Read Devil's Kiss Online

Authors: William W. Johnstone

Devil's Kiss

The teenagers left the silver lake and walked slowly toward the dark timber.
“Larry? That strange smell is making me sick. I don't want to go in there.”
“Aw, come on! Don't get all spooked-out,” Larry replied, but admitted to himself that something was wrong, dreadfully wrong.
Suddenly they heard a low growl, and then a snarl from the timber, just a few yards away.
Joan grabbed his hand and shouted, “Come on, Larry. Run!”
Then a scream touched them, a howling. A shriek of such hideousness that the young couple ran blindly through the night.
“Oh my God!” Larry screamed as he pointed to the grotesque figures surrounding them, encircling them with eyes red and wild. The Beasts were large, long-legged, and clumsy—and they were hungry. They wanted raw meat, and the sweet, hot, salty taste of blood. Not fearing the darkness they knew so well, they chased Larry and Joan—knowing that their appetite would soon be satisfied . . .
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God and the devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man.
, 1958
The town of Whitfield, located in northwestern Nebraska, will slowly begin the job of rebuilding. It will take a long, long time. It will take much longer for the memories to fade—to fade just enough to allow the survivors to sleep at night, to sleep without dreams, without nightmares of that week of terror and disgust and evil.
Those who remain will remember it as the summer of The Digging.
Not many of the twenty-five hundred citizens of Whitfield are left. A few ran away and were never found; the darkness seemed to swallow them. Or something swallowed them. But most are dead. At least, those who remain hope They are dead.
Structurally, Whitfield is gone. The town is a broken, burned, still-smoking jumble of ruin.
The churches were the first to go, on that opening day of horror. The Methodist, the Baptist, the Christian, the Catholic, the Episcopal, all of them—gone. Burned to the foundations.
Not many miles from Whitfield, out in the Bad Lands, what remains of an archaeological dig site lies rusting under the summer sun. At first, everyone assumed it was a true dig, and no one questioned the validity of the digging. At first. Then it was too late. The picks and shovels and other instruments lie where they were dropped, slowly becoming part of the earth. The living quarters remain, the trailers soon acquiring that look of neglect when not occupied.
Inside the trailers, it is quite another story. A story the state and federal governments quickly decided not to release. The interiors are spotted with dark stains. The walls, the floors, the ceilings... all tarnished with huge blobs of darkness. Dried blood.
For a time, before the government moved in and took control, rotting corpses stiffened under the sun. Their putrefaction fouled the air not just at the Digging, but all over Fork County, Nebraska.
The area surround the Dig will be sealed off—quickly. Heavy chain-link fences will be added, preventing any further digging. The governor will say, “As far as I'm concerned, it can damn well stay sealed off—forever.”
Inside the Dig site, not far from the trailers, there is a huge stone circle. For as long as anyone can remember, for as long as the legend was told, the circle was barren. Nothing would grow. With the arrival of spring, though, the circle will be fertile with a glorious profusion of flowers springing forth, thrusting their multicolored blossoms to the sky.
All will be peaceful—for a time.
The survivors all hope there will be no more profane shouting, no lewd dancing, no bloody nights of human sacrifice, no screaming as the knife cuts into living flesh, bloodying the stone altar that still remains.
If one were to look closely at the stones placed around the circle, at the carvings cut into the larger stones, one would see two figures depicted: a saintly man, and a beastly man/creature. The creature and the Saint appear to be locked in some sort of combat.
After all the horror, all the killings, all the degradation, all the broken lives, all the torture . . . neither the Saint nor the man/creature appear to be any closer to winning their battle.
On the morning of the eighth day, three couples stood in the center of the smoking ruins of Whitfield. The men and women were heavily armed. They were grimy, their clothing spotted with blood and stinking pus, their eyes red-rimmed with exhaustion. They carried sharpened stakes.
“It's over?” a woman asked.
“Yes,” a man replied, his voice betraying the weariness all of them felt.
It was over, yet none of them dropped their weapons or their stakes. They were not that certain—not yet.
From out of the ruins came a child's cry, then the muffled sound of a terrified woman shushing the child. The sound was faint, coming from the confines of a basement. Yet another sound drifted to the survivors: the sound of someone praying to God for help.
“I wonder how many are left?” a woman asked. “I mean, like us?”
“A few,” the man beside her said. “Enough to rebuild.” He put his weapon on safety, then slipped it over his shoulder by the strap. “There will be a few of—Them waiting for us. We'll have to hunt Them down. One by one. They have to die.”
I was born here,” another man said. ”My father was born here. His father helped settle this county. I'm not going to be run off. Come on, we've got to get to work, the police will be here soon, by afternoon, at least. We've got to get it done before they arrive.”
A woman pulled a stake from her belt. “With God's help,” she said.
They walked toward the sound of someone or some Thing snarling and cursing.
Moments later, after a brief struggle, there was the pounding of dull hammering.
And that awful screaming.
The minister slowed his car, then smiled with recognition at the man standing by the side of the road, beside his automobile. The minister pulled off the highway, cut his engine, and got out.
“You're a long way from home, old friend,” the minister said. “Got car troubles?”
“No,” the man replied, the sunlight of early spring sparkling off a strange-looking medallion hanging about his neck. “But you're a long way from home as well, Brother Hayes.”
“Once a month to Waldron until they find a minister. But you know that.”
“Yes. How did the services go?”
“Very well, thank you. But why are you out here? Not to be prying, of course.” The Baptist minister cut his eyes as he detected movement in the rear seat of the automobile. His eyes widened with shock.
What . . . why, that's Reverend Balon's wife! What—?”
He had turned toward the car, not believing a deacon in his church would have another man's wife with him—not this far from Whitfield. Then he saw the other man. Dalton Revere, an elder in Balon's church. The minister moved toward the car, to get a better look at the couple seated in the rear.
He had heard talk, but had dismissed it as rumor. Now this.
Mrs. Balon, a very beautiful woman, sat close to Dalton, her hand resting on his leg in an intimate touch. Her hair was disheveled, lipstick smeared.
“Church business?” Hayes asked, acid disapproval in his tone.
“Sorry you had to find out like this,” Dalton smiled. “But you weren't coming around to our way. You had to discover the truth someday soon.
“Our way?” Hayes's look was of confusion. “The truth?” His eyes touched the medallion each wore around their necks. Strange medallions.
“The only way,” Mrs. Balon smiled. “The only truth.”
“What are you talking about, Michelle?”
Something smashed into the back of the minister's head, dropping him to his knees, the front of his head striking the side of the car, bloodying his nose. He turned pain-filled eyes upward. “Otto, please. No!”
The tire iron beat him into unconsciousness, shattering the skull, sending bits of bone deep into his brain. One more blow from the iron bar, and the minister was dead, quivering on the gravel shoulder.
“Take his money,” Dalton said, getting out of the car. “We'll make it look like robbery. Put his car over there,” he pointed to a low hill, “with him in the trunk. Be careful not to leave any prints on anything. We're not in Fork—this will be investigated.”
Otto held up the bloody tire iron.
“Put that in the trunk of our car. We'll dispose of it when we get back to Whitfield.”
The minister's body was stuffed into the trunk of his car, the car hidden behind the low hill. The trio drove away.
“Now you can bring in your man, Farben,” Dalton said. “He'll fill your pulpit and phase one will be complete.”
“But there are others we have to worry about,” Otto reminded him.
“Father Dubois and Lucas Monroe are old men. They will be no problem. Glen Haskell will have to be dealt with—soon. He could give us some trouble. But it's Sam I'm worried about.” He glanced at Michelle. “Remember what the Master said.”
“Don't worry about my husband,” she smiled, and the parting and widening of her lips was evil. “When the time is right, I'll kill him.”
“Then we're almost ready,” Dalton's smile was nasty. “With that psalm-singing sheriff dead, Walter in office, all we have to do is get rid of John Benton, and the law is ours.”
“How much longer do we have to wait?” Otto asked, his free hand busy between Michelle's legs.
“Not long,” Dalton said, one hand touching the medallion about his neck, the other hand caressing Michelle's breasts. “Not long.”
“Stop the car!” Michelle said.
Pull over there behind that hill. I want you both.”

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