Edgewise: page-turning horror from a true master

Edgewise: page-turning horror from a true master

by Graham Masterton

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781786695666
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 05/18/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 252
Sales rank: 1,036,613
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Graham Masterton (born 1946, Edinburgh) is the bestselling author of over a hundred award-winning horror and crime novels, including the acclaimed Katie Maguire series published by Head of Zeus. www.grahammasterton.co.uk.


Graham Masterton trained as a newspaper reporter before beginning a career as an author. After twenty-five years writing horror and thrillers, Graham turned his talent to crimewriting. The first book in the Katie Maguire series, White Bones, was published by Head of Zeus in 2012 and became a top-ten bestseller. The series was inspired by Graham's five-year stay in County Cork.

Read an Excerpt

Edgewise


By Graham Masterton

Dorchester Publishing

Copyright © 2007 Graham Masterton
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8439-5426-5


Chapter One

Lily was beginning to slide into a deep sleep when she heard a muffled clicking noise, somewhere downstairs, like a door opening. Then a stumbling sound, as if somebody had accidentally walked into a piece of furniture in the dark.

She raised her head from the pillow, frowning and listening hard. She knew that she had locked all the doors and set the alarm. Maybe it was Sergeant, her black Labrador, trying to get out of the utility room. Sergeant was nine years old now, and he wuffled so loudly in his sleep that he kept waking himself up.

She waited and waited, but the house remained silent, except for an occasional indigestive gurgle from the central heating. She was exhausted-so tired that her neck muscles creaked-and all she wanted to do was rest her head back down on the pillow and sleep.

But then she heard another stumbling sound, and immediately afterward she was sure she could hear somebody cough. Shit, she thought. Maybe it isn't Sergeant at all. Maybe it's intruders.

She switched on her poppy-patterned bedside lamp. Her carriage clock said seventeen minutes after two in the morning. She didn't often go to bed so late, but after she had given Tasha and Sammy their supper, she hadsat for over four hours at the dining-room table, working on the sales brochure for Indian Falls Park, a 350-acre development of $2.5-million homes out on Ridge Road, Edina.

She opened the drawer in her nightstand and took out her pepper spray. Then she swung her legs out of bed and reached for her cerise satin robe.

In the multiple mirrors of her bedroom closets she could see herself standing indecisively by the door, her short blond hair tousled, her eyes puffy from lack of sleep. Maybe you should lock yourself in your room and call nine-one-one, she told herself. But then she thought: No, if it's only Sergeant, you'll look like a hysterical idiot. And besides, she had Tasha and Sammy to worry about.

She opened the door and went out onto the galleried landing, switching on the large glass chandelier that hung over the stairwell.

"Is anybody there?" she demanded, trying to sound utterly fearless. But immediately she thought: What a dumb question. If there is anybody there, what are they going to say? "Don't worry, lady, it's only us intruders?"

She leaned cautiously over the banister rail. "I'm warning you, I have a gun, and I know how to use it."

There was no answer. The house remained silent. Lily waited a little longer and then walked across the landing to Tasha's room. A ceramic plaque was screwed to the door, with a picture of a stern-looking Bratz doll and the warning TOTALLY STAY OUT! Lily eased the door open and looked inside. Underneath her pink gingham comforter, all she could see of Tasha was a few sprigs of dark-brown hair. From the shelves all around the room, about forty Bratz and Barbies stared back at Lily with mute hostility.

She went to Sammy's room. Sammy was sprawled sideways, his blue-and-green-checkered pajamas rucked right up to his knees, and he was whistling through one blocked-up nostril as he slept. He was only eight, but already he looked so much like Jeff. That broad, Germanic face. Those invisible blond eyebrows. It was just as if Jeff had left a smaller version of himself behind, to keep a watchful eye on her.

Lily tippy-toed her way between Tonka firetrucks and mutilated Gorillazoids to give Sammy a kiss on his cheek. Sammy stirred, and raised one hand, and muttered, "mmh never come back, never."

"What?" said Lily. "What did you say?"

But Sammy turned over and twisted his sheet around himself, and she realized that he had been talking in his sleep.

Lily reached out and touched his back. God, he even felt like Jeff. Then she tippy-toed back out of his room and closed the door.

Out on the landing she stood and listened for another few moments. The wind was beginning to rise, and she could hear the oak tree at the side of the house tapping against the weatherboards, like some old mendicant trying to get in. Maybe she should check downstairs, too, just to make sure, especially if Sergeant was so restless.

She padded on bare feet down the wide, uncarpeted staircase. Arranged on the wall were framed photographs of herself and Jeff and the children, and Sergeant, too. Near the bottom of the stairs, the largest photograph showed them by the old stone bridge at Marine-on-St.-Croix. She and Tasha and Sammy were leaning over the parapet, looking down at the gushing mill race. Jeff was standing more than twenty yards away, his head lowered, as if he didn't belong to this family at all.

Lily crossed the hallway to the front door. The large fringed red-and-purple rug was kinked in the middle, as if somebody had tripped up on it, but the front door was closed and there was no sign that anybody had tried to force it.

