Authors: Amy Cross
Copyright 2015 Amy Cross
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events, entities and places are either products of the author's imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual people, businesses, entities or events is entirely coincidental.
Published by Dark Season Books
First published: July 2015
“There are lots of demons in the sky above London. The problem is, this one came crashing down to earth.”
Ten years ago, Alice Warner was attacked and disfigured by an attacker in her own home. She remembers nothing of the attack, and she has been in a psychiatric hospital ever since. When she's finally released, however, she starts working as a security guard at an abandoned shopping mall. And that's when she starts to realize that something is haunting her, keeping just one step out of sight at all times...
Meanwhile, seventy years earlier, a little girl named Wendy is left orphaned after a World War 2 fighter plane crashes onto her house. Taken to a monastery, Wendy is quickly singled out by the nuns for special attention. They say she has been possessed by a demon, and that there's only one way to save her soul. Fortunately for Wendy, however, there's someone else who seems to know far more about the situation.
What is the shocking connection between Alice and Wendy, reaching out across the years? Does a demon really lurk in the girl's soul? And who is Hannah, the mysterious figure who tries to help Wendy, and who seventy years later begins to make her influence felt in Alice's life too?
Alice Isn't Well is the first book in the Death Herself series, about a dark figure who arrives in the night, promising to help deal with the forces of evil whenever they appear.
(Death Herself book 1)
Ten years ago
“Unit five to base, come in. I'm at the Warner house now.”
Switching the engine off, Lt. Aspen opened the door and hauled his heavy frame out of the car. He winced a little at the pain in his back, and he had to take a pause as he looked at the dark house and saw that all the lights were off.
Probably another hoax call
, he told himself, slamming the car door shut and taking a moment for the pain to subside, before starting off along the garden path. His back was playing up like crazy, but he hadn't had time to see a doctor yet and he figured he could just push on through and it'd sort itself out. Either that, or eventually the whole damn thing would seize up and he'd be left in agony. After all, the pain was so bad now, he felt like 'the big one' was just around the corner. Still, deep down he was sure he'd be okay. He was always okay.
“When you're done there,” Marion said suddenly over the radio, “can you swing by Nash Street? Carl Williams says there's some kids loitering outside and shouting at people as they go in and out of his store.”
“And then on Claremont, there a report of a shopping cart stuck up a tree. Someone reported it as a danger to the public, so can you go climb up and get it down?”
He felt another twinge of pain at the mere mention of the idea.
“Danny?” Marion continued. “You still there?”
“I'm still here,” he replied with a sigh, keeping his eyes fixed on the windows of the house. “Sure, I'll go climb a tree. Might hurry my back along.” He paused for a moment. “You said the Warners are away on holiday this week, right?”
“Their daughter Alice is looking after the place.”
“Yeah, Alice,” he muttered. “Nice kid. The kinda girl who does her homework even when she doesn't have any.”
“Sometimes I see her in town,” Marion replied. “Always alone. I guess if you're gonna let your teenaged daughter look after the house while you're away, it helps if she doesn't have any friends.”
“Harsh,” he muttered with a faint smile. “True, but harsh.”
“I heard she hasn't been well lately.”
He paused. “Not well how, exactly?”
“I dunno. I just heard she'd been off school. You see anything yet?”
“Dark as dark can be,” he replied, reaching the front door and reaching out to press the bell. “Ain't no wild party going on, that's for sure.” Hearing nothing from inside, he figured the damn thing must be disconnected, so he knocked hard. “Police!” he called out. “If there's anyone in there, I need you to open up for me. Alice Warner, are you home? There's nothing to worry about, I just want to check you're okay.”
Stepping back, he looked up at the bedroom windows.
“Did you watch
last night?” Marion asked suddenly.
“Uh...” He paused, frowning. “I don't remember. What happened again?”
“Ian was -”
“Hold up,” he said suddenly, spotting one of the upstairs curtains fluttering slightly. With the windows seemingly all sealed shut, he figured there couldn't be a breeze inside, which meant there had to be someone in there. He waited to see if it happened again, and as the seconds ticked past he began to wonder whether someone was watching him from the other side of the window. He'd never had a gut feeling, and he'd always wondered what other people meant when they talked about them; right now, however, he was feeling one for the first time.
