Friday, August 7, 2015

Spotlight and Giveaway Willing Servants by Eric Turowski

Willing Servants  
Eric Turowski

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Booktrope Forsaken Imprint

Date of Publication: July 14,2015

ISBN: 978-1-5137-0081-6

Number of pages: 290
Word Count: 93,908

Cover Artist:  Gonet Designs

Book Description:

March, 2000

Mara Singleton, ghost hunter, went pro when California real estate laws demanded that agents must disclose when a house is haunted. When the Halloways turn to her to examine the paranormal goings on in their home, Mara agrees—as a favor to old friends.

Everett, Mara’s father, has always had a talent for speaking with the dead. He reluctantly aids law enforcement when ten-year-old girls are targeted for kidnapping and murder—as a favor to an old friend.

Lieutenant Sam Bradford made his career on killing a serial rapist-murderer, the Predator Priest. Recent reports indicate a suspect with a similar MO stalking the city, and Bradford seeks help, both from a higher authority—and from an old friend.

Father Bill Tarter, Monsignor Francis Capelli and Reverend Holly Owen have experience exorcising personal, intelligent evil. Yet none have them have ever faced anything like this—the Ancient Enemy of all humanity.

Call it Satan, call it Legion, call it the devil—how can they stop a rampaging evil ravenous for bodies, for blood, for meat, for life, for souls? How can they recognize an eternal foe that clothes itself in the visages of Willing Servants?


