Bestialby Ray Garton
Werewolves have arrived like an epidemic. This time, though, the outbreak is careful, planned by the hungry monsters themselves. The werewolves
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Something dark and sinister is spreading through the California town of Big Rock. Something more brutal and animalistic than normally lurks in the shadows of our daily lives. And its numbers are growing exponentially.
Werewolves have arrived like an epidemic. This time, though, the outbreak is careful, planned by the hungry monsters themselves. The werewolves have dug their claws in deep and continue to grow ever more powerful. As the infection transfers through grisly violence and horrific sex, the entire town transforms into either starved predator or terrified prey. This time, there is no escape.
Can the remaining band of humans fight back? Are there enough left to stop the trail of terror? Were there ever enough? This gut‑wrenching follow‑up to Ravenous by Grand Master of Horror Ray Garton will have you too scared to turn the page . . . or too scared to stop, if only to seek refuge in its shocking end.
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By Ray Garton
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Chapter One Driving Back to the Seventies
The silver Mercedes coupé put Carmel behind it on California's Highway 1 and sped south. To the right, the meringue breakers of the gray-blue Pacific repeatedly surged against the rocky cliffs and flat expanses of wet, shiny sand, stirring a thin, silvery mist. It was a bright, sparklingly clear Friday in July, and the morning neared its end.
In the passenger seat, Karen Moffett smoked a Winston and occasionally flicked ashes out of the three-inch opening in the window. She had been annoyed with car manufacturers ever since they'd stopped installing ashtrays in cars. She took a drag and exhaled smoke as she waited for the driver to respond to the explanation she'd just given.
"So let me get this straight," Gavin Keoph said as he drove. "Essentially, we're, uh ... traveling back in time to the seventies. Is that it?"
"I haven't been to this place myself, but yeah, that's pretty much the case."
Gavin eyed the cigarette between the first two fingers of her right hand.
"From what I've learned," she went on, "the Esalen Institute has perfectly preserved the philosophies and pop psychology of the seventies in a hermetically sealed environment. Sort of like stepping back in time to Marin County, circa 1973."
Karen noticed that his eyes glanced at the road but spent most of their time on her cigarette.
"Can I have a drag off that?" he said.
"Didn't you bring your own?"
"I'm trying to quit."
She laughed as she handed him the half-smoked cigarette. Gavin pulled on the cigarette, and his eyes closed briefly with plea sure as he inhaled while Karen watched. As he exhaled the smoke slowly with a sigh, his eyes opened only halfway to watch the road, and his body slumped in the seat, suddenly relaxed, soothed.
"Careful," Karen said. "You enjoy that any more and you're going to need a cigarette afterwards, if you know what I mean."
Gavin chuckled as he handed the cigarette back to her.
"How long has it been since your last smoke?" she said.
"Oh ..." He looked at his watch. "About nine hours."
"They have pills for that now, you know."
"I don't believe in pills."
"You may not believe in them, Keoph, but they do exist." At Karen's feet was an Aquafina bottle with some dead cigarette butts floating in a few inches of water. She took another drag, then picked up the bottle, removed the cap, and dropped the remainder of the cigarette into it. She replaced the cap and put the bottle back down by her feet.
"We've known each other for a couple years now, and you're still calling me Keoph," he said, smiling. "I hate that."
"You do? Why haven't you ever said so?"
"I have. At least twice."
"You have? Oh. Well, what do I call you?"
"How about my first name? Gavin."
"All right, Gavin it is. Sometimes I get distracted and don't hear things. Sorry I didn't hear you."
"So, what is Martin Burgess doing at the Esalen Institute?" Karen laughed. "You've known him awhile now, and you have to ask?"
"You know him better than I do. You've spent more time with him because he's got a house down in Los Angeles. Which is why I suppose he always calls you with assignments, and never me."
"Yes, but you know his ... leanings, so to speak. Esalen is right up his alley. He's attending a weeklong seminar on remote viewing."
"It's a form of ESP. Allegedly, those with an aptitude for it can develop it with time and practice, hone it. Like ... I don't know ... crocheting, or playing the accordion. It's the ability to gather information about a person or place or event that's outside the physical perception of the viewer. For example, using remote viewing, you might track the movements of a person who's on the other side of the country."
Gavin frowned. "With my mind?"
She nodded. "The CIA has done all kinds of research into it in the past, and for all we know, they may have used it. They still may be using it."
"What's Burgess want with it?"
"He writes horror novels. It's grist for his mill."
"So, he's at Esalen for the whole weekend?"
"At least. It's a resort-style conference center where people gather to meditate, discuss alternative science, the soul, philosophy and odd religious stuff, nutrition, what ever."
He grunted. "Sounds like a circle jerk for people with too much money and time on their hands."
"We think alike, Mr. Keoph. At least it'll be pretty. Big Sur is gorgeous."
Gavin turned his head to the right and looked out at the richly colored coast. "Everything is gorgeous around here. If Burgess is busy with this weird seminar, what does he want with us?"
"The usual. He has something for us to do. You know him. It couldn't wait."
"What's with the ring size?"
Burgess had asked for their ring sizes. Left hand, wedding finger.
"I don't know," Karen said. "All I know is that he has someone there he wants us to meet, and then he's going to give us another assignment."
They were silent for awhile as Gavin drove. Finally, he frowned and turned to Karen. "They discuss 'alternative science'? What is alternative science, anyway? I mean, there's ... empiricism, right? What other kind of science-I mean, real science-is there?"
Karen shrugged. "I'm okay, you're okay? If it feels good, do it? That sort of thing."
Gavin's eyebrows rose and he nodded. "Ah, okay. Get in touch with your inner child. Make love, not war."
"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."
"Sit on it, Potsie."
Gavin shook his head slowly and said, "We are working for a loon."
"Ah, yes, but he's a loon who pays very well."
Martin Burgess, the loon to whom they referred, was a writer of gruesome horror novels that routinely made the bestseller lists and were typically made into bad movies that yielded bigger box office receipts than they deserved. His work, combined with his quirky, witty personality, made him a frequent guest on talk shows.
"Did you see him on Letterman last week?" Gavin asked.
"Burgess? Sure. He and Letterman are good together."
Gavin chuckled. "Letterman always acts like he's a little afraid of him. It's funny."
"Anyone who's read his books has got to be a little nervous about him at first. I mean, he writes some pretty ... well, strange stuff. That last book, the one about the alien women with fanged vaginas-What kind of person thinks that stuff up?"
"Oh, I don't know. Any man who's dated for any length of time?"
"Ah, more seventies jargon."
She laughed. "Burgess is harmless. He's just got a wild imagination."
"Oh, yeah, he's a nice guy. I actually like him. He's just ... I don't know."
The two of them had met two years earlier when Martin Burgess, whom they'd heard of but hadn't known at the time, summoned them to the Beverly Hills Hotel. Karen was co-owner of Moffett and Brand Private Investigators in Los Angeles, and Gavin owned Burning Lizard Security and Investigations in San Francisco. Burgess had conducted a lengthy search for private investigators who he felt were well-suited to his needs, and they were the best he'd found. He'd made them an offer. They were to farm out their current clients to other investigators in their employ and place their firms temporarily in the care of others while they devoted their full time to an investigation for Burgess, for which he would pay them handsomely. Very handsomely. Once they'd learned the details of the investigation, though, they saw the large paycheck in a different light. The whole thing-the investigation, the money-had struck them both, at first, as the whim of a rich, happy lunatic.
In the course of that investigation, a number of people had been killed-some for the second time-and Karen and Gavin had come close to joining them. Karen's fate had been especially dark, and it had taken her awhile to get past it. She'd put up a good front at first, but inside, a part of her had died. She had been kidnapped, tortured, beaten, and brutally raped. Mrs. Dupassie, a petite old chocolate-colored woman who swore like a sailor, had helped them in their investigation, and she'd given Karen a lot of support afterward. Mrs. Dupassie had put her in touch with a psychiatrist, whom she still saw-Dr. Roderick Kincaid. These days, she saw him once or twice a month, but at first, she'd been in his home office four or five times a week. He had been very understanding, far more understanding than any typical psychiatrist would have been. He was not typical at all ... just as Mrs. Dupassie was not typical....
Along with endangering their lives, it had changed the way they looked at the world. It had changed them. Both were well educated, and before that investigation, they had been in solid mental health. As Karen sometimes put it, "I drop something now and then, but I have most of my shit together." But after that first investigation for Burgess, their beliefs, their outlooks, and their sanity had been shaken. Especially Karen's. Afterward, she had not slept as well. She still didn't. Gavin had been surprised to discover that he had a new fear of the dark. After conquering their initial fears of encountering anything as deadly or horrific as the things they'd faced in that first job, they'd worked on two more cases for Burgess. Neither investigation had turned out to be much of anything, which had been a tremendous relief to both Karen and Gavin.
It had been a difficult decision to go back to work for Burgess. Karen could not get the memories of her torture and rape at the hands of those ... creatures ... out of her mind, and she knew she never would. The risk of going through something like that again seemed great at first. But she began to realize that the chances of that were small. On top of that, Burgess had sweetened the pot with a bigger fee, and she'd been unable to turn it down. "It was a fluke," Gavin had told her, and she knew he was probably right.
But they still didn't talk about that first case. They'd tried a couple of times, but she had been unable to discuss it without stammering, without trembling and being unable to meet Gavin's eyes. The experience had had a great impact on them both, but it had scarred Karen. Daylight wasn't so bad. But the nights were still tough at times, even after the passage of time. She'd come from a stoic family of people who kept their emotions locked up tight, so she seldom showed to anyone the damage that had been done. But it was there.
More than anything, the things they had discovered and faced during that investigation for Burgess had damaged the firm hold they each had on reality. After looking into the predatory eyes of creatures that were not supposed to exist, Karen and Gavin had come to wonder what else might be out there in the world ... what other boogeymen they'd previously dismissed as fantasy were lurking in the shadows of hard, cold reality.
"That first time Burgess called," Gavin said, "I was genuinely baffled. He wouldn't tell me anything on the phone, wouldn't say why he specifically wanted to see me. I offered to send someone from my firm, but he refused."
"Yeah, same here. After he called, I dug up all the information I could find on him just out of curiosity."
Gavin chuckled. "So did I."
"That first time we met in the hotel, I figured it had something to do with his wife, Denise. With her being so much younger, I figured he didn't trust her. I thought maybe he wanted us to follow her around, see if she was cheating, or something." After a pause, Karen said, "She finally left him, you know."
"Well, I'm not surprised, after-"
The air between them became thick. They both stared straight ahead at the road, silent, a little stiff.
Before they'd met him, Burgess had left Sheila, his wife of nearly twenty years, to marry Denise Sykes, one of his twenty-something writing students. During their initial investigation for Burgess, Denise, like Karen, had been raped and badly beaten due to her husband's bungling. Also like Karen, she hadn't been the same after that. But Denise had been much less able to handle the experience and had spent a little time in a mental hospital in Connecticut that specialized in the discreet treatment of celebrities.
Karen clenched her teeth as she stared out at the highway. A single word rose up in her mind.
They had been monsters. Not all of them-some fought their nature and refused to prey on people for the blood they needed. Mrs. Dupassie was such a vampire, as were a few of the others they'd worked with on the investigation. Such was the case with Dr. Kincaid. The fact that he was one of them had allowed Karen to be totally honest with him about her experience and feelings. How would she have told a normal psychiatrist that she had been beaten and raped by vampires who had bitten her and sucked her blood?
Gooseflesh crawled across her shoulders and down her back, and she gave a small start.
Gavin caught the movement in the corner of his eye and turned to her. "You okay?" he asked.
She lit another cigarette and nodded.
After a moment, Gavin said, "It's a little after noon and I'm getting hungry. Didn't eat much breakfast. You want to stop somewhere and get some lunch?"
Keeping her eyes front, Karen said, "Yeah, okay." She puffed on the cigarette. "Does the radio work in this crate? How about some music?"
"Sure." He reached down and turned on the radio. "That button is the tuner. Have a party." As Karen reached down to find a radio station, Gavin noticed the tremble in her hand. He didn't have to ask why. He knew.
Three songs played on the radio before Karen finally spoke again. "If this is ... Um, I mean, if Burgess wants us to do something that's, uh ... well, dangerous ... I'm just wondering-"
"Don't worry, Karen," Gavin said quietly. "It won't happen again. I told you once before-it was a fluke. That's all. Just a fluke."
They said little for the rest of the drive.
Excerpted from Bestial by Ray Garton Copyright © 2009 by Ray Garton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Ray Garton is the author of sixty books, including horror novels such as the Bram Stoker Award–nominated Live Girls, Crucifax, Lot Lizards, and The Loveliest Dead; thrillers like Sex and Violence in Hollywood, Murder Was My Alibi, and Trade Secrets; and seven short story collections. He has also written several movie and TV tie‑ins and a number of young adult novels under the name Joseph Locke. In 2006, he received the Grand Master of Horror Award. He lives in northern California with his wife.
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