There was definitely someone inside.
Leaning down despite the pain in his back, he opened the letterbox and peered through. He squinted a little, and as his eyes adjusted he was able to see the dark hallway with a corridor leading back to the kitchen, and stairs on the left-hand side. The whole scene was as still as a photograph.
“I'm gonna -”
Before he could finish, he saw the faintest hint of movement at the top of the stairs. Not much, not enough to work out who or what, but just enough for it not to be a trick of the light. He waited, but whatever it was, it didn't seem to want to come back into view.
“Police!” he called out, with the letterbox still open. The pain in his back was getting worse, and he was starting to feel a little irritated by the idea that this whole thing was caused by someone playing a joke. “Alice, can you answer the door, please? I'm here in response to a phone call we received from this address. If there's someone inside who needs help, you need to open the door. If you don't need help, I still need you to open the door. I'm not leaving until I've spoken to you, okay?”
“If you need help and you can't get to the door,” he added, “I need you to let me know you're in there. Otherwise I'll have to force entry. Do you understand?”
“You okay?” Marion asked over the radio. “Is something wrong?”
“I'm not sure right now,” he replied, letting the letterbox swing shut as he took a step back. For a moment, his back tightened and he worried it was about to give out entirely, but the sensation passed after a moment, leaving the same dull ache as before. Pausing, he realized that something definitely felt a little 'off' about the house, and he still felt as if he was being watched. He wanted more than anything to go back to the car and get the weight of his feet, to maybe ease the pain in his back, but he figured he couldn't leave, not quite yet. Making his way past the living room windows, he opened the metal-frame gate and began to head along the side of the house.
“Do you want back-up?” Marion asked.
“Is there anyone in the area?” Taking a flashlight from his waist, he switched it on and shone the beam across the garden as he reached the back of the building. All he saw was the lawn and a greenhouse at the far end, plus some plastic white patio furniture a little closer.
“I think Mike might be in the park area,” Marion told him.
“Hold off for a bit,” he replied, turning to look at the back door, “it's probably just -”
Stopping suddenly, he saw that the patio door was partially off its frame. He stepped closer, shining his flashlight at the glass, and finally he spotted a hand-print on the other side, glowing with a ghostly silver hue as the flashlight caught its detail. Peering past the edge of the broken frame, he looked through into the kitchen and saw that the table had been pushed askew, while the chairs had been knocked aside and one had fallen over. The place hadn't been trashed, exactly, but there had clearly been some kind of disturbance.
“You still there?” Marion asked, keeping her voice lower now. “Danny?”
“I'm still here,” he replied, trying to push the patio door aside before finding that it was wedged in the frame. Leaning down, he ducked under and clambered into the kitchen, but when he reached out and tried the switch on the wall he found that the power was off. “Yeah,” he continued, trying not to sound too worried, “go ahead and let Mike know to swing by this way, will you? Something just doesn't seem -”
Suddenly he heard footsteps in the room above. Quick, brief footsteps, as if someone was scuttling into the far corner. Before he even had time to look up, they'd stopped.
Silence fell once again.
“Hello?” he called out. “This is Sergeant Daniel Aspen from Kellis Hill police station. Will everyone in this house please come downstairs and identify themselves at once? Alice Warner, if you're home, I just want to have a word, you're not in trouble, I just need to make sure you're okay!”
Glancing at the shelves nearby, he saw a set of family photos. He stepped closer and saw that one of them showed Alice Warner's beaming face in a school shot, grinning from ear to ear as she sat in her uniform against a cloudy blue-and-gray background. She looked happy but also a little timid, as if she was only smiling because that's what she'd been told to do.
“Alice?” he called out again, with a hint more concern in his voice this time. “This is Sergeant Aspen. Are you home?”
He waited, but there was still no reply. He could already feel his heart racing, and it was at times like this that he wished police in Britain were allowed to carry guns on routine patrol. Heading to the door and looking through into the corridor, he saw that there was no sign of anyone, but when he looked at the stairs he felt certain that there was at least one person up there. For the first time in his life, he finally knew what a 'gut feeling' really felt like, and it was disconcerting to say the least.
“Remind me what the emergency call was about again?” he whispered into his radio.