She went through to the kitchen and switched on the lights, which flickered for a few seconds before they popped full on. The kitchen was Shaker-style, paneled in oak, with an oak-paneled island in the middle. She could see Sergeant standing behind the hammered-glass door that led to the utility room, looking more like a liquid black puddle of uncertainty than a dog. He made a huffing noise but he didn't bark.

Lily opened the door. "What's the matter, boy? Have you been having nightmares again? Chasing after rabbits that you can't catch?"

She massaged his ears for him. She knew that he was old and sick and she ought to be thinking about having him put down, but Jeff had bought him for her when they were first married. He was the last living reminder of that happiest and silliest of times, when she had believed that she and Jeff would stay together until they grew senile, and that only death would be able to drag them apart.

She filled Sergeant's bowl with fresh water, and then she told him to settle down in his basket. He obeyed her, but mournfully, looking up at her with his amber-colored eyes.

"Good dog. Why don't you dream of tortoises instead? You'll be able to catch them."

As Lily left the kitchen, she could hear that the wind was blowing even harder. Not only was the oak tree tapping but the swing on the back verandah had started to creak-creakk-squikk-creakk-squikk, as if someone were pushing themselves backward and forward; or the memory of someone, anyhow. Lily didn't believe in ghosts, but she had been working in real estate long enough to know that some houses had spirits who stayed there long after their owners had moved away, or died.

She walked through the wide archway that led into the living room. There were folding mahogany doors on either side, but she rarely closed them. The living room was in darkness, with the floral drapes drawn, so that all she could see was the shadowy shapes of chairs and couches.

No, nobody here. It must have been the draft rattling the doors. Or maybe she had simply imagined it, as she was drifting off to sleep. Several times, between sleeping and waking, she had imagined that Jeff was still lying next to her. Once, she had been convinced that she could feel him breathing on her shoulder.

She turned around to go back upstairs. But standing in the archway close behind her were two huge figures, bulky and dark. She let out a high-pitched "Hah!" and stumbled backward.

Both figures were dressed entirely in black-black leather coats and black denim jeans-and they were both wearing transparent celluloid masks, which gave their faces the melted appearance of severe-burn victims. The taller of the two had a strange hat that looked like a demon's horns.

"Goddamit!" Lily shouted at them, although she was more shocked than angry. "Who the heck are you? And what the heck are you doing in my house?"

The figure with the demon's horns took a step toward her, and raised his hand. "Didn't intend to alarm you, Mrs. Blake." His voice was thick and harsh, like a heavy smoker.

"Who are you? How do you know my name?"

"We know everything about you, Mrs. Blake-where you work, where you do your marketing, where you spend your lunch breaks."

"What?"

"Oh, yes. We know what you been up to. You and that Dane guy. Thought you'd get away with it, did you? Thought nobody would notice all of them midday get-togethers? You're a bad, bad woman, Mrs. Blake."

Lily's was shaking. "Get back. Get away from me. I've called nine-one-one."

"Don't exactly believe that you have, Mrs. Blake. In any case, what we came here to do we can do long before the cops get here."

The figure stepped forward again, and then again. Lily retreated behind the couch and held up her pepper spray. "Don't you come any closer. I'm warning you."

"We've only come here to give you your just desserts, Mrs. Blake. Nothing more."

"If you come any nearer ..." Lily warned him. But without any hesitation the figure vaulted over the back of the couch, knocking over a brass planter filled with hyacinths. He grabbed hold of Lily's hands, and when she tried to spray him in the face, he twisted her fingers so fiercely that she dropped the spray on to the floor.

She had taken self-defense classes, and she struggled and feinted and tried to kick her assailant between the legs. But he was far too strong for her, far too heavy. He wrenched both her arms behind her back and forced her to bend forward, until her face was pressed against the knotted pile of the rug. All she could so was pant with effort, and with pain.

"You know what you are, Mrs. Blake? You're a witch-that's what you are. And do you know what the punishment for witches is?"

"Let me go," she begged him. "Listen ... there's money in the house. Cash. You can have it."

"Are you insulting my moral purpose?" the figure demanded. "Are you trying to suggest I'm some kind of a yegg? I came here to give you your just desserts-that's why I came here, and that's what I'm going to do!"

"I have jewelry. Please. I have my children to take care of."

"Oh, now you're worried about your children! Maybe you should of thought about your children when you was bouncing around on that waterbed with Robert Dane!"

"Who the hell are you?" Lily panted. "Who sent you here?"

The man leaned forward, pressing his full weight onto Lily's back. She felt as if he was going to crush her rib cage. When he spoke, his lips were very close to Lily's ear, and his voice behind his celluloid mask sounded foggy and indistinct.

"We was sent by God, Mrs. Blake. We was sent by God, to carry out divine retribution.

The other figure came around the couch, and between the two of them they lifted Lily up. She had never felt so helpless in her life, and her heart was beating like a panicking bird's.

"Tasha!" she cried out, although her voice was so choked that Tasha couldn't possibly have heard her. "Tasha! Call the police!"

