Read an Excerpt
By J. A. Toney
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 J. A. Toney
All rights reserved.
Darkness. A new moon. Five minutes before 3:00 a.m. The witching hour. That time when the supernatural is said to happen and the evil things are unrestricted, free to do what they will. It's the time of witches and warlocks, ghosts and demons.
A dark figure stands in the edge of the woods near the house of his unsuspecting host. He stands quiet and still, thumbing the small wooden cross in his pocket. Lines of ethereal darkness waft across his face. Four minutes. Then he becomes the demon, the darkness, the end of another unsuspecting life.
"Ba'al, come! Give me sight to see your vision! Give me strength to carry out your will! Come Ba'al!" The words come like a guttural growl from the depths of a dark and dying soul. Low and menacing, barely audible, but powerful none the less.
The dream he had the night before suddenly becomes vividly clear in every detail. Every sight, every sound, every smell are suddenly familiar. He can see each step, each movement he will make, just a beat before he makes it.
Inside a small white house in the quaint country town of Paradise, Kansas, Shelley McDonald is completely unaware of what lurks outside in the night, in her future. It's 11:00 p.m. She feeds her fish, starts the dryer, and pours herself a cup of hot chamomile mint tea, her nightly ritual. She heads for the couch with a new novel, David Gregory's "The Last Christian". It's a futuristic thriller with that "what-if" and "it could happen" feel to it about the outlaw of religion and giving up the soul for immortality. Sounds like a good one.
She sits on the couch trying to read, but something just doesn't feel right. That feeling of being watched, or maybe just something important forgotten. After a few sips of her tea, and a couple of chapters, all is well in her world. A satisfied grin finds her face as she starts the third chapter.
11:45 p.m. Duane Jackson parks his old Ford Ranger on the dirt side road between Waldo Road and Second Street. After killing the engine and the lights, he takes a deep breath and looks around. Nothing. No lights. No sounds. No one to notice him.
Before he left his apartment in Topeka, he removed the bulb from the dome light. He opens his door slowly and gets out. With a conscious effort, he leaves his door open as he walks away from his pickup, comforted by the fact no light is comes from the cab. He walks slowly south on Second Street for about five minutes. Sparse gravel on the dirt road make a low crunch that he feels more than hears. The fresh country air and the smell of earth, trees, and open fields are refreshing, invigorating. He quietly ducks into the stand of trees next to the road at the back of the lot on the corner of Second Street and C Avenue. Slowly and quietly, Duane makes his way to the edge of the tree line where he has a good view of the back of the small white house where his next victim waits patiently, drinking her tea as it cools to a luke warm temperature, and reading her book as her eyes become heavy.
Duane feels a sort of déjà vu, a dark déjà vu that he was expecting. Everything is happening exactly as it had in his dream. Every detail is perfect, including the small wooden cross on the leather strap that he had found in the restroom at his last gas stop in Salina. He had determined before he set out that if any detail were missing, he would abort this trip. Nothing is missing. He stands in the woods ... watching ... waiting.
12:30 a.m. Shelley finishes her tea, places a bookmark in her novel, and makes her way to her bedroom, turning off all the lights as she moves through her house. She doesn't bother checking the doors. She never locks them. Why would she? No one in this small town ever locks their doors. There has never been any reason to. Nothing bad ever happens in Paradise, Kansas. Even the tornadoes that the state is so well known for seem to stay at least a mile or so out of town.
By one o'clock in the morning, she is sound asleep. Dark, foreshadowing dreams seep their way into her subconscious, but they are nothing like the darkness that is on its way in the flesh. She will never wake from these dreams.
3:00 a.m. Duane Jackson steps out of the trees behind Shelley McDonald's house and up to the back door. Trembling with fear, though he is truly more afraid not to go through with this than he is of getting caught, he reaches a gloved hand out to the door knob. It's unlocked, as he knew it would be. He takes a deep breath to calm the fear.
Slowly, methodically, he moves down the hall to Shelley's room. He moves silently over the hardwood floors, astonished by the lack of creaking sounds that most hardwood floors in older homes make. It feels more like sleepwalking than reality.
Not far, only about five paces to the second door on the left. The door is open, of course. He finds her sleeping in her bed, just where he knew he would; and on her back, just as he knew she would be. He sees everything he is doing just before he does it, as if he is being guided by a mental movie that he keeps time with in an evil pantomime.
It was time to drain the life out of her. Every last, precious drop. All in the name of the Christians. So he does, slowly and deliberately, with much malice and hatred.
A little chloroform in a vile held open under her nostrils, inhaled with her breaths would keep her from waking up from the pain Duane was about to cause. A ten gauge needle inserted directly into the jugular and another into the femoral artery would make quick work of the bloodletting, completely draining her into a plastic bag that sealed with a one way valve. It was time to break out the knife and finish the job.
He didn't know why he hated her. Sure, she was a Christian, but was that enough? Apparently so. After all, here he is, and he has no trouble or inner conflict with carrying out this dark dream. Ultimately, he knows the ends will justify the means. It has to be done. It doesn't matter who she is. All that matters is that the "Blood-suckers", the "Cannibals" killed her, just as they had so many others, "in remembrance", in keeping with their beloved "Last Supper".
These dark acts would prove to the world that Christians were extremists and needed to be stopped. This plan would be the final link in the chain of bondage that locks Christianity away in the dark past of a mourning nation and keeps it out of its future.
When the deed is done, Duane leaves by the front door, hanging the small wooden cross on the door knob, dripping. As a personal touch, he makes a single swipe across the mantel above the door. He circles back around the back of the house, his spoils in tow, and walks back the way he came.
It is almost 4:00 a.m., plenty of time before dawn. He makes it back to his pickup unnoticed and quietly drives off slowly into the night. He would make it back to Topeka in time for breakfast.
He makes the call to Atlanta.CHAPTER 2
DAY ONE North Georgia Jeremiah
"In my dream, we were far away. Like another country, I think. We were in a large, round room, just me and Dad. The room looked really old. Like an ancient temple. Off in the distance, I could hear Lee calling out 'Daddy! Daddy!' like he was really happy to see him when he came home from a long trip. But I knew Lee wasn't really there with us. I could just hear him. Then, I heard a hissing sound. When I turned around, I saw a huge throne. There was a cloud of black smoke forming in the air above the seat of the throne. As the cloud grew, I knew something was wrong. It wasn't spreading out, just getting thicker and more solid. When it almost filled up the seat of the throne, it started to glow a deep red glow. It looked evil! When I turned to ask Dad what we should do, I noticed that Dad didn't have eyes, but he could still see! Before I could say anything else, something stepped out of the black smoke. As it did, the smoke followed it and then disappeared into its back. It was like half beast, half man. The half that was like a man had blonde hair and was wearing a suit. The other half made me think of the Minotaur made of red-hot coals. It said it was god and that we should bow down and worship it, or it was going to kill us! So me and Dad charged at it and threw it back into the red glow. When we did, it disappeared. Then I woke up."
This was the dream my daughter, Renae, came to tell me about. It was a hot day in August of 2010 when she came into my bedroom as I sat at my computer researching some authors I might want to read. I was completely taken aback when she started outlining this dream to me. I knew for certain I had not talked to her about any such event. I knew she hadn't read about the anti-Christ in the Bible. She has only made it to Leviticus. I knew she hadn't read any books on the subject, and I knew she hadn't seen any movies about it.
So where did this come from? I was left with the undeniable conclusion that God was speaking to and through my daughter! Pretty exciting if you ask me! But why this message? Why now? Why us? So many questions came with this dream. What was I going to do with this new revelation of knowledge? How would I share it, and who would I share it with? Did it actually have any meaning, or was I just making mountains out of molehills?
I instructed Renae to go to her room and write down every detail that she could remember about the whole thing. As I sat thinking about all of it, I was reminded of the reports of so many people around the world having a related dream throughout the last year. It was different from my daughter's dream, but all these people dreamt the same thing. They were dreaming they were asleep. In their dream, they were awakened by a man whom they knew to be Jesus. He was said to be kind and gentle, yet serious at the same time. All he said was "The time has come for you to wake up." Admittedly, I thought it was a strange dream, but thousands around the world were having it! There must be something to it."CHAPTER 3
Jeremiah quickly typed out what Renae had written about her dream and folded it on his desk. Time to shower and get ready for work.
It was a beautiful sunny day in North Georgia, the end of summer. The trees and shrubs were full, and still lush with green. The blooms of spring had turned to seed. The rural area in which they lived was quiet, very little traffic, no neighbors close enough to be a bother. Their little house is surrounded by a nice big yard that is bordered on three sides by forest and a road out front with, of course, forest on the other side of the road. The front yard is relatively flat with the biggest dogwood you've ever seen right in front of the house and another smaller one down toward the road. Looking from the front porch, there is a large Granny Smith apple tree about midway from the house to the road and off to the left side of the yard. It produces some of the biggest, sweetest, green apples there are! (The perfect snack for hot day mowing the lawn!). The driveway is gravel and runs down the right side of the yard. The back yard is flat from the house about twenty yards out, and then slopes up hill to another flat spot. The lower flat spot has the wooden swing-set and the grilling deck where the family spends much of their off time in the summers.
