Still reeling from last year’s Pumpkin Parade disaster, the people of Ember Hollow are unprepared for the horrors yet to come, as Halloween returns to their shaken farm community.
A brutal biker gang, armed with a spell that turns people into werewolves, is roaring into town with plans to resurrect a sadistic mass murderess in the body of an unsuspecting local. Teens Deshaun and Stuart, best friends and death metal fans, must protect their friend Candace from her own psychotic brother—dubbed The Trick or Treat Terror by the press and who Candace is certain will rise from the dead just in time for Halloween. And Minister Abe McGlazer is acting like a man possessed after a secret passage is discovered beneath his ancient church . . .
With the aid of a pair of punk rockers, Deputy Hudson Lott will have to work overtime to help his friends and family confront a host of horrors before this year’s pumpkin crop unleashes a wave of evil too hideous to imagine . . .
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Werewolves on Wheels
If not for the nature of his crimes, Nico Rizzoli might not have been in the van, on his way to Hutchinson Correctional in Kansas, where his reputation and influence would theoretically carry less weight than the Craven County prison system of North Carolina, where he had become a superstar.
Upon learning that an associate had ratted out his Mid-Atlantic Fireheads motorcycle club for their growing meth business, Nico had chosen not to flee, but rather to play the long game. He'd meticulously selected, measured, cut and taped a length of steel pipe. He'd tracked down the rat and smashed his ribs to jelly in full view of the poor bastard's girlfriend and mother. Ruined ribs, he had reasoned, would lead to a long and agonizing healing process, whereas mere head trauma potentially offered merciful blackouts and memory loss.
It was as much a calculated measure, a warning for future business partners, as it was revenge. Nico had correctly surmised that the women would sob about that shit to every square in sight for years to come.
He had kept at it until the cops came — in full force knowing they were facing Nico — then fought all the way to lockup, bellowing curses at the boys in blue for not letting him finish. He'd been having such a good time that he'd decided to gelatinize the man'slegs as well. Cops had rushed to the scene.
Now on a fortified transport shuttle van amongst a bunch of morons doing time for possession, robbery and other small fry garbage, Nico wasn't thinking about the past. He was more interested in the immediate future.
It was well after midnight. They had been on the road for nearly ten hours. A glance at their faces, sagging and bleary in the dash lights, made Nico crack the thinnest of smiles. The extradition agents were like fruit, ripe to be plucked.
"Yo! You gon' stop at Boogie Burger, or what!?" inmate Georgie "The Juice" DeWitt harangued Extradition Agent Higgins, stretching the shackles on his wrist and seat armrest to their full extent to yell through the steel mesh partition. "I'm 'bout to starve!"
Neither Higgins nor his partner Dutton responded. They had been instructed to have minimal communication with DeWitt, as he was notoriously short-tempered and easily riled.
"Huh!?" DeWitt persisted. "I need ta eat!"
"Shut the hell up," Nico said.
DeWitt spun with an expression of early stage rage, which vanished when he saw it was Nico talking. DeWitt took his seat and proceeded to shut the hell up.
Normally Nico didn't bother talking to lesser cons for any reason, but he needed distracting noise kept to a minimum, so he could hear the familiar roar of beefed-up Harleys.
Intensely focused, purposeful, cold-blooded as a viper, Nico was not beyond feeling something that could pass for love. His old lady Ruth, easily the most passionately devoted chick he had ever banged, undoubtedly owned his heart — even in death. Not just because of the way she'd dug canyons in his back with her nails when they screwed, or the way she'd bitten him even harder than he wanted her to when he came, but because of how she'd spoken to him like there was a future, given him even more than she'd taken.
That bitch had walked the goddamn walk.
Now she was dead.
On Halloween night, while just trying to make the world a better place, to do God's work. Ridiculous as the idea of "God" was to Nico, bottom line was that something that belonged to him had been taken away, and that would not stand. Nico would find every son of a bitch who had played even the least significant role in steering her toward her demise at the hands of the costumed freak Everett Geelens. To drive his point home, he would wipe this little jerkwater town called Ember Hollow right off the map, along with that big deputy Hudson Lott, who had assisted in his arrest.
Nobody takes what belongs to Nico Rizzoli. Not any God, and damn sure not any man, sane or psycho.
