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Only one man sees the danger of the small, dark, elusive, and powerful Shetani. To find them, he must ...
Only one man sees the danger of the small, dark, elusive, and powerful Shetani. To find them, he must enter the heart of a nightmare.
Tombigbee National Forest, Mississippi—9 June
"Man, look at that mother burn!"
"Sure is a pretty sight." Luther Vandorm's eyes were shining.
"Hey, BJ!" Walter Conroy called over to the stocky, vacant-looking man who stood close by. "Do me a favor, will you?"
"Sure, Walter. Anything."
Conroy strode toward him, fumbling in the pockets of his ballooning white robe. He had to steady the conical white hat that perched uneasily atop his head. Finding what he'd been digging for, he handed the compact 35mm camera to the other man.
"Get a shot of Luther and me, will you?" He showed his friend the camera, knowing that he had to keep any explanations simple. "See, it's one of those new Jap all-automatic jobbies." He flipped a switch, the camera beeped once, and a small built-in flash popped up. "Just wait till the little red light comes on in the viewfinder. That means the flash is powered up and all set to go."
The other man eyed the camera uncertainly. "I dunno, Walter. I dunno anything much about cameras."
Conroy tried not to sound too exasperated. "I told you." He spoke slowly, forming the words carefully and leaving BJ time to catch up. Everyone knew BJ was a little slow, but he was willing enough to help with anything and was much stronger than he looked. "Here—it's set now. Just point the lens at Luther and me and press this here button and the camera will do the rest. Just make sure you can see both of us through the viewfinder, okay?"
"Well, okay." BJ accepted the camera with obvious reluctance. He was solidly built, deceptively muscular, with an undistinguished face and a hairline that was beginning to recede. Currently he wore the expression of a tenth-grader trying to cope with a Cray computer.
"Hold on just a minute," Walter urged him as he ran to stand next to his buddy. "Wait till I give the word." Then he was standing next to Vandorm, who managed to cram his wife and kids into the picture as well. Conroy put his arm around his companion's skinny shoulders and they all forced smiles into the camera.
They were not alone. Plenty of their friends were standing in a circle behind them, hooting and hollering as the huge burning cross threw glowing embers up into the night sky. Some of them were laughing a little too much. A definite boundary had been created around the cross. It was composed of discarded beer cans and shredded cigarettes.
BJ squinted into the flames, listening to the crackle of the burning cross, and waited until Vandorm pulled his wife close to him. She was holding Vandorm Junior in her arms. He wore a miniature white sheet outfit she'd sewed for him herself. Twelve-year-old Mike stood restlessly in front of his mom and dad. He looked like he wished he were somewhere else.
They stood grinning back at BJ until the corners of their mouths began to cramp. Finally Vandorm's wife whispered to her husband. "If you don't tell that idiot to shoot we're going to have our rear ends toasted. I can't hang around here all night, Luther. The clothes in the washer are going to start to mildew if I don't get 'em in the dryer pretty soon."
"Hush up, woman. He'll hear you."
A short, sharp laugh. "So what? He don't understand a tenth of what he do hear."
"Don't be afraid of it," Vandorm told BJ. "Just look through the little window and push the button."
"Sure thing, Luther!" BJ waved cheerfully, then raised the camera and aimed. He hesitated. "I forgot which button, Luther."
"Shit," Vandorm snapped. "The one on the right-hand side. Just push it once!"
"Okay." BJ carefully followed the instructions and the Vandorms heard the click as the shutter snapped.
"Praise the Lord," Mrs. Vandorm murmured, "he did it. Oh, damn, the baby's wet again. Mike, you stay here with your father." Trying to juggle both the infant and the awkward conical hat, she strode away from the blaze toward the line of pickup trucks and station wagons parked nearby, chiding the baby gently as she walked.
Walter Conroy took back his camera. "Thanks, BJ." Meanwhile Luther Vandorm was clapping his older son affectionately on the shoulder. In his sheets and pointed hat, the twelve-year-old looked like an uncomfortable downsized version of his old man.
"What d'you think of all this, son? Your first cross burning, I mean."
"I dunno, dad. I mean," he hastened to correct himself, "it's neat, really neat."
"Thataboy." Vandorm looked proud. "Ain't he somethin'?"
"Sure is," BJ agreed.
Vandorm leaned over to look into his son's face. "And what is it you want to do when you grow up?"
The boy took a deep breath and turned away so he wouldn't have to confront his father's eyes. He would much rather have been home playing basketball with his friends. You could do that at ten o'clock at night in Mississippi in June. Even reruns on TV would've been better than this. But his parents had insisted and he knew better than to argue.
So he recited with as much false enthusiasm as he could muster. "I want to save America by ridding it of all the kikes, niggers, and wops who've taken control of the government."
"That's my boy." Vandorm would have ruffled his son's sandy brown hair except that it would have knocked off the white hat. There was a dark stain down the front of his own sheet where he'd spilled the Coke float they'd bought at the Dairy Queen. His wife hadn't let up on him about that until they'd reached the site.
As Mike Vandorm was gazing at the fire a mischievous grin spread over his face. "It would've been better if we could've brought some hot dogs and marshmallows."
Vandorm gripped the boy's shoulder hard. "Now listen, son, this is serious business your daddy's involved in here. Ain't nuthin' to joke about. I don't ever want to hear you say anything like that again, understand? Not unless you want a taste of my belt."
"Sure, dad. I was only kidding. Hey, can we go soon?"
Vandorm straightened. "I know it's a little late for you to still be up, son, but this is more important than anything they're teachin' you in that damn school. This is an important moment in your life and I wanted this to be a big night for you. You don't know how proud it makes me to have you here with me."
"Yeah, sure, dad." Mike's voice fell to a whisper.
"Anyway, your mom'll take you and Junior home soon. Me and BJ and Walter and Mr. Sutherlin got an important meeting at the Sutherlins' house tonight. Real important." Vandorm puffed himself up like a toad frog, trying to make himself look bigger than he really was, not only in his son's eyes but in BJ's as well.
As he thought about the meeting the air of paternal affection vanished. His expression twisted into something blind and unintelligent and nasty, the sort of look an australopithecine might once have favored an enemy with. It was prompted by a mixture of uncertainty, fear, and grim determination, all wrapped up in a basket of bigotry nurtured by twenty years of menial jobs and hard times.
"Gonna be some meeting. Ain't it, BJ? We finally gonna do something besides talk."
"Sure are," agreed the simple man who'd taken the photograph. Instead of evil or viciousness, BJ's face displayed nothing more complex than stolid anticipation.
Poor ol' BJ Tree. He worked nights as a janitor at the Junior College in nearby Tupelo and when you got right down to it, he didn't appear to have the brains God gave a crawfish. But he was of similar mind and feelings as the rest of them, a lot stronger than you would think, and most important of all, he was ready and willing to do what he was told.
The organization Vandorm and Conroy and Sutherlin had formed had plenty of use for a man like that. The three of them had enough brains for four anyway, Vandorm thought with pride. None of the chapter members suspected that there was a more committed subchapter operating in their midst.
"Can I go now, dad?"
"Sure, go on, git over to your mama." Vandorm shook his head dolefully as he watched his son scamper off toward the old Ford wagon parked at the far end of the line. "I dunno, BJ. Maybe he's still too young. But I had to bring him. Got to do somethin' to counteract all that crap they keep fillin' his mind with at that school. All that garbage about ecology and equality when they ought to be teachin' the kids the basics—reading and writing and good old American educational values. Got to look out for your own kids these days. Commies and homosexuals running half the schools."
"Don't I know it," said BJ. That was BJ. Always agreeable. A crash sounded behind them and both men turned to look. One of the arms of the cross had finally burned through and fallen, sending up a spray of embers which nearly set Warren Kennour's sheets on fire. He and Jeremy Davis and a couple of the other boys were so drunk they could hardly stand. Vandorm chuckled.
"This secrecy's been pretty tough on Cecelia, BJ, but she hasn't complained. No sir, not a bit. She's been supportive right down the line. It's just that tryin' to get the tuition together to send Mike to that private patriot's school is damn near about to break us. But I'll teach him myself before I see him play football with a bunch of pickaninnies. Now I hear tell they got a couple of Vietnamese goin' to school there too. I tell you, BJ," he said seriously, "somebody's got to start doin' something to wake up the people of this country or we ain't gonna be no better in twenty years than the dogs at the pound, just a bunch of mongrels and mutts nobody respects anymore."
BJ nodded enthusiastically. "You said a mouthful there, Luther. Hey, you want a beer? I got a six-pack in the car."
"That's mighty fine of you, BJ." Luther never offered the other man a drink. For one thing, there was no point in spending the money to keep the big dummy in suds when he couldn't remember from whence the largess originated and, for another, BJ always seemed to have plenty of beer on hand. They headed back toward the line of vehicles. A few were parked on the far side of the old fence, away from the others.
They were five yards from BJ's battered Chevy pickup when two men stepped out of the darkness into the flickering light cast by the slowly dying blaze.
"Luther Vandorm?" The man had a heavy five o'clock shadow and was clad in jeans, short-sleeved shirt, and boots. His companion wore a suit. The speaker's eyes flicked to his left. "BJ Tree?"
Vandorm's gaze narrowed as he studied the intruders. He was more upset than concerned. Sure, cross burning was illegal, but in rural Mississippi that still meant no more than a small fine and maybe a tongue-lashing from some county judge.
"Who the fuck wants to know?" He didn't recognize either of them. They didn't look like Sheriff Kingman's boys, who would look the other way so long as there was no damage to public property. Nor did he care for the accent of the speaker. Not from around here, that was for sure.
The man removed a small billfold from a back pocket. When he held it up to the light the bottom half dropped down. "Federal Bureau of Investigation. You're all under arrest."
"Hey, what is this? Who the hell do you people think you are?" Inside, Vandorm was trembling. Not because he feared being arrested for a little harmless cross burning, but because of what was concealed in the pickup next to BJ's. It was brand-new, boasted four high-intensity lights on top, halogen fog lamps in front, a chrome roll bar, and displayed a bright Confederate flag on the flanks. It was Walter Conroy's truck.
In the glove compartment was a small folder. Inside the folder were the plans that he and Conroy and BJ and Sutherlin had worked on for the past three months. The plans that described in detail exactly how the four of them planned to blow up the office of the American Civil Liberties Union in downtown Jackson.
In addition to the pair of hunting rifles mounted on the back window rack, the pickup held a secret compartment behind the seats. Vandorm had installed it himself, working nights when the garage was deserted. The compartment contained two Uzi submachine guns that Conroy had bought in New Orleans. Considered together, the machine guns and the plans were likely to bring more than a tongue-lashing down on all of them in any court in the country.
He took a step backward and stumbled. His white hat fell off and he stumbled again, stepping on it. "Just let me get my ID." He turned and pointed toward the other cars. "It's in my wagon over there."
"Just hold it right there, friend." The man in the suit produced a small blue snub-nosed pistol. He held it loosely in his right hand—but not that loosely.
"But my ID," Vandorm whined. He'd never had a gun pointed at him before and it shook him pretty bad. He felt a warm trickle start crawling down his right thigh and saw the disgust in the eyes of the man who'd spoken first.
There was no way out. More men in suits had appeared and were rounding up the rest of the celebrants. The station wagon was gone and he thanked God Cecelia and the boys had gotten away before the bust had come down.
Two new vehicles drove in on the dirt access road and pulled up in the parking area. The big vans had little bars over the windows, just like on TV.
He could see what was coming as clearly as he'd seen the porno film that had unspooled at Sutherlin's last weekend. All their planning and careful preparation was going to go down the drain. The dynamite and blasting caps and expensive Uzis would be confiscated. Just when they were ready to do something and wake the country up a little, this had to happen.
How had they found out? Who'd given them away? He slumped. Maybe no one had given them away. Most likely this was just a routine roundup. The government men probably knew nothing of the plans or guns. But they'd sure as hell find out when they searched the truck. And they would search the truck, Vandorm had no doubt of that. Of all the dumb, stinking, rotten luck!
Across the way he could see two of them going through Sutherlin's Cadillac already. Sutherlin stood nearby looking stiff and uncomfortable in his neatly pressed whites. Probably wondering what this would do to his lucrative accounting practice when the word got out, Vandorm mused. The Cadillac contained a duplicate set of plans. About the best he and Conroy could hope for was that, having found one set of plans, they wouldn't search the pickup and find the guns. His spirits lifted slightly. There was a chance the rest of them might get off light unless Sutherlin talked. He didn't know if they could count on the accountant's silence.
"You fellers are making a big mistake," he told the pair of agents who'd confronted him. "We weren't doing anyone any harm. Just exercising our Constitutional right of assembly." It seemed as though hundreds of agents were prowling through the woods, though in reality there were fewer than two dozen. Men in whites, his friends and drinking buddies, the neighbors he shot pool with, were being hustled into the waiting vans. Some of them were too far gone to know what was happening to them. Soon he and BJ were being marched across the clearing to join them.
"Don't you people have anything better to do?" BJ said angrily.
Vandorm was surprised. BJ didn't volunteer much in the way of conversation. He reacted instead of initiating. Apparently the actual arrest had triggered something within him. Vandorm was glad because it took the agent's eyes off him; those accusing, disgusted-looking eyes.
BJ wasn't finished. "Why ain't you out bustin' the Mafia or runnin' down burglars instead of harassin' regular folks who ain't doin' anyone any harm."
