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       Adversary - An OUTER HELLS Dark Urban Fantasy (The Tome of Testaments Book 1), p.1

           Jeremiah Kleckner
 
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Adversary - An OUTER HELLS Dark Urban Fantasy (The Tome of Testaments Book 1)
The Tome of Testaments

  Adversary (Book One)

  An OUTER HELLS Dark Urban Fantasy

  by Jeremiah Kleckner

  ISBN-13: 978-1522922193

  ISBN-10: 1522922199

  The Tome of Testaments

  Adversary (Book One)

  An OUTER HELLS Dark Urban Fantasy

  by Jeremiah Kleckner

  Copyright 2015

  Registration Number: TXu 1-967-091

  ISBN-13: 978-1522922193

  ISBN-10: 1522922199

  This is a fictional work and any resemblance to actual people living or dead, businesses, locales, or events is either coincidental or parodied with extreme absurdity.

  Reproduction of this publication in part or whole without written consent is strictly prohibited.

  Thank you for reading. Please consider leaving a review wherever you bought the book so that others may find it as well. Your support is everything.

  One of many...

  Join my email list and let your ravaged soul be soothed by the knowledge that, although your suffering will be great, it will pale in comparison to the rest of humanity since you will have access to free ebooks, updates, and new releases.

  Chapter One

  Damon Nero sat for an hour before Rebecca walked into the narrow, dimly lit bar.

  She suppressed a smile and looked over at the bartender. "Vodka and club with a splash of grapefruit."

  The lean woman nodded.

  Rebecca turned to Damon. "I haven't been here in forever."

  "The last dive bar in downtown Hoboken," Damon said.

  They hugged and kissed each other on the cheek.

  The bartender set Rebecca's drink on a napkin. "Would you like to open a tab?"

  "I'll take it on mine," Damon said. The bartender nodded and wrote on a pad by the register.

  Rebecca raised her glass. "To the end of year one of nursing school."

  "To the end," Damon toasted.

  They drank.

  "Did you hear that Mark and Dion are out?" Rebecca asked, setting her glass down on the bar. A slow grin crept across her face.

  "To be honest, I'm glad," Damon said. "From what little I knew of them, I wouldn't want either of them working on me."

  Rebecca laughed. "It's scary how quickly people drop off between year one and year two."

  The door opened and a chill rippled through Damon. It was subtle, only something he could sense. He straightened and looked around the bar.

  A tall man with a ball cap and a flannel shirt walked in and sat in a corner booth. Damon reached into the man's thoughts, but found only a common staccato, measure for measure with the concerns of family and money.

  "What's wrong?" Rebecca asked.

  "There's a draft."

  "In May?" she teased. "Do we have low blood pressure?"

  "Are you going to check my vitals?"

  She ran a finger through her dark hair. "I don't have my cuff with me."

  "Maybe after the party," Damon said.

  "Right," Rebecca said. She leaned back in her stool. "What time are we supposed to be there?"

  "It started at eight."

  Rebecca checked her phone. "Shit. How far is the house?"

  "Right up Hudson."

  They finished their drinks. Damon paid the check and they stepped out into the humid night air. They turned off of Washington onto Second Street toward the water.

  "How long have you known them?" Rebecca asked.

  "Years now," Damon said. "Chris and Gracie have played a big role in my life."

  "I'm still not sure how comfortable I am going to a party at one of my clinical instructors' houses."

  They crossed Second. Damon savored the rare hum of solitude on the often busy street. "Your year is over. It'll be fine."

  "She's just a little intense," she said, then caught herself. "No offense."

  Damon laughed. "She has her moments. Just stay close."

  "Oh." Rebecca smiled. "How close, exactly?"

  They kissed and he felt the two-beat measure of her heart quicken and warm her slightly.

  A hard thud blurred his vision.

  He fell to a knee.

  Rebecca screamed and her delicate melody shattered into discord.

  A second hit darkened Damon's sight into blackness and brought a loud ringing to his ears. Had Damon been mortal, a cracked skull would have been the end of him. But Damon Nero was not only far from mortal, he was far from description. The ringing settled to a dull tone and Damon shook away the last of his cloudiness.

  Rebecca's muffled screams came from up ahead. There was a rustling, followed by silence. Damon followed the screams into the alley that Hoboken called Court Street.

  The man in the baseball cap stood over Rebecca's prone body. He lifted one side of his flannel shirt and pulled an ornate dagger from his belt. The etchings caught Damon's eye.

  The man was a Mithughee, one of many casts of hunters. How did he know where they would be? If he knew enough to go after Rebecca, how did he not mark Damon for what he was? More questions sprang to Damon's mind, but he decided that the time for answers would come soon enough.

  With unseen speed, Damon gripped the man's wrist and squeezed. Bones popped and cracked.

  The man grunted through clenched teeth and the dagger fell to the cobblestone with a single clang.

  Damon grabbed the hunter's throat and slammed his head against a dumpster. The man's eyes rolled into the back of his head. Damon thought the man had died right then and there, but the Mithughee stood on wobbly legs and clenched his fists.