Nico rubbed his rock-solid stomach and chest, and the fresh tattoo he'd just gotten the day before. He liked the way it itched and stung. The inker — some lifer had named him "Mozart" because they'd thought the composer was a painter, owing to the "art" in his name — had referred to a picture of a ragdoll Nico had ripped from an encyclopedia in the prison library. "Mozart" didn't blink an eye when Nico had told him what he wanted: the doll, crucified like Jesus. The completed work stretched from throat to groin.
Ruth had loved rag dolls for some reason. Had kept one from when she was a girl that she wouldn't let him toss. She'd talked to the damn thing, even brought it with her when she came to see him and grumbled at the guards for searching the doll. "Molesting" it.
He wanted to slap the tattoo, just to amp up the sting a bit. But that was for later.
Or maybe sooner.
The beautiful sound of a six-speed 1690 cc engine — his bike — reached his ears, a rising whisper, the confident growl of a waking lion. Nico gripped the armrests, bracing himself, and smiled at the poor doomed sap next to him, who cluelessly yawned and settled back to doze.
The roar of two other bikes joined that of the Fatboy. Perfect.
Agent Higgins glimpsed at the side mirror, but he wouldn't see the bikers yet. They were riding dark.
"Funny," Higgins said in his Georgia drawl. "Thought I heard hogs."
"What, you mean pigs?" asked his partner, Agent Dutton, a Detroit-born city boy.
"No, you big dummy," Higgins said. "Harleys, man."
Higgins rubbed his eyes, as he and Dutton sank into complacency.
Then came the sound of the bikers gunning it. In less than a second, they had flanked the van.
A couple of inmates stirred in their seats, muttering with unease. Nico nodded down at his brother Rhino coming up just outside on the Fatboy, the only one riding solo. Rhino roared far ahead.
The first bike zoomed in place next to the van's driver side, while the second bike eased up parallel to Nico.
Nico almost wished one of the sleepy cons would glance out and witness the impossible vision of madness: both machines carried huge, hair-covered passengers riding behind the smaller drivers. They rose to crouch on the seats with the agility of trapeze artists.
Higgins frowned as he heard the Harleys growl. "Hey, what are these assho —?"
The two hirsute passengers pounced in unison, their claws attaching them like magnets to the side of the van.
Agent Higgins swerved the wheel as his window exploded in on him. A huge hairy hand found his throat like a guided missile and tore it out in an explosion of scarlet. Higgins's scream became a weak gurgle.
The van careened off the road and into a scrabbly patch of wasteland, where it flipped onto its passenger side with a grinding groan. Dutton's sidearm was lost in the chaos.
Inmate DeWitt, showing amazing lung power, bellowed like an opera singer.
Nico, pulled downward to his right by gravity, held onto his armrests, chuckling at the sound of steel mesh tearing away from his window. The glass broke, and a slavering snout was in his face, growling and snapping.
"Yeah, yeah." Nico pulled at the chain that fastened him to the seat. The wolf, Aura by name, bit it in two, rubbing her hairy breasts across Nico's face. She gave him a lick, nipped at his eyebrow just hard enough to draw blood, then clambered in to go to work on the passengers.
Nico slid out of his seat and landed feet first on the left side of a skinny first timer he knew as Mousy. The boy cried at Nico for help, but Nico booted him in the face instead.
Blood splashed across Nico and everything else, as Aura went about sloppily wasting the other prisoners. She was showing off for him.
Finishing up on the extradition agents, the other lupine Firehead, Pipsqueak, tore through the front partition and slashed into the still-shrieking DeWitt, wasting a lot of meat as he worked his way to the man's heart, only to spit it out upon finding it brown and stinking from cigarettes.
Aura dropped a brawny arm at Nico's feet. The gang leader kicked it away. Pipsqueak went after it and so did Aura. They scuffled over it, massive hindleg claws digging into what was left of the inmates.
"Knock it off!" Nico called. "Let's roll."
Pipsqueak had something to show him first. Dropping to all fours, the lean red wolf went toward the front. Nico followed, flinging his long, blood-soaked hair out of his face.
Pipsqueak growled as he bit Higgins to draw a cry of pain, then climbed out the driver window, getting out of Nico's way. Pip smiled down at him with tongue hanging out like a playful bulldog.