"Thought you'd called the police already," said the figure with the demon's horns. "You weren't trying to mislead us, by any chance?"

"Just let me go," Lily pleaded. "If you let me go, I swear on my children's lives that I will never say anything about this to anyone, ever."

The figure took hold of the lapels of Lily's robe, and tore it wide open. "Don't think that's much of an offer, Mrs. Blake. After we've done what we came here to do, you ain't going to be saying nothing about this to nobody, regardless."

He wrenched her robe off her back and tossed it onto the floor. Now she was wearing nothing but her long white sleep-T.

"Please don't hurt me," she said. "You can do whatever you like, but please don't hurt me. Think of my children."

"You don't get it, do you?" said the figure. He leaned forward until his celluloid mask was only three inches away from her face, and she could see his eyes glittering behind it like black beetles. He smelled strongly of cigarettes and onions and something aromatic, like creosote. "The children is the reason we're here."

"What?"

"You won custody, didn't you? You got to take sole care of them. But taking care of children-that's a very burdensome responsibility. You need to be moral, don't you, and set a good example. You need to be a shining light. No drinking, no cursing, no bad-mouthing your former partner, and no indiscriminate fornication with guys who ain't fit to wipe your former partner's rear end."

Lily stared back at him, horrified. "Did Jeff send you? Is that it?"

"You don't need to know nothing more, Mrs. Blake, except that you're getting what you justly deserve."

Lily screamed at him and threw herself wildly from side to side, trying to break free. She was so frightened and so furious that she felt as if she were going insane.

"Let me go! Let me go, you bastards! Let me go! Let me go!"

But the figure with the demon's horns swung his arm back and slapped her across the face, so hard that it made her ears sing. She stopped struggling at once and dropped her head down. She could feel the side of her mouth swelling up and her left eye closing.

"Don't struggle," the figure admonished her. "There ain't no future in struggling."

"There ain't no future at all," said the other figure, speaking for the first time, and then giggling.

Between them, the two figures half-dragged and half-carried Lily into the kitchen. Behind the frosted-glass door that led to the utility room, Sergeant appeared, and stood there blackly and silently, watching their distorted images as they made their way around the island. He whined in the back of his throat but still he didn't bark.

The figure with the demon's horns stood over Lily and said, "I want you to know that this is a sacred duty and there ain't nothing personal in it. Like, I don't want you coming back to haunt me."

Lily said nothing. Her mouth was too swollen and she felt too numb.

The figure hesitated a moment longer, and then said, "Look at you. You look like a witch, in that nightgown, all ready to make her peace with God." Lily was trembling with shock. The other figure, who was gripping her arms, let out another giggle, and then a snort.

The figure with the demon's horns dragged over one of the wheelback kitchen chairs, and pushed Lily back until she was forced to sit down in it. Out of his pocket he produced a coil of washing-line cord, and lashed up her arms and her waist and her ankles, knotting the cord so tightly that it cut into her skin.

"You won't hurt my children, will you?" Lily managed to ask him, in a bruise-muffled voice.

"Do I look like somebody who would hurt a child?" the figure asked her. "There's a whole lot of difference between divine retribution and unnatural cruelty, believe me."

"Just don't hurt my children-or, by God, I will come back and haunt you, I swear. I will haunt you day and night for the rest of your miserable, worthless life."

The figure said nothing but walked across the kitchen to the refrigerator and lifted out a gallon-sized container of spring water. He came back, unscrewing the cap.

"Do you know why witchfinders used to dunk witches in water?" he asked. "There was three reasons. One, to make them confess to their liaisons with Satan. The second, to see if they floated, or sank. If they floated, then God's own water refused to take them to its bosom, and their guilt was manifestly proven. But the third reason was to soak their clothes, so that when they were burned, they burned more slowly, and suffered the pain of their punishment for a whole lot longer than they would have done if they had been burned dry."

"What?" said Lily. She couldn't understand what she was hearing. But without any hesitation the figure held the container over her head and emptied it all over her. It splashed all over her hair and her face, and drenched her sleep-T. She couldn't stop herself from gasping.

The figure tossed the empty container across the kitchen. Then he nodded curtly to his companion, and the two of them bent down on either side of her. They gripped the kitchen chair and heaved it up until Lily was sitting on top of the island.

"What are you going to do to me?" asked Lily. High up like this, she felt even more vulnerable.

"Well, you're a witch, and this is the prescribed way for dealing with witches. As close as I could manage, anyhow. These modern homes-they may have all the modern built-in accessories, but not too many of them can boast a stake for the burning of witches, can they?"

The other figure had temporarily disappeared, but he returned only a few moments later carrying a green plastic gasoline can. Lily could hear the gasoline sloshing inside it.

"Oh God," she said.

"Well, it might be a good idea to ask for the Lord's forgiveness, in your final moments."

"Oh God, you're not going to burn me. Please don't burn me. I'd rather you shot me."

"That'd be kind of difficult since I don't carry a gun of any kind and neither does my friend here."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Edgewise by Graham Masterton Copyright © 2007 by Graham Masterton. 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.

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