  Damon smiled. It had been years since he allowed himself to wear his truer skin. The change wasn't necessary. Damon knew that, but he allowed himself this one sadistic indulgence.

  Damon felt himself grow taller, heavier. Colors, unseeable only seconds before, now alighted everything.

  Two spirits stopped their midnight stroll through the ether, instantly aware that they too could be seen. One straightened its coat and cuffs, then hurried its partner along.

  The Mithughee's eyes widened and he stepped back to run in terror. Damon outpaced the wind as he pounced.

  Black claws struck forward.

  Satisfied with his kill, Damon reverted to his common form and knelt beside Rebecca. A thin line of blood trickled down the side of her face, matting her hair. Thin breaths pushed past her lips.

  Damon stalked back to the cooling body of his attacker. Oddly enough, the corpse continued to give off the same pattern of thought. Money. Family. Career. Money. Family. Career.

  He pulled the man's shirt open and found a small pendant on a chain. It had the symbol of the Mithughee on it, but held an opal in its center. The stone repeated its mundane thoughts at him. Money. Family. Career. It was an excellent camouflage for a hunter. Appear like one of the prey.

  He lifted the man's body into a nearby dumpster and threw the dagger in as well.

  Damon used his sleeve to wipe as much blood off of Rebecca's head as possible. Chris and Gracie's house was another couple of blocks uptown and he had to carry her without attracting attention.

  Chapter Two

  It didn't take Kevin Holmes long to get the call. The locals had eyes everywhere and it was only a matter of time before the next candidate was chosen.

  Kevin walked the streets with his guides, a pleasant long-dead couple from 1920s Hoboken. They had a lot to say. He could o
nly nod his understanding. Even long after the invention of wireless headsets, people were wary of those who appeared to be talking to themselves.

  It still seemed odd to him to have to speak to the dead since they didn't speak out loud. They communicated, but they did so in a way that bypassed your ears.

  He whispered when they stepped onto Court Street. "Where's the body?"

  "Right here," the husband expressed. "Right in the trash."

  "Horrible," the woman followed.

  Kevin opened the lid and, under the thin layer of garbage, was a Mithughee. A young one, too. To be sure, he pulled the man's lower lip down and found the hunter's scar on the gum by the back molar.

  "To be clear," the husband announced. "He attacked them."

  Kevin turned to the spirit and raised an eyebrow. "There were two of them?"

  "Yes," the wife added. "A man and a woman. Carrying on in the street, not caring who was watching."

  Watching. The word struck Kevin with an idea. He held his hand up to quiet them and looked high on the walls. There, above the third window, was exactly what he needed. A slim black camera hung silently observing their every movement.

  Kevin noted the address and walked around to the front of the building. He climbed the stone steps and rang the doorbell.

  No shuffling footfalls. No barking.

  He rang the doorbell again.

  Nothing.

  He scanned the front of the house for another camera and found one below the second-story window. Kevin walked around the back again.

  Between his training and gifts, he took four minutes to access the house. Once inside, he found the security hub in the master bedroom. There were six camera hookups, four outside and two inside.

  Kevin took out his phone and connected it to the hard drive. He cycled through the files. The backlogs carried a weight of information beyond the recording. Whoever owned the house hadn't reviewed the data in over a month. This was good. It meant that their habits were to only look when they suspected something was wrong.

  Kevin reviewed the footage. It was a series of common images at first. People cutting through Court Street toward First or Second. A young couple embracing.

  Then Kevin saw something amazing happen, something beyond description.

  He uploaded the video to his phone and deleted everything from prior to that forward. He programed the system so that it would seem like the recording stopped before 8pm due to a loss of power.

  Kevin left through the back door and dialed the number he had only ever had to call twice before.

  There was a click and then a near-silent hush.

  "You were right," Kevin said. "He's perfect."

  Chapter Three

  Gracie opened the door and gasped.

  "I'm fine," Damon said. He pushed past the flood of her thoughts and rushed through the narrow hallway into the living room. "A Mithughee attacked us. He had a Hklfeha dagger."

  Damon set Rebecca on the sofa and stepped back. Gracie pulled her hair into a ponytail, knelt beside Rebecca, and got to work checking her wounds.

  A short, stalky man walked in from the kitchen, "What the hell happened?"

  Damon turned to him. "They know."

  "How?" the man asked, bristling beneath his shirt.

  "I don't know how they know, Chris, but they know," Damon said. "I couldn't read him when he snuck up on us. He had something with him. A pendant that sent out false thoughts even after he was dead."

  Gracie looked up, concerned. "You didn't bring it here, did you?"

  Damon scowled at her, then softened. "The body, knife, and pendant are all in a dumpster. They dispose of their own, so it'll all be gone in the morning." He motioned to Rebecca. "How is she?"

  "Most of it is superficial," Gracie said, checking Rebecca's eyes. She then stood and walked into the kitchen. Damon heard the faucet run for a moment before she walked back into the living room with a wet towel. She cleaned the dirt and blood off of Rebecca's face and hands. "It doesn't look like she has a concussion. We were lucky."