March 2000

MARA SINGLETON PARKED on the road and trudged her way up the driveway. Mike and Bridgett′s house sat in a lake of clipped lawn surrounded by a bright shore of California poppies, weedy (but pretty) oxalis, and ground-hugging ivy. The exterior walls of the cottage looked freshly painted, white going on pink with the setting of the sun, hunter′s green trim shifting to black.
She shrugged the case higher on her shoulder, the weight of it all the more evident with the awkwardness of her purpose—a professional endeavor in a personal setting. Mara had known Mike since college, and Bridgett she met not long after graduation. Maybe she didn′t get out to their house in Rockridge as often as she might, but she still considered both of them good friends. She′d never brought her military-style bag to a friend′s house before.
A small silver cat, not long from kittenhood judging by a still-oversized head and paws, eyed her uncertainly from the patio. Mara shut her eyes, turning her head away for a second. When she rang the doorbell, the little feline was already in a close orbit around her ankles.
Bridgett peeked around the door, and her eyes lit up.
They exchanged a hug, Mara′s case knocking conspicuously against both women.
″Hey, Mar! Come on in,″ she heard Mike′s voice call from within.
The house felt warm, even looked warm with the last of the day′s light reflecting gold off the hardwood floor of the living room. Mike Halloway strode out of the kitchen, still in his contractor′s uniform of T-shirt and jeans. Mara noticed his gut hanging over his belt, and took it as a sign of domestic content. She struggled out of her bag to give him a quick squeeze.
Mike took a half step back, hands still on her shoulders, giving her the once over.
″Still lookin′ good, Mar.″ His gaze then fell to the case she had set on the floor with a bump. ″Crosses and holy water?″
Mara felt a little heat rise from her collar and grinned. ″Worse.″
Bridgett folded her hands together over her own belly, which was much flatter than Mike′s. Except… Mara looked up into Bridgett′s gold-brown eyes, and felt a tickle somewhere in the back of her head.
Expecting, she thought, it′s a girl.
″If you′re uncomfortable with this,″ Bridgett said softly, ″I don′t know how comfortable I am with this.″
Mara nodded slowly. ″You should both know that I′ve done this hundreds of times. But I′ve never done it for friends. It may be a little weird at first.″
Mike smiled. ″I think it′ll be weird all the way through.″
″That′s usually the way it goes,″ she said grimly. The smile dropped off Mike′s face. She grinned. ″Gotcha.″
He smirked. ″You want a beer?″
″No,″ she said quickly, ″and I don′t think either of you should, either.″
Bridgett glanced over at her husband.
He gave a half shrug. ″I already had two since I got home.″
″That′s fine,″ Mara said. ″But no more until we′re finished here, if that′s okay.″
″I′m going to go through this like I would do with any clients. I don′t know any other way to get at the problem.″
Bridgett′s eyes hadn′t left Mike.
″Well, this sure ain′t my thing. Tell us what you want us to do,″ Mike said.
″I want to start with some preliminary interviews. Separately.″ She didn′t wait for a reaction before she said, quickly, ″It′s not that I don′t trust you two, but that′s just the way I like to start. Is that okay?″
They nodded as one. As a couple, Mara thought.
″Ladies first,″ Mike said.
″This won′t take very long. Do either of you mind if I record the interviews? I promise not to use them in any public forum without your consent. I won′t even use your names if you don′t want. If it′s not too late when we′re done, I′d like to do a reenactment, too.″
Receiving blank stares, she hurried on. ″The only people who need to see the tapes are me and my team, and I′ll even introduce you to them before you agree to that.″
Bridgett raised her eyebrows. ″I guess I don′t mind.″
″Always the showoff,″ Mike nudged his wife. ″I′ll secret myself in my office until you′re done.″
Enjoy the office while you can, Mike, Mara thought. Your little girl is going to need a room soon. Guilt crept up her neck with a blush, as it always did when Mara knew things she couldn′t possibly know. Wasn′t supposed to know.
″Where do you want to do it?″ Mara asked, hefting her case.
″Let′s sit in the kitchen. Would you like some tea?″
″Tea would be great,″ Mara said, following.
The kitchen was bright, done in green and yellow tiled countertops and white tiled floor. A small oval table sat in the corner by a doorway leading to a laundry room, and a deck beyond, Mara recalled.
While Bridgett set the kettle on the stove, Mara opened her square case and removed a tripod. With practiced speed, she extended the legs and mounted a small video camera. She checked to make sure the batteries were charged, then aimed the camera at an empty chair. From the bag, she extracted a DAT recorder and a microphone, connected them, and placed both on the table. Bridgett tossed a couple unguarded glances over her shoulder, eyebrows knitting at the sight of the electronics. Mara pretended not to notice the scrutiny, dragging out a few stapled sheets of paper she printed out earlier—her questionnaire—and a thin reporter′s notebook.
″You really come prepared,″ Bridgett said, tongue playing on her lower lip as she placed two steaming mugs on the table.