Jeremiah thought about Renae's dream and its possible meanings all the way. It is a long drive to work, an hour each way. Not a bad drive, all things considered. Most of it takes him through the beautiful North Georgia countryside, a two lane county highway through forest and farmland. No one really knows the speed limit because no one really cares. Most people will wave as you drive by. That's just the way these simple country folks are: neighborly. Much different from the last twenty minutes of the drive into Chattanooga, Tennessee; where other drivers are rude and self centered with NO concern for anyone else on the road!. Consistently cutting each other off and making quick lane changes without a turn signal. No one on this part of the drive exactly waves, but obscene gestures are fairly common. It's quite a contrast to the first part of the drive. By the time he got there, his mind was reeling and he walked into the Italian chain restaurant he works at with dream in hand. It's all he could think about. He was anxious to share it with another believer and get a reaction.
He knew it would be a rough night. They normally have two bartenders, himself and one other, on every Friday and Saturday night. This weekend he would be flying solo. That meant he had to be on top of his game.
"Hey Keith, how was it this morning?" Keith, the daytime bartender on the weekend, but only for one more week, replied; "It was alright. Not too busy, but not dead either. How did last night go?"
"It was really busy, but manageable. Well worth the effort!" He had made about three times as much in tips as he normally does when there are two of them.
As he settled in and donned his apron, Keith went to get M.G., the general manager who was also the opening manager. They all called her by initials for her first and last name because they thought it was funny that they were the inverse of the initials of her title; GM - MG, oh well, you get it. I guess you have to be there.
M.G. came and took care of the money and un-assigning and assigning of the cash drawer. "How are you today, Jeremiah?" M.G. asked.
"Astounded! When you get done, I'll show you why." He was settled in and ready to start his shift.
He shared his little page of type that he printed off his computer in large font with her. He knew she was a believer and he wanted to gauge her reaction. It was as he expected. Astonishment. He further explained that he knew for certain there were no outside stimuli that could have produced the dream. It was completely generic.
"How old is your daughter?" asked M.G.
"Thirteen" Jeremiah replied.
"Wow! This is amazing! Not something you would expect from the mind of a thirteen year old. I don't know what to say." M.G. was shaking her head with this response.
She didn't know what to say. That was truly amazing!
"Yeah, it kinda caught me off guard." He offered. "When she came in to my room wanting to tell me about her dream, I admit I was expecting something more frivolous and less meaningful."
"Well, it looks like someone has a hand in her life. You must be doing something right. Keep it up." M.G. said with a smile.
Well, there it was; the response that I wanted to gauge. It was what he expected, but he still wasn't sure what to do with it. The night went on, it was very busy and he made good tips. The usual coterie of regulars came through as well as several new faces. It kept him quite busy and padded his wallet rather well. He was unusually upbeat about the shift. That wasn't normal as of late. When he left to go home, he thanked God for all He had done, was doing, and would do for his family. It was late when he got home. Everyone was asleep and the house was quiet. He enjoyed this time. He quickly and quietly changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, grabbed a book and a clip on book light, and went to the living room to read.
He didn't last very long, only about thirty minutes. He finished the chapter and put his book away. As he does every night, he went out on the back porch to spend some time with God under the stars. It was mostly "quiet time" this night. He just looked up in awe at what God has created. How I wish that I could share this feeling with my wife.CHAPTER 4
DAY ONE Paradise, Kansas
"Yeah, Bill. That's right. This animal didn't leave anything behind except that bloody cross on the front door and a blood smear across the mantel. It's like a ghost did this! No prints, stray hair, saliva, NOTHING!" Jerry Fouts, the Paradise Chief of Police, angrily relayed the details to Bill Connor over the phone, the lead detective coming in from Salina, Kansas.
"What about the victim, Jerry? Anything about the victim seem odd or give any motive?"
"Yeah, Bill. There is something "odd" about the victim! She doesn't have a drop of blood left in her! On top of that, the only trace of her blood that we can find is smeared above the door, and dripping from the cross hanging on the front door knob!" Jerry knew he was directing his anger and frustration at Bill, but he couldn't seem stop it from coming out. I'll owe him an apology, later.
Excerpted from Gabriel: Sinner by J. A. Toney. Copyright © 2015 J. A. Toney. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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