Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Good Shepherds Book Four: The Elder Summons

Cover Art and Excerpt

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A man entered the store and Leigh self-consciously folded the bag down and pushed it into her purse. I recognized him at once. It was Detective Moxley. He'd been absent from Blaire's office when we stopped by earlier to see the files on the suspicious deaths.
As soon as Moxley got near my instincts began to tingle. He looked dazed, as though he was sleepwalking. He approached the counter a few feet away, at the first register, with his eyes wide and frightened.
"Hey there, Gabe, are you okay?" Don asked. Apparently I wasn't the only one to notice the panicked look in his eyes.
"I don't want to do it," Gabriel said.
"You don't want to do what?" I asked.
"He's making me do it."
Jethro Welch and the two suicides Blaire had told me about came to mind at once. I tried to use my psychic abilities to read him, but all I managed to get was chaotic energy. I attempted another tactic. I connected with his mind, as I'd learned to do last winter, but it was difficult to pin him down.
"Tell me what's going on," I commanded him.
"He's making me do it. I'm scared."
"Call 9-1-1," Leigh said to Don.
There was a bottle of liquor someone had left on the counter. Moxley grabbed it and smashed it on the side of the counter. I moved toward him, reaching out to halt his hand as he shoved the broken remains of the bottle toward his neck. I wrapped my hand around his wrist, but I was too late. He'd gouged his carotid artery and blood sprayed out in a hot surge across my shirt, neck, and face.
Don was on the phone, panicked, calling for help. "This is Don Whitely at Merchant's Pharmacy. We need help! Gabriel Moxley just stabbed himself in the neck with a broken bottle!"


I couldn't believe the sheer amount of blood spewing from the wound on Gabriel's neck. I pushed him to the floor, yanked off my own tee shirt, and pressed it to the wound in the hopes I could stop the blood. He struggled at first but his attempts quickly weakened. Blood poured onto the floor under his neck and began to puddle. The coppery stench was stomach churning.
I openly chanted a healing charm, the only one I knew and cursed myself for not studying Shepherd Medicine with as much enthusiasm as Mark had. If he was here I had no doubt he could have healed Moxley completely.
My shirt, pressed against the wound on his neck, was filling with blood, but it began to slow.
"What are you doing?" Don asked, coming around the counter as I chanted.
"Praying," Leigh said quickly.
"Call Carsan," I said.
Leigh gripped the cross on her neck and closed her eyes.
"Who's Carsan? What are you--"
"Shut up, Don!" I shouted, needing to think. There was another spell that would marginally slow the death process in Nomags (what Shepherds called normal humans, or non-magical people) but I couldn't remember the words. It wasn't panic but sheer laziness and dislike of studying that had made me so unprepared for this situation.
"I'm sorry, Gabriel," I said. Guilt burned hot in my gut. I could probably have saved him if I'd studied harder. I vowed to myself that I would practice harder from then on but that wouldn't do a thing to help this man right now.
Moxley's face was so pale I wasn't sure if he had any blood left in his body.
"Move," Carsan said.
Don jumped, startled, and moved back. "Where the hell did she come from?"
I stood back and allowed Carsan to look at the wound. The blood had stopped flowing but only because there wasn't much left in his body. I knew he couldn't be saved. The Grim Reaper had arrived, slashing down at Gabriel with its scythe. He gave a weak gasp and his Death Cord rose into the air, gold and emerald. Leigh, I noticed, watched it happen without the aid of her Spectromir.
"That was Death, wasn't it?" Leigh said softly, shivering.
Don looked between me, Carsan, and Leigh with fear and confusion on his face. "What are you guys doing? What's going on here?"
"Don," I said, connecting to his mind. He was a lot easier to take over than Gabriel had been. "You didn't see anything out of the ordinary. You saw Gabriel wound himself, you saw me try to save him by pressing my shirt to his neck. Carsan ran through the front door and tried to help, but she was too late. You're not at all alarmed or afraid by what you've seen, are you?"
"I'm not alarmed or afraid. There was nothing unusual," Don repeated blankly.
"Good," I said, letting go of his mind.
He blinked and looked down at Gabriel with pity. A few moments later he said, "Why would he kill himself like that?"
"He must have been depressed," Leigh said.
"He said someone made him--"
"Forget that part," I told him, connecting quickly to his mind again. I let him go and Don said nothing else about Gabriel being forced to kill himself. He'd forgotten, just as I commanded him to.
Gabriel's soul began looping. Carsan, Leigh, and I watched as he grabbed the bottle of liquor off the counter, smashed it, and cut his neck. His hand even repeated the pulling away motion it had made when I'd tried to stop him, but there was no ghostly image of me involved. He was obviously pushed to the floor, as I had done with him earlier, but then he reappeared at the counter, grabbed the bottle and smashed it, and continued killing himself over and over. Carsan watched it all with interest.
Leigh turned her back to us and vomited her lunch onto the floor. The smell of blood was strong on the air. I didn't blame her. I felt a bit queasy myself.
Carsan started toward her. "Leigh, are you okay?"
"No, I'm not okay!" she yelled. "I just watched a man kill himself. I am so not okay."
Carsan looked her over in concern but said nothing else. Instead she walked along the front of the aisles, looking through each one. A woman emerged, holding a shopping basket, and saw Gabriel on the floor. She screamed and dropped the basket, looking almost as pale as the bloodless dead man on the floor.
"What happened?" the woman asked weakly.
"He killed himself," Don said matter-of-factly. He seemed completely unconcerned, and I realized I was responsible for that. I told him not be concerned or upset, and so he wasn't. Would that look weird to the cops?
The woman put a hand over her mouth, looked fearfully at us as though she feared we'd try to kill her for having witnessed this, and ran from the store. No one tried to stop her.
The police arrived a few moments later, sirens blaring. I became conscious that I had no shirt and was standing there in a blood soaked bra. I would have been embarrassed had I not been distracted by Gabriel's looping Specter.
I recognized the detective who entered the store first. His name was Benson, and he'd been at the Union Nursing Home massacre last winter. The Specter of Harry Burns had possessed the soulless body of a cop named Daniel Long and went on a killing spree in the nursing home. Harry had been the killer of Ray Woodson, the first Specter Mark and I had ever Witnessed.
He interviewed all of us at the scene. He spoke with Leigh last.
"So you came to make a purchase and saw the whole thing?" he asked Leigh.
She nodded. "Yeah. Gabriel just picked the bottle up, smashed it and gouged his neck. Maya tried to stop him but couldn't."
Detective Benson looked back to me. He wasn't at all confrontational and rude as Daniel Long had been when he interviewed me at Jethro Welch's death, but he looked suspicious all the same.
"You and Miss Kearns were also present at the Welch death, weren't you Miss Ford?" he asked.
"Yeah. We've had a lot of bad luck that way," I said.
He nodded and looked around the scene before asking Don if they had surveillance footage.
"Yeah, it's in the office. Want to go look at it?"
"In a second, yeah." He turned back to me, Carsan, and Leigh. "I have your numbers and addresses. If I need anything else I'll call or stop by."
"You won't need to call us," Carsan said, taking control of Benson's mind. The officers who stood behind him took on a blank look, and I wondered if Carsan was controlling all four of them. "You know we had nothing to do with this. It was an accident. We're not important."
"You're not important," all four policemen said in unison.
"You can go now," Benson said, and followed Don to the office to view the security footage.
I was glad when we were outside and away from the stink of all the blood. I got more than a few strange looks by passersby.
"He said something similar to what Jethro Welch said. He claimed he was forced to kill himself. What happened to Jethro when you Witnessed him?" I asked.
"I never did Witness him," Carsan said. "I went to do it around Christmas but the Death Cord was gone. Dhana and Ishan must have gotten to him when they came to Coalton. I'll find out from Gabriel who forced him into this when I come back tomorrow to Witness him."


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