″Just hope you′re not here when the team gets going,″ Mara smiled. ″It looks like a going out of business sale at Circuit City.″
Bridgett gave a smile a try, but it didn′t pan out.
″This is weird for me, too,″ Mara said to comfort her. ″Usually, when I do an interview, it′s the first time I meet somebody. It′s somehow easier that way. I don′t know why.″
″I′m just,″ Bridgett began, and stopped. ″I don′t know. I guess I′m just embarrassed by this whole thing. But I don′t know what else to do. I′m losing a lot of sleep. Mike′s losing sleep, too, and he′s out of here at five every morning, every day…″
Mara reached out and took the other woman′s hand. She could feel a thready pulse in the ball of Bridgett′s thumb. ″Then let′s see what′s going on here, exactly, and hopefully we can take care of it.″
Bridgett squeezed her eyes shut tight and gave a nod so deep and slow it looked almost like a bow. ″Yeah. That sounds good.″
″When is she due?″ Mara asked.
If she′d been slapped with a dead trout, Bridgett could not have looked less shocked. ″Mike told you?″
″You′re worried about the house, about her in the house. Let′s get to it.″
Taking a long, deep breath, Mrs. Halloway eased into her kitchen chair. Mara fiddled with the video camera, getting her client in frame and focus.
″Tell me what happened.″
Bridgett Halloway turned off the television and stared out the window at her garden, obscured by the heavy rain sluicing down the panes. January had been quite the month. First, the entire world ushered in the new millennium (although she herself really didn′t consider it new until the following year, but she was definitely in the minority according to what she′d seen on TV). The Y2K bug had been all but exterminated by diligent system managers like herself around the globe. The planet continued to spin, and no new messiah had appeared on the news to judge the living and the dead. Quite a relief all around. Week two, Mike announced that his small contracting firm, not half as old as their marriage, had landed a contract refurbishing and remodeling the interiors of houses for a huge real estate company. Work for him had started almost immediately, and the money poured in (especially considering the season). At the beginning of the third week, the line turned pink on her home pregnancy kit, confirmed two days later by her OB-GYN. They were having a baby. This sent Bridgett into a frenzied nesting mode—one which proved most unfortunate for Michael′s waistline, especially in this post-holiday season. Week four, Mike celebrated in his own manly way by beginning a project to refinish the basement into a new workspace. He wanted the baby to have a room of her own. Or his own, maybe, but Bridgett was already certain the baby was a girl.
She raised the footrest on the recliner and draped the afghan hanging on the chair-back over her shoulders. Rain sizzled in the yard, tumbled across the roof, steamed along the street, and she snuggled hard into the blanket, taking in all that she could of the storm before the gray day faded. Bridgett would talk her husband into building a fire when he got home. Two could snuggle better than one.
Bridgett′s hands unconsciously slid to rest on her abdomen as she pondered this little miracle. A tiny life was growing inside her. A future little person was depending on her fully, on the very functions of her body. It frightened her a little, this benevolent parasite lodged inside her. At the same time, she felt a soft warmth that spread from the exact center of her outward, and she swore she would see herself glow if she gazed at herself sideways in the mirror.
For the fifth or sixth time that day, she considered baking bread. She′d thought about it from time to time at work. Michael had bought her a new bread cookbook as soon as her nesting phase kicked in. Though not thoroughly familiar with pregnant women, he certainly knew how to best take advantage.
Bridgett smiled at this thought then sat bolt upright, sending the footrest back into the La-Z-Boy bottom with a reverberating thud.
She turned her head, lifting her nose to test the air like a dog. Definitely, that was the smell of cooking pork hanging in the air, the precise odor shifting from the realm of bacon to the kingdom of pork roast to the distant hold of barbecue. Not ham, that was for sure.
Okay, she′d had a few cases of the cravings, but she had a snack as soon as she got home from work. A bowl of soup, the last of the homemade bread, a small bowl of ice cream and… so call it a sub-meal.
At any rate, she wasn′t hungry. The meaty fragrance in the air did nothing to make her feel any hungrier. She glanced at the window and decided not even the most determined barbecuer could be out in that cold rain. The closest rib restaurant was at least three miles away, and besides, the wind blew in the wrong direction.
Bridgett slowly rose from the recliner. Sliding into a pair of slippers, she padded from the living room into the kitchen. Had she left on a burner, or maybe the oven? She twisted each knob counter-clockwise, but none had any play. In the kitchen, she noticed, the scent had disappeared. She walked back into the living room, where the smell was strong, then opened the front door and stuck her head out. No porky smells outside.