  "What do you think they wanted?" Chris asked.

  "Considering the knife," Damon said, "my guess is that they wanted her dead."

  "So we were right about her," Chris said, a smile grew on his face.

  Damon smiled back. "I guess so."

  "A call went out while you were gone," Gracie said. The words hung in the air for a minute. "You're requested at The Tome."

  Damon nodded and walked upstairs to the second bedroom.

  The Tome of Testaments looked just like any other book, except when it didn't. When Gracie used The Tome last week, it resembled a 1000 page dictionary. Chris stepped to The Tome one time and it lit up in holographic beauty. This time the book was flat, large, and old.

  The cover flaked and cracked as Damon pried the book open. It never mattered which page he turned to in The Tome, it was always blank. There was no looking back at pages he had seen before and there was no looking forward at pages he had yet to read. The Gods of the Far only ever revealed what was needed to be known. Nothing else existed.

  The page was a yellow and dry canvas. Soon lines appeared, intersected, and took shape. Some lines made pictures, others formed letters. Damon read slowly, committing every stroke to memory.

  It was a warning, but not about a Mithughee strike team as Damon expected. A God of the Near and his followers were plotting to take Rebecca from them and make sure she did not survive the night. The book even gave him a name. Yeh-Rholyu.

  Damon suppressed a laugh. Yeh-Rholyu was an aged and underfed Near God. Even his picture in The Tome showed him hunched and dogged.

  Glass crashed downstairs. Gracie and Chris screamed things that Damon didn't hear well enough to understand.

  Damon skimmed the remaining pages and ran out of the room.

  He jumped over the railing of the staircase, landing with a soft pat on the hardwood, then darted into the living room.

  Once there, he saw Gracie dive over the couch with a kitchen knife in her hand. She cursed and something scurried into the dining room.

  "What is going on?" Damon yelled.

  "Something bit the back of Chris's leg," Gracie said. "It was on Rebecca a second ago, but I lost it."

  "What did it look like?" Damon asked.

  Gracie stood over Rebecca, knife at the ready. "Like some sort of spider or cat."

  "Those are two very different things."

  "I didn't get a good look at it."

  "Clearly," Damon said.

  "Do you sense anything?"

  Damon reached out and heard the rhythm of thought, but it was garbled, as though listening to someone talk while under water. He understood the tone of the thinker's intentions. They were commands. "Someone's controlling it."

  A plate flew across the room and shattered against Gracie's head. She slumped over the coffee table and grew still.

  Damon's eyes traced the path of the plate to the thing on the dining room table. Eight to ten inches tall. Dark fur. Five legs. Bulbous eyes and bat ears. It parted its lips and let out a low growl through small, sharp teeth.

  He lunged for it, but it leapt over him and hurled itself out of the already broken window. Damon followed, shattering more of the glass out onto the back patio.

  He landed on the stone and watched as the thing scurried along the wall of the house next door. He took a breath and did the same.

  It ran around garbage cans and between houses.

  It slid under cars and into people's backyards.

  Damon chased it as best he could without being seen, but when it shot along a wire to a rooftop bar across Fourteenth Street, he knew he'd been beaten.

  It was in his moment of quiet defeat when Damon realized that he'd been lured away from the house. If he planning an attack, this was how he would have done it.

  He cu
rsed and sprinted home.

  Less than a minute later, Damon ran up the front stairs to find the door wide open. He crept inside and stalked into the living room. Gracie was on the couch with ice on her head. Chris stood over her with a dishrag around his ankle.

  "Where is she?" Damon asked.

  "When I got in here, she was gone," Chris said.

  "She walked out. I saw her leave, but couldn't stop her. I couldn't even stand. Find her, Damon. They'll kill her if you don't find her."

  Without a word, Damon leapt out of the house and onto the sidewalk. If Rebecca had her senses about her still, she'd head toward the taxi pickup point by the train station downtown.

  The night had picked up since they left the bar. Thursday nights always did in Hoboken. Yet, in spite of the hordes of chubby girls with too-early tans and muscular guys with skinny legs, finding one person in a crowd was not as hard as Damon first thought it would be.

  From thirty feet away, he saw Rebecca stumble and fall over the railing of the only good Thai place in the city.

  By the time he ran up to her, she'd picked herself up, ignored the new scrapes on her knees and hands, and pushed on downtown. He caught her by the arm as she fell again.

  That was when he heard the siren.

  "Sir, would you please step back from the lady," the voice said over the car's speaker. Two doors opened and Damon's extra sense bristled with the high-tempo beat of their harmonized assumptions.

  "Sir, please step back from the lady," the officer repeated.

  "If I let her go, she'll fall," Damon said.

  "Let her down gently, then," a younger, wider officer said. He watched Damon while the older officer helped Rebecca sit on the stone steps of a pizza place on the corner. "Do you know this woman?"

  "No."

  As if on command, Rebecca looked up and asked, "Damon, what's happening to me?"

  "Are you Damon?" the older officer asked.

  Damon nodded.

  "She seems to know you, Damon," the younger officer smirked. "Again. Do you know this woman?"

 
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