Nico regarded Higgins. "Damn boy," he said. "You ain't gonna make it."
Hanging at a sharp angle, Higgins spilled blood by the pint onto the squashed corpse of Dutton. Deep claw marks separated the driver's face and throat into sections. His left arm was half torn away, tendons and cartilage still holding where muscle and skin had given way.
With heaving and hitching breath, Higgins felt around for his sidearm as he beheld Nico sneering down at him. He found the gun. Though Nico didn't react, Aura muscled past him and clamped her jaws shut on the guard's head, bursting it like a grape. Eyeballs arced from the pink mess. Nico squashed both with his state-issued pull-on sneakers. "Can't wait to do this with my goddamn boots on."
Aura rolled onto her back and smiled a predator's smile at Nico, clearly expecting a rub on her fuzzy belly — or perhaps her exquisite, very human breasts.
"Never gonna happen, girl," Nico said, as he unbuckled Higgins. Aura rolled out of the way as the messy bag of meat fell. Nico stepped up on Higgins's messy torso and climbed out, followed by Aura.
The panting wolves hopped on the bikes and sat like gargoyles while Jiggy and Rhino draped them with oversized tarps.
Nico, anticipating the fresh taste of high-speed freedom, hopped on his Fatboy for the first time in months. Rhino climbed on behind him, and the machine roared to rival the wolves.
* * *
Before consciousness came shame.
Stuart jerked up and jumped out of bed by reflex, knowing before his feet hit the carpet that he had done it again.
Pissed the bed.
"God damn!" he whispered.
This profanity, long considered the ultimate "cuss word" all across the South, was still fairly new to him. In fact, he had only started using it around the same time his bladder had begun betraying him in his sleep, just less than a year ago. No exclamation seemed even remotely more appropriate.
He patted himself to see how bad it was. God damn bad.
Top sheet too, but that was all. Having trained himself to always sleep on his back to minimize the spread was one of several hacks he had tried since the problem had started. Multiple pairs of shorts — up to four, at one point, and that was July — rubberbanding a Ziploc over his unit, placing garbage bags under and on top of himself — nothing worked.
Stifling his self-loathing rage, he jerked the top sheet off and crept to his bedroom door, which he kept cracked at night, the hinges always well-oiled, and eased it open.
Good thing Ma always left the living room table lamp on so Dennis wouldn't brain himself stumbling in from — or still on — his latest bender. He can't keep from soaking it up these days, Stuart thought. And I can't keep from leaking it out. Dennis's issue might have been selfish, dangerous and destructive, but at least it was more socially acceptable.
Just four steps across the hall and to the bathroom door — he couldn't hide the sheets forever but better to deal with that in the daylight.
Unfortunately, Ma didn't sleep very heavily anymore; not since her two baby boys had nearly died alongside dozens of parade goers, and especially not since Dennis had taken up the bottle again, just weeks later. It was a fifty-fifty shot she would wake up and come out, but he had to take it.
Her door squeaked minutely, like a mouse mocking a fat cat. "Stuart?"
Stuart rushed into the bathroom and slammed the door, no longer caring about stealth or common courtesy.
He regarded his shadow-soaked reflection, leaving the light off. His own dark reflection used to scare him, and not even in a fun way. Now it just seemed like an annoying playground tattletale.
Ma knocked, a sound even lighter than the mute squeak of her door. "Stuart?"
He didn't answer, though he was already resigned to having this conversation again, hoping he wouldn't blow his stack like other times. "Just ... go back to bed, Ma."
"Honey, I'm going to call a doctor tomorrow."
"No, Ma!" Stuart smacked a little basket of fragrant soaps to the floor. He was losing it. "Leave me alone!"
He flipped the light switch, then spun and slapped the shower curtain open. He started the water, turning it up as hot as it would go, to — what? Scald himself? As punishment?
Ma was still standing there at the door. He could feel her, feel the worry and layers of long-suffering coming off her in waves. She bore it with grace, sure. But this was his problem.
"Go away, Ma."
"It's okay, Stuart," she said over the sound of the water. "You just need someone to talk to. After everythi —"
"I got it," he interrupted. "Now leave me alone."
He fixed on the rising steam and flashed back to the dense smoke rising from the many fires that had raged along Main Street a few months before. And he felt like a real heel.
