had left off before she overdosed herself into oblivion. It was early days, however, and it would take a while longer for the demon to settle in and regain its memories and former self. If it overstepped in any way after that, I would just put it down, as I had done to plenty of others of its kind. The demon inhabiting Walker’s body seemed to sense this, so it treaded carefully around me.
As Walker fell into another one of her confounded silences, Routman and Stokes trudged over, looking like they couldn’t wait to get home, or at least off the job for a while.
“Ethan,” said Routman.
“Drake,” said Stokes.
“Shouldn’t you two be home?” I asked them.
“We’re heading there now,” Routman said, his lined face as implacable as ever. For a veteran cop in his sixties he still looked fit, with broad shoulders and a full head of steel-gray hair. “I’m surprised to see you here, Ethan. I thought you’d be on compassionate leave.” He called me by my first name because I used to be partners with him, back when I first joined Homicide. Our partnership had been strained—mostly because of how he did things—but we got on okay.
“You know me better than that, Jim,” I said. “I can’t just sit around while there’s people stealing corpses from graves, now can I?”
“Jesus, Drake,” Stokes said. “You lost your fucking family. Take some time, will ya?” I stared hard at him for a moment until he looked away and shrugged slightly. “I’m just saying.”
Stokes was a rakish weasel of a man in his early forties—a few years older than me—though he looked more worse for wear than Routman thanks to his alcoholism, which everybody pretended not to notice. He had a gambling problem, and I was pretty sure he was dirty as well, taking kickbacks from dealers in exchange for information. Something else the department pretended not to know about, except IAB, which had already been on to him once, though they never brought him up on any charges. As far as I was concerned, Stokes was on borrowed time. Sooner or later, he would eat his own gun, or someone would make him eat theirs. “Worry about your own problems,” I told him with a glare.
“So Ethan,” Routman said, changing the subject, as diplomatic as ever. “Word is you’re working directly for the commissioner now, that you and Walker here are handling the more…weirder cases. What the fuck’s that all about?”
“Like fucking Mulder and Scully,” Stokes joked, laughing to himself until I stared at him once again.
“Hey, we’re not judging,” Routman said. “We know how much weird shit goes down in this city. Lord knows, I’ve seen enough myself over the years.”
Yeah, I thought, and turned a blind eye to it like all the rest.
“Well,” Stokes said, pushing his luck. “I can’t think of a better man than you to be investigating shit like this. What are you thinking, Drake, Devil worshippers like the news is saying? Or maybe graveyard ghouls or a hungry werewolf?”
Taking a last drag on my cigarette, I crushed the butt under my boot and stepped up to Stokes, looking down on him as I considered how easy it would be to crush his skull with my bare hands. “Do yourself a favor, Stokes, and get the fuck away from my crime scene before I bury your broken body in this graveyard. I’m sure your wife’ll not miss you.”
Stokes’ jaw hardened in anger, and he tensed up as if he wanted to hit me. His own fear and insecurity soon betrayed him, however, and he backed down. “You’re a real asshole, Drake,” he muttered before walking away.
“Good luck with the case, Ethan,” Routman said. “I’m going home to my family.” As he went to walk away, he stopped and looked at me. “I didn’t mean—”
“I know what you meant,” I said.
Routman gave a small sigh before heading after Stokes, who had almost reached the front gates, the media crew outside getting ready to descend upon him, which gave me some satisfaction at least.
“According to Hannah’s memories, you used to be partners with those two,” Walker said. “They don’t seem to like you very much.”
“I’m not in this life to be liked by anyone,” I said as I turned toward the crime scene, thoughts of my dead daughter going through my head. “Come on. Let’s make like Mulder and Scully and see if we can’t solve this thing.”
“Okay,” Walker said. “But who is Mulder and Scully?”
“The truth is out there, Walker,” I said. “Go find it.”