"Just keep moving," said the man in the jeans. His companion no longer held the pistol pointed at Vandorm. Luther gazed longingly at the shielding darkness of the woods nearby, but he didn't feel his legs were in shape for anything longer than a ten-yard sprint. What would've been the point? They had his name, had identified him at the beginning. Running would solve nothing.
It occurred to him suddenly that their chapter must have been under surveillance for some time. In addition to being embarrassed, he now felt like a fool.
The rear doors of the van gaped wide. BJ was still talking.
"It's damn wrong, that's what it is. Y'all ought to be out doin' some decent work instead of troublin' honest folks."
"Just get in, BJ," Luther told him. "You don't have to say anything to these people. Wait till Sutherlin's lawyer talks to you." He was starting to regain a smidgen of his former self-confidence. A backward glance revealed the big pickup squatting alone and uninspected on the far side of the clearing. Maybe they'd even miss the papers in Sutherlin's Caddy. They might get out of this yet!
Excerpted from Into the Out Of by Alan Dean Foster. Copyright © 1986 Thranx, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 27, 2010
I think I've read this book about a dozen times, maybe more, since stumbling across it at a library fire sale, years ago. One of my favorites, ever. Thrilling, brilliantly crafted, and just as hard to put down on the twelfth reading as the it was on the first.
Alan Dean Foster os sort of the go-to guy for franchise sci-fi, but this is a definite left-turn from the usual. "Into the Out Of" goes into African mythologies, spirituality, and geo-political histories,without once getting preachy, bogged down, or the slightest bit boring. Love this book, from the first page to the Author's Notes.
Cannot possibly recommend this book highly enough. I own a printed copy, and am downloading it on my Nook, just to have it twice.
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Posted November 14, 2003
This book has little in common with Foster's usual fare of intriguing, apparently juvenile-oriented science fiction. Set in the modern day, right here at home, 'Into the Out Of' draws heavily on the beliefs of African animism, and transforms a rather exotic way of seeing the world into a life-and-death crisis against which only a trio of mismatched heroes can prevail. While the climax of the tale seems brief compared to the buildup, the reader is caught by surprise with the discovery of exactly what uniquely qualifies each of the three heroes for his or her role. That surprise makes up for any weakness in the resolution of the crisis. Even more than a decade after reading this story for the first time, this story is still vivid for me, as are the memories of hiding this book so that it could not see me -- nor me, it -- when I slept. The shetani truly come to life in this book, and after meeting them, the reader will never look at some places or things the same again. This is one of Foster's best, and it's a scare many will remember for years to come.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 3, 2003
I have read this book when it first came out 'twice' ! and absolutely loved it and i intend to read it again just for old times sake.
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Posted July 11, 2011
This is one of those books that draws you in and immerses you in another world. I rank it somewhere in my top 25 books and I read around 100 books a month so that's a good rating. You witness an incident that affects one of the main characters, move on to insights into the mindset of the second character and, most intriguing, are introduced to the mystical world of the third main character. These three are quickly bound together by shared encounters with the Shetani, nasty demon type creatures that are sneaking into our world from the Out Of in ever-increasing numbers. The Out Of is the place all things in our world came out of, hence the simple succinct name. The Out Of contains all things that were, are and will or may be. Our guys are out to seal the tear between the Out Of and our world and prevent billions of the malevolent things from invading and destroying it and us. Naturally the detestable Shetani aren't going to take this lying down. The good guys go to Massailand in Africa to mend the tear, first taking a Concorde as the Shetani don't tend to hang out that high up and make have trouble tracking them. The Shetani can disguise themselves as inanimate objects, animals and rarely people but are always black. They can also turn an airplane bathroom into a room the size of your living room (don't we wish) to use for their nasty purposes. They bring darkness and shadow with them. Most of them we meet are weird, little, insane and perverse creatures bound to hurt, break, kill or otherwise destroy pretty much anything in their path. But we have a federal agent, an insightful night-worker and a Massai laibon (an African ritual leader or shaman) on the side of good along with all Massai warriors who are nothing to sneeze at. These guys would hunt a lion with a spear but not a gun as they feel this wouldn't be fair to the lion so they aren't exactly lacking in confidence. So come see Africa, hang out with the Massai, see the poachers get it bad and the animals win for a change. Meet The Patriarch who sees the space between the worlds and is so old his teeth are crossed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 25, 2011
This is one of ADF's best books! It is packed with suspense. But, warning you before you start, you will never look at ordinary pieces of tire rubber on the road again without wondering if they could be shetani! It leaves a memorable impression on you! Fantastic story!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 3, 2011
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