"Ma?" he called, opening to the door to try and catch her before she retreated to the bedroom where she had slept alone for years. She was halfway there, clutching the pockets of her maroon bathrobe in little trembling fists. "I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, Ma."
She trod back to him and put an arm on his shoulder. "Can I call somebody?"
"I'll get past it, Ma." Had he heard Dennis say this to her about his drinking?
"Reverend McGlazer is doing better. You could ..."
"Ma. Please." Her expression reminded him of his father's funeral. Hey, is there anything besides downers rattling around up there? he asked his own brain. "I can't."
* * **
For the first hour of his shift, Security Officer Bartholomew Cheek always stood in the breezeway of the rest stop's vending building.
Rowed with soda, snack and sandwich dispensers along either wall, the corrugated hut was a good lookout onto the exit from the highway to see vehicles pulling into the rest stop. An ex-Military Policeman, Cheek found his post-retirement gig made him feel almost important, or at least justified in settling in at his desk for hours at a time to toss occasional glances at the stack of six monitors displaying the lots, the lobby and this very building. He glanced up at the camera and almost winked, as if he might rewind and watch it later, just for chuckles.
A handful of big rigs idled in the far lot, and maybe an average of seven cars at a time dotted the lot in front of the restrooms. Farther out, isolated spots hosted catnapping motorists.
His expression was vigilant, but his mind was already slowing for his (early) mid-shift nap.
A few folks would no doubt slink in for semi-discreet sexual rendezvous, and Cheek didn't see any need to disrupt them. He had engaged in the same a few times himself back in the day.
Motorcycles, though — that might be a different matter.
He heard them half a mile away and raised one of the few prayers he ever did that they would pass on by.
They roared right in though; three of them. A couple of the Harleys bore passengers bundled up in rain slickers or something. Big fellows.
The bikes made a beeline to a dark spot at the edge of the lawn, next to a little patch of forest behind the wooden sign that clearly read:
'RESTRICTED AREA NO VISITORS ALLOWED'
Then the bikes fell silent.
Bikers parking in the distant dark of a rest stop meant one thing only: doping.
* * *
Nico closed his eyes to inhale the scents of leather, perspiration, and autumnal woods behind them while the wolves shook off their tarps and dropped to all fours to prowl around the trees, their roving instincts uncorked after sitting still for too long.
Rhino extended a tiny brass telescope — acquired during a horrific home invasion — and gazed over the parking lot. "Rent-a-pig coming."
Indeed, an overweight security officer was ambling across the lot, hand on sidearm.
"I got it," Nico said. "Been too long anyway."
Hobie, the sixth Firehead, tossed Nico his leather jacket to cover up the prison coveralls.
Nico walked to the edge of the shadows to meet the guard, casual as Sunday afternoon. "Hey brother," he said. "A friend had a wreck." He gestured to the blood spatters on his face and neck. "A coupla my crew are changing clothes. Need privacy."
Officer Cheek gave Nico a once-over, half unable to see the prison garb in the darkness, half unwilling to, out of complacency. "Still trespassing, buddy," said Cheek. "Your pals can use the john, like everybody else."
Nico smashed the guard's nose with a headbutt, catching his necktie as he fell backward. Nico dragged him into the shadows, issuing a quick whistle.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Grim Harvest"
Copyright © 2019 Patrick C. Greene.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2.5 Stars. Fall is upon Ember Hollow again with victims and residents from the last annual pumpkin parade from hell still reeling and healing from the town's massacre. GRIM HARVEST (great book cover) is jam packed with a variety of evil characters and sub-plots....some, however, unnecessary (IMHO)....with a narrative that jumps around too much within the same chapter making for a frustrating and confusing read for this horror lover. The main plot was lost too as were some of the best of the best like witch Matilda. Oh I wanted more of her and those other great areas of darkness that abruptly ended only to lose impact by paragraph breaks. Writing less than average reviews makes me feel bad, but if I'm to be truthful, this short 200 page read turned out to be a long one....FOR ME. Many thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
This is an engrossing, entertaining and scary read. I like to read horror books from time to time and I found this a fun read. I liked the way the plot is crafted, the cast of characters and the setting. Even if this is the second book in a series I had no issue with the plot or the characters. I look forward to reading other books by this author. Recommended! Many thanks to Kensington Books and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.