“It was just silence,” Marion replied, her voice filled with tension now. “I figured maybe someone had maybe dialed the number by accident and didn't realize they were connected, and then it got shut off.” She paused. “I still told you not to go alone.”
“It's not my fault Joe got stuck with the fish shop detail,” he replied, reaching the bottom of the stairs and looking up. “Police!” he called out. “I want you to come downstairs at once and identify yourself.” Again, he waited. “Alice, I'm going to have to come up there, do you understand? You're not in trouble, but I'm an officer of the law and I need you to make yourself known at once.”
Again, he waited in vain.
“Maybe you should wait for backup,” Marion told him.
“Is Mike on his way?”
“I haven't heard from him yet.”
He sighed. “I'm just gonna take a look. She's probably scared, that's all. How old is she again?”
“Fifteen, sixteen, something like that.”
“Just a kid, then,” he muttered. “I think I can handle a kid.”
Starting to make his way up the stairs, he kept his back to the wall and once again felt as if he'd be much happier with a gun. By the time he reached the landing, bathed in blue moonlight that shone through a window at the far end, he was starting to realize that he could hear a faint scratching sound coming from one of the rooms. He paused for a moment, as the scratching sound seemed to edge closer to the door, and then he noticed something dark smeared against one of the nearby walls. Stepping forward, he peered at the smudge, but in the low light it was hard to work out whether or not it was blood.
“Get on to Mike,” he said after moment. “Tell him to get a move on.”
Taking another step forward, he felt his right foot bump against something. He looked down and saw, to his surprise, a pair of wire-cutters on the carpet. Reaching down, he grabbed the cutters and took a look at them. Again, it was hard to tell for certain, but something dark seemed to be smeared around the tip and across the handles.
“Anything?” Marion asked over the radio.
“Wait up a moment,” he replied, hearing the scratching sound again.
“You sound worried,” she whispered.
“Quiet! Just get Mike here!””
Setting the wire-cutters down, he made his way along the landing.
“Alice?” he called out, shining his flashlight straight ahead. “Whoever's there, I want you to step out and make yourself known at once, do you understand?”
The scratching sound continued, and then the door at the end of the corridor began to creak open.
And then he saw her.
Shuffling into view just a few feet away, a teenaged girl made her way slowly, painfully out of one of the bedrooms, her trembling, tear-stained face picked out in the flashlight's beam.
“Oh, sweet Jesus,” Aspen whispered as he saw the thick black wire criss-crossing her mouth, poking in and out of holes in her lips as if someone had been determined to seal her shut and keep her from talking. There were wires over her eyes, too, crudely holding the lids closed but already starting to rip the flesh, and a moment later she turned her head slightly, revealing that her ears had also been sewn tight. Blood was caked in her hair and all around her jaw, and her brow was furrowed as if she was trying to cry. Despite all the cuts and incisions on her face, she was still recognizably the same girl from the photo in the kitchen.
“Dan?” Marion asked over the radio. “What's going on there?”
For a moment, Aspen stared in horror as Alice tried to open her mouth. The wire through her lips was too strong, however, so all that happened was that fresh blood ran down her chin, dribbling over older, dried blood, some of which had been there long enough to turn black. She limped forward, with more blood soaking through the legs of her jeans, and although she reached out and fumbled for something, running her hands against the walls, it was clear she had no idea which way to go. She let out a faint, muffled moan, as if she was trying to tear her mouth open, and when she tried to open her eyes, the lids on one side tore slightly, allowing a pupil to peek through and stare straight at him.
As soon as she saw Aspen, she lunged at him, reaching out with trembling hands.
“Jesus,” he said out loud, instinctively stepping back. “Marion, you need to get an ambulance here right now, tell them -”
Before he could finish, Alice tried to say something, but she still couldn't tear the stitches that were holding her mouth closed. She reached up and began to pull at them with desperate, trembling fingers, and slowly she began to thread them out through the holes in her lips. Dropping to her knees suddenly, she fumbled for the wire-cutters and then raised them to her mouth. Her hands were shaking so much, she could barely hold them still, but after a moment she managed to cut one piece of wire, then another. Dropping the cutters again, she tried to thread the wire out through the holes in her lips.