Unseen voices, p.1
Unseen Voices, page 1
Project Demon Hunters: Book Four
Dark Valentine Press
Also by Christine Pope
About the Author
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places, organizations, or persons, whether living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2019 by Christine Pope
Published by Dark Valentine Press
Cover art by Christian Bentulan
Ebook formatting by Indie Author Services
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems — except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews — without permission in writing from its publisher, Dark Valentine Press.
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Will Gordon’s cell phone rang, and for a second or two, he contemplated ignoring the call and letting it go to voicemail. The Adult Children of Alcoholics meeting All Saints Church was hosting would begin in less than fifteen minutes, and he still needed to leave his office and head over to the all-purpose room where people would be gathering so he could get the chairs set up and the refreshments laid out. However, he figured he’d better take a look at the phone’s screen just so he could see who was calling him on Friday night, when most people in his circle knew he had a regular commitment here at the church.
But a quick look told him that it was Michael Covenant calling…and Michael didn’t make phone calls just to chat.
Frowning slightly, Will swiped his finger across the screen. Despite the tension he could already feel building in his body, he thought it was probably better to start out light. “Hey, Michael. How’s Tucson?”
“Good,” Michael replied. He sounded tense, although Will had no idea why. Michael and his girlfriend Audrey had relocated to Tucson more than two months earlier so she could work on getting her doctorate in parapsychology at the University of Arizona, one of the few places left in the United States where such programs were even still offered. As far as Will knew, everything had been going just fine with the couple, although he hadn’t heard from Michael recently.
Since his friend didn’t seem eager to add anything to that single brief syllable, Will asked, “Everything okay?”
A long pause. “I’m not sure.”
Will glanced down at his watch. Seven twenty-three. While he didn’t want to be rude, he also didn’t have much time to spare. “Well, tell me about it as I’m heading out of the office. I’ve got an ACA meeting in less than ten minutes.”
“Oh, hell, I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about. I don’t expect everyone to keep my calendar in their heads.”
“Still hectic over there at All Saints?”
“You could say that.” Will headed out of his office and shut the door behind him, then locked it. In the not-so-distant past, he wouldn’t have had to take that kind of precaution, but a few burglaries in the last several years had shown that even All Saints Episcopal Church wasn’t immune to petty crime. “One of our pastors left to take a position in northern California, so the rest of us have been doing double duty for a while.” He left it there; no reason to point out that he’d been happy to take on the extra workload, if for no other reason than doing so helped to camouflage what a wasteland his social life was.
Something that might have been a sigh — or simply a released breath — came through the phone’s tiny speaker. “Then I kind of hate to dump anything else on you, but I don’t know who else to ask.”
“You don’t need to ask anyone else. What do you need help with?”
Another pause. Will hoped his friend wasn’t second-guessing whatever impulse had led him to make the call in the first place. They’d known each other for more than five years, their paths first crossing at a metaphysical symposium being held downtown at the convention center. While they were both ordained ministers, Michael had never sought out a congregation, preferring instead to use his calling to rid the world of the darker forces that lurked at its edges. Even some of Will’s fellow clergy thought Michael was a crackpot, but he knew better. His friend was one of the few holding the line against a foe most people wouldn’t even acknowledge; if Michael was calling because he needed assistance with something, then Will knew he had to offer his help, no matter what might be involved.
“This Project Demon Hunters thing….” Michael began, then let the words trail off, as if he didn’t quite know where to start.
Will had known peripherally about the reality TV show Michael was involved with, but he’d been busy with church activities and hadn’t been in touch with his friend while the show was shooting. And when Michael told him it was canceled but didn’t give any more explanation than that, Will guessed the cancellation must have something to do with the sudden, untimely death of the show’s co-creator and producer, Colin Turner. Since Will heard nothing else on the topic from Michael, he figured that was the end of it.
“What about Project Demon Hunters?” he asked. By that point, he’d arrived at the meeting room, so he shifted his phone to his other hand so he could get the keys out of his pocket and unlock the door.
“It’s done, but…I don’t know. I’ve been getting a weird feeling the past few days.”
Michael Covenant’s “weird feelings” weren’t usually the sort of thing you ignored. Will let himself into the meeting room and flicked on the lights, then said, “Anything more specific than that?”
“Not really. Just a sort of building pressure, like storm clouds on the horizon or something.” A slight hesitation, and then Michael said, “I’m mostly worried about Rosemary.”
“A friend of Audrey’s and mine. Audrey met her over the summer, and Rosemary helped me out when I was really in a bind. She’s a psychic who owns a bookstore over in Glendora.”
If Michael called someone a psychic, that meant they were the real deal; he didn’t use the term lightly. “Any particular reason why you’re worried about this Rosemary?” Will asked as he did his best to pull a chair off the stack against the far wall using only one hand. Good thing the Friday night ACA group was never very big — he shouldn’t have to set up more than a dozen at the most.
“No. Like I said, it’s just a feeling. Mostly, I wanted to give you a heads-up that I’d like to give her your contact information, let her know that if she runs into anything that makes her feel hinky, she has some backup in the area.”
“Of course, it’s fine if you give her my number. I’m glad to help.”
“Absolutely.” Will wrestled another chair over to the small circle he was setting up in the middle of the room and sent a worried glance at the clock on the wall. Sev
“Maybe not.” Once again, Michael paused, this time for so long, Will wondered if his friend had ended the call. But then he said, “It’s just….”
“Just what?” Will asked.
“Just…I can’t shake the feeling that Project Demon Hunters isn’t over. Not by a long shot.”
Rosemary McGuire trundled a cart laden with book boxes down the narrow aisle, pausing every foot or so to dig out the titles that needed to be shelved in each section where she stopped. Restocking was probably her least favorite part of her job here at the bookstore she shared with her two sisters, but the work had to be done. Of course, she found it just a wee bit convenient that Cecily had to take her son Tyler to a pediatrician’s appointment and Isabel had a meeting with her financial planner on the very afternoon when their new shipment from Llewellyn Press — one of their biggest suppliers — was due, but whatever. It was a Tuesday, and those middle-of-the-week days tended to be dead in Glendora’s sleepy historic downtown.
Still, Rosemary could think of about fifty other things she’d rather be doing right at that particular moment, none of which involved meticulously placing each new title in its designated section, whether that was Tarot or folk healing or meditation or astrology. But since the books wouldn’t put themselves away, she kept doggedly at the task, thinking that after she got off work, she’d reward herself with a glass of pinot at the wine bar just across the street and half a block up from where Sisters We was located.
The string of Tibetan brass bells that hung from the front door of the shop jingled, and she straightened up from the lower shelf where she’d been shelving a title on Reiki. Not that she really needed to keep too close an eye on things; the shop’s security cameras would have caught whoever had just entered the store. Besides, it was too early for the local high school to have let out yet. Not that she had anything against high school kids, per se, only that some of them tended to be a little light-fingered around the boxes of incense that were stacked neatly on a table not too far from the cash register. Probably, the kids took the incense to cover up the smell of pot; marijuana was legal for recreational use in California, but not if you were under eighteen.
Then a man’s voice, nice and low, but sounding a little hesitant. “Rosemary McGuire?”
She swiveled and saw a male model standing at the end of the aisle where she’d been working. All right, maybe not exactly a male model, but definitely someone who wasn’t exactly the type you’d usually see wander into a metaphysical bookstore. The stranger was probably around six feet tall and had sandy blond hair, regular features just strong enough to avoid being downright pretty, and brown eyes under brows several shades darker than his hair.
“Um…yes?” she replied in response, not sure exactly what this apparition could want with her. At the same time, she was very glad that she always made sure her hair and makeup looked decent when she came into work — and was also secretly glad that today she wore a new sequin-accented skirt she’d just bought, which wasn’t an ankle-sweeper like most of her skirts but only barely covered her knees. The weather had been pretty hot for mid-October, so she figured she could get away with something that short, as well as the black tank top and black platform sandals she wore with it.
If the stranger had noticed her ensemble, however, he didn’t give much evidence of it. His gaze was fixed on her face, and she hoped she hadn’t blushed. Hard to say, since she already felt a little overheated from all the shelving she’d been doing.
“Hi, I’m Caleb Dixon,” he said, and extended a hand. Since Rosemary didn’t know what else to do, she took it and exchanged an awkward shake before she wrapped her fingers around the handle of the cart next to her, hoping the sensation of the cool metal against her skin might steady her a bit. “I hope you don’t mind me coming to see you here at work like this.”
She shook her head, even as she replied, “Sorry, do I know you?” Dumb question, she thought. I’d definitely remember you if we’d ever met before this….
He grinned, showing off teeth that were as perfect as the rest of him. “No, sorry if I gave the wrong impression. I guess that sounded kind of weird. You’re a friend of Audrey Barrett’s, right?”
Immediately, Rosemary could feel herself tense. Of course, she was a friend of Audrey’s — and of Michael Covenant, Audrey’s significant other — but, considering some of the stuff the two of them had been involved with, it wasn’t exactly the sort of connection Rosemary liked to acknowledge to a complete stranger.
“I know her,” she said cautiously. “Why?”
Caleb’s smile slipped a little but managed to remain in place. “It’s all right,” he told her. “I knew Colin.”
That remark made Rosemary’s eyebrows lift a fraction. She definitely hadn’t been a fan of the acerbic producer of Project Demon Hunters, but just because Colin could be a prize jackass when he wanted to, that didn’t mean she thought he deserved to be murdered by demons. Sure, everyone thought his killer must have been an intruder in his rented Los Feliz home, but Audrey and Michael — and Rosemary by extension — knew better. Anyway, a friendship with Colin Turner wasn’t exactly the most fortuitous connection to claim, considering what had happened to him.
But even though her spider sense was pinging all over the place, she made herself reply calmly, “Oh, did you work on one of his shows?”
Because Caleb definitely had the sort of face that should be in front of a camera.
However, he immediately said, “No. I’m a filmmaker, too — or at least, I want to be. I met Colin at a couple of local conventions, and we interacted in some online forums.”
Which basically meant Caleb must have known Colin in roughly the same way a bunch of people who went to the local psychic fairs could claim to know Rosemary. None of those people were friends, only clients who’d gotten a Tarot reading or had their palms read, but they knew her name, knew she was associated with the Sisters We bookstore in Glendora.
“Ah.” That was about the only response she felt willing to give right then.
It seemed to be enough for the man who stood before her, though, because he went on, “I just wanted you to know that I was familiar with his work, that I knew about his connection to Michael and Audrey.” Voice lowering slightly, Caleb added, “And I know about Project Demon Hunters.”
Rosemary’s fingers tightened on the handle of the book cart. “A lot of people know about Project Demon Hunters,” she returned, hoping she sounded casual and not like her heart had suddenly started beating a little faster than it had been a few seconds earlier. “I mean, it was announced on the cable network’s website, even if they did end up pulling the show. It’s not like it was a state secret or something.”
“True,” Caleb allowed. He didn’t seem too put off by her comment, because he went on, “But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about how I know that Colin and Michael and Audrey managed to get footage of phenomena no one else has ever seen.”
Once again, Rosemary could feel her brows lift. As far as she knew, no one working on the show had openly discussed any of the things they’d seen or experienced. At least, that was what Audrey had made it sound like, although Rosemary could tell that her friend pretty much wanted to leave the whole mess behind her. Who could blame her? Fending off demons in the basement of a haunted mansion or being an eyewitness to an actual exorcism had to be pretty traumatic. And that didn’t even take into account having to face down an actual lord of Hell on the grounds of an isolated manor house in the Connecticut countryside….
“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” she said carefully. While she hated to give someone so gorgeous the brush-off, she also knew that Audrey and Michael had talked to her in confidence, and she wasn’t about to go betraying their secrets to the first stranger who dropped into her shop, no matter how good-looking he might be
She took hold of the book cart with both hands and acted as if she was going to push it a little farther along the aisle. However, Caleb stood in her way, effectively blocking her progress.
“I think you know something,” he said.
“I really don’t.”
Now he smiled again. It was the smile of a guy who was used to getting what he wanted, and irritation stirred within her. All right, someone like Caleb Dixon probably did have people bending over to help him out, just because the world wasn’t full of insanely good-looking men, no matter what the movies and romance novels might want you to believe. However, that realization made her even less inclined to help the guy out. People who traded on their looks annoyed the crap out of her.
“Do you really think Colin would have wanted his work to just disappear into the ether and never be seen by anyone?”
Damn it. Rosemary wished she could retort that she hadn’t known Colin very well and therefore couldn’t possibly have any idea what he would or wouldn’t have wanted. Problem was, while such an assertion might be partially true, she’d heard enough from Audrey to know the producer definitely had wanted to make sure everyone saw the unbelievable footage he’d captured for Project Demon Hunters. In fact, Michael and Colin had been plotting to release some it anonymously — heavily edited, of course — but had never managed to accomplish their goal…mostly because someone or something had killed Colin before he could upload the videos. The hard drive on his computer had been erased, and, as far as Rosemary knew, Michael had never been able to determine if Colin had made any backup copies.
by Christine Pope / Romance / Science Fiction & Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes