A slight change in direction for crime/thriller writer J.M. Shorney, this gothic horror is a thrilling, gripping read.
Because of the dense thicket of undergrowth, the old chapel had remained concealed. Secluded from the road, its crumbling, long disused grey stone facade lent the place an eerie feel, aided by the white shimmer of full moonlight. The round tower of the strange place reminded him more of a castellated building rather than a chapel. Although it was obviously a chapel or a church, as attested by the narrow Gothic archway, where a battered door was flung open.
A broken stained glass window, with the moonlight streaming through it, threw everything into a profound relief. The 12 black robed figures moved as if in formation about the altar. In its heart was the familiar Pentacle sign. The image of something that was half man, half goat occupied the centre of the Pentacle. The face was that of a goat with pointed ears, black tufts of thick coarse hair protruded from the ears. It sat cross legged as if in Buddha fashion. Its chest was bare, apart from more tufts of thick black hair. The torso was that of a man until this physiognomy met the waist. The tail at the base of the spine was punctuated where the legs became that of a goat . Several lighted black candles guttered in the wind and threatened to extinguish.
At least he imagined that the goat like creature was a statue. Though it was fashioned in stone, with the unholy light that shimmered with a greenish effulgence around it, the statue appeared almost to be alive, overseeing the proceedings. At the edge of the Pentacle a small bonfire blazed.The firelight afforded expression within the empty eye sockets of the statue, which glinted as living coals in the face of something that had never lived.
He had slowed the bike to a halt so as not to herald his presence. Dismounting he pulled the Harley ( hopefully) out of sight behind a tree. Enough at least to feast his gaze on the unfolding tableau. The chanting was alternatively low, barely heard, then rising to a crescendo, like a badly worn out radio.
Each of the figures wore the same black robes , tied by rope about their waists, the hoods thrown up, rendering their features unrecognisable.
The altar was a black bier table, upon which a girl was strapped down by her hands and legs by a single length of black hemp. A large bruise had already formed on one side of her face, while the rest was covered in a mass of boils, some of which had suppurated blood and pus. Her body was running to obesity, which the diaphanous white nightgown wrapping her oversized frame failed to conceal.
He was secluded enough from the robed figures, as they paraded around the girl. Then one of them, dislodging himself from the others, held an upraised knife. He screamed, ” She is mine! The third sacrifice! I’m doing this for you, Master!” He was youthful, wiry, the sound of his voice echoed throughout the assembly, wild and maniacal.
The third sacrifice. Had he been responsible for the others then? Where were Rushton and Talbot? His heart raced as the figure rushed toward the girl lying motionless on the bier. No one sought to prevent him when the scintilla of steel slithered snake-like, rolling into his hand, but remaining partially covered by the sleeve of his robe.
The chanting increased as they urged him on. The women clawed at their clothes with desperate hands, ripping them off their bodies, half naked, white, plump. Some of them had wrinkled, orange-peel flesh with the tell-tale signs they were not young. It was obvious they wanted the young man to kill the girl. His knife, which had a worn black handle upon which was carved a white sigil, was poised above her. Once again the peel of his maniacal laughter seemed to emanate as if from the very depths of some infernal nightmare.
“Not yet!” Her voice was familiar, commanding. Her hair, caught in the reflection of the watery sheath of moonlight, streamed to her waist. His heart beat even faster as his senses reeled. It was the woman with whom he had shared the last seven years of his life. The woman he would have lain down his very life for. Her beautiful face was ashen. The black gown contrasted sharply against the alabaster purity of her skin. She almost seemed a stranger to him.
” Freya!” Nick practically screamed her name. Unable to watch any longer, he grabbed the pistol from his saddlebag. Regardless of the hushed, surprised whispers that abounded from the coven of 12, he hobbled toward her. Tears rolled down his face and all he could see was her. It didn’t matter about the others, all he wanted to do was rescue her, find his son and get the hell out.
“Nick, what are you doing?” Freya exclaimed, alarm in her voice when she saw him. Her husband. The man she loved with every breath of her.
But he shouldn’t be here. She had attempted to prevent him by willing the Black Mastiff to bound out in front of the Harley. She felt guilty when she saw that he was injured.
“Nick!” Leona stepped forward. She wasn’t like the others. They had retreated instinctively, scared by the presence of the gun. The wild-eyed gaze of the man now confronting them. ” Yeah, what are you doing here?” Although she sounded pleased by his unexpected arrival.
” I’ve come to rescue my wife and son.” He levelled the automatic on the hooded figures. The knife was lowered. Goethe was about to plunge the athame into Nina Dowlan’s unconscious form. Rose had groomed her daughter for this night, to offer as the third sacrifice, ensuring that their master, Dante LeVey, should be satisfied enough with their handiwork for his resurrection.