This is really weird, she thought to herself (she remembered thinking those words very clearly and related it to Mara verbatim), not knowing the weirdness had barely begun.
When she closed the door, a breath of hot air caught her in the face, lifting her hair with the force of a good hair dryer. The atmosphere in the living room suddenly seemed fully comprised of cooking, burning, smoking pig. Oily, hot, smoky air rushed through her nostrils, down her throat, scratching its way to her lungs where it clung like mustard gas.
Bridgett bent double, hacking out the repugnantly flavored air. There was no overpowering smell nearer the floor, and she gasped deeply, hands on her knees. She raised her head, tentatively tasting the air as she did. It was clear. There was no fleshy smell at all.
What the hell was that? She wondered, gazing around the quiet living room. The day was all but gone. She turned on the overhead lights.
The moment the bulbs flared, she felt it again, a blast of wind hot enough to prickle sweat along her hairline and again the smell. Bridgett jerked away, her shoulder impacting the door. The flow of air blew past. Missing me, she thought. And then it doubled back, whipping through her hair, gagging her with the greasy odor.
Batting the air in front of her wildly, she darted from the door to the corner occupied by the television set. A hot blast shot past her arm.
Suddenly, the TV came on, full volume, drawing a shriek from Bridgett. Almost immediately it snapped off again. The overhead light flickered and died with it. She strained her eyes, teary and sore from nonexistent smoke, at the iron gray rectangles of the windows, at the dark shapes of furniture in the perfectly cozy room that suddenly seemed to go insane.
″Bridgett,″ a voice, deep and rough, whispery yet perfectly clear, called her name, making her spin around in a circle looking for the source. She couldn′t identify the voice, not even whether it was male or female, but it carried undertones like steam in a kettle before a full boil. Her hair raised on her arms, her neck.
″Bridgett. You belong here with us.″
Panic seized her. She scrambled for the front door, slamming it behind her. Standing in the driving rain, eyes locked on the door, panting, she waited. For what, she had no idea.
After a few minutes, her heart rate slowed. Her eyes moved to the window. She could make out the silhouette of the armchair against the dim front windows.
″Working late?″ Mike′s voice made her nearly jump out of her skin. He received a fierce embrace that nearly knocked him off his feet.
Mara looked up from her quick scribbling on the forms.
Bridgett gazed toward the living room, her eyebrows bunched and frowning.
″And since then?″ Mara prompted.
″Same kind of thing.″
″Regularly?″ Mara asked, ″daily, weekly?″
Bridgett shrugged. ″Every now and again. When Mike′s not here.″
Mara reached over and turned off the video camera, pressed the stop button on the DAT recorder with her pen. Her friend was holding back something. It may have been something she didn′t believe herself (or thought Mara wouldn′t believe), or maybe she was distressed, recounting her odd story. Either way, now was not the time to press.
″Okay, this isn′t anything I haven′t heard before,″ she said.
Bridgett looked at her incredulously. ″Really?″
″Similar stuff, yeah. A few times. Here,″ Mara dug in her case, and found a bound notebook. ″Write down the other events. Give me dates and times if you remember them. Do it while you′re at work. Anywhere you feel comfortable.″
″Right,″ Bridgett said, seeming more at ease.
″It′s getting pretty dark. Why don′t we pick this up again tomorrow? I′ll get an interview with Mike then.″
Bridgett readily agreed, as Mara knew she would. The interviews always went best in the daylight, in situations less likely to bring about a reoccurrence of the phenomena. And, a time when people were less likely to be afraid.
Lugging her case down the driveway, she turned right on Eucalyptus Road, walking toward the tight bend in the looping street. With her gear piled in the trunk, she climbed in the Toyota and started the engine. Mara jumped as the radio blared static loud enough to hurt her ears. As she turned it down, she noticed the writing on the windshield. Though hard to make out, it had been written so that she could read it from inside the car.
Cut you bitch Stay Away Piglet
Those letters were written largest, though smaller cuss words, even more difficult to read, surrounded the most prominent message. Leaning close, she tried to make out the medium, reddish-brown, shining with the light from her dash, much of it oozing down the glass. She clicked the mist button on her windshield wipers. Thankfully, it gushed away after several squirts and wipes.
But why would anyone write that on her car?

About the Author:

Newspaper founder, bookstore owner, artist, musician, and slacker Eric Turowski writes lots of mixed-genre books when he’s not too busy playing laser tag with Tiger the Cat and his fiancée Mimi deep in the Central Valley of California. He is also the author of Inhuman Interest (Story By Tess Cooper #1). 

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1 comment:

Eric Turowski said...

Thanks for helping with the promotion for Willing Servants! I've been a little out of touch (not by choice!) but I wanted to thank you for posting.
Eric T.