“An infectious, salacious and highly entertaining erotic horror novel set in the deep south.” –Best Thrillers
Katarina The Killer picks up where Trent St. Germain’s debut novel The Incubus and The Others leaves off. Vampire Flannery Lanehart finds herself face-to-face with her old foe and Maker, Katarina Castille. While fending off a murderous Katarina, Flannery is strong-armed into providing her Creator room and board at Ten Points, the 198-year-old former plantation the Lanehart family calls home in north Louisiana.
Further challenges come in the way of Dr. Remy Van Buren, who arrives searching for answers about the disappearance of his identical twin brother from the estate; the return of the demonic Conrad—in a new form—to wreak havoc and revenge on the lives of Laneharts; and, a dark secret in the nearby woods that will shake Ten Points to its foundations.
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Chicago — November 2015
"Why are you doing this? He's been gone for seven years. Can't you face the fact that your brother is dead?"
The pragmatic tone of his ex-wife brought a flinch from Remy Van Buren, an exertion of power he had not granted her since their divorce. After a beat, he resumed packing his suitcase. It sat on the edge of his bed in his downtown condominium. Why he had even let her inside his place, and into his bedroom, was beyond him.
"Won't you hear me out?" Melissa Van Buren asked. Her voice rose, but his back stayed turned to her. Remy's stubborn refusal of retort was one of the wedges to force them apart and into divorce court two years earlier.
That and his refusal to let go of his twin brother Jimmy's disappearance in West Hollywood seven years earlier.
"Damn it, Remy, think about the children!" Melissa shouted. Anything to make him turn around and look at her.
It worked. "You know that I always think of the children," he said quietly, refusing to yell back and engage in a full-blown argument. He was in no mood, but the mention of the children brought an immediate reaction. "Please don't suggest otherwise."
"Then let this wait, for God's sake," Melissa said, moving closer. "Abby's Thanksgiving play is next week, and Ricky's school has holiday stuff around the same time. This thing with your brother won't change anytime soon. It never does."
"They've seen him! This is the most concrete lead we've had in years!" Remy's strong jaw tensed, and his dark eyes grew larger, as a fleeting look of hope Melissa had seen too often the past seven years crept to the surface.
The sculpted face and even more sculpted body that had first attracted Melissa to her ex-husband a decade ago was now too familiar and a trifle annoying. Especially when maintaining her own fitness was a challenge after giving birth and staying busy with their son and daughter.
Remy's identical twin brother, Jimmy Van Buren, had been a mirror image. Jimmy used his aesthetic attributes to try a career as an actor and model on the West Coast.
It had failed miserably before he fell off the Earth. In fact, Jimmy Van Buren's fledgling career sank to soft-core porn movies and escorting within a few years of his California arrival. Remy's and Jimmy's parents tried to sweep it under the rug.
Remy didn't pass judgment on his brother's proclivities or career choices. He traveled to California in the early stages of the investigation into his brother's disappearance, tracked down and talked to people in the B-movie industry, and Jimmy's friends, in search of any clues that could lead him to his brother — or give him closure. None ever had. Remy's stubbornness hadn't sat well with his wife or the LAPD detectives, whose bruised feelings weren't the source of worry and fear keeping Remy awake some nights ... all these years later.
"Remy," Melissa began, hands up. They came back down. One came up to her shoulder and played with a strand of chestnut hair. "These so-called sightings happen every so often, and all you do is get your hopes up and then get depressed all over again when it never goes anywhere."
"It's different this time," he said, turning back to his half-packed suitcase. He threw in more clothes. "Multiple sightings. All in different parts of one state. This hasn't happened in a long time. I have this feeling. I've always felt this connection to Jimmy. My gut tells me —"
"I know, I know," she said. Her eyes rolled before she could stop them. She was glad he had turned away from her again. "It's the twin thing."
The twin thing.
Yes, he thought to himself, that's exactly what it is. But Melissa didn't understand. She couldn't. She was an only child. She had grown up without any siblings, much less one that had grown in the womb beside her — two parts of a whole that split early after conception.
Remington and James. Or, as everyone came to know them, Remy and Jimmy. The nicknames were just another part of the 'twin thing'.
The 'twin thing' still told him Jimmy was out there somewhere. Or was it only his wishful thinking?
One night, seven months ago, Remy awoke in a cold sweat. He had clutched his neck in a horrified gasp.
Something had happened to Jimmy. He wasn't sure what it was, but it was something harmful, painful; something bad. Now that there was a clue where to look, he had to go there and try to find out.
"As I was saying," he continued, irritated by her interruption. "I have this feeling." His face sank as the words came out. "Oh dear God, Melissa, it's a different feeling though ..."
One thing Melissa appreciated about her ex-husband was that he rarely raised his voice or flew into a rage, even at his worst. His mild temper was a stark contrast to that of his hotheaded, conceited brother. Jimmy Van Buren had never met a mirror he didn't like and screwed anything with a pulse. Even though Remy's exhaustive efforts to find his missing scoundrel of a brother contributed to the decay of their marriage, she couldn't begrudge him in the long run. He loved his brother and would go to the end of the Earth to find him.
What concerned her now was how the latest reignited search would affect the holidays with their seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son. She had taken great care since the divorce, they both had, to acclimate the children to the current arrangement. Remy often took the children on weekends, when his busy schedule as a general practitioner at one of the Windy City's busiest hospitals didn't interfere. His career as a physician was another excusable distraction from his family, and it had been another of those wedges between Melissa and him.
Another dead-end search for Jimmy Van Buren could wait a month or two, Melissa thought.
She placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Remy, are you sure this can't wait?" she asked, her tone softer.
She knew yelling and carrying on would do no good. Even though they were no longer married, the look of sadness on his face made her want to hold and comfort him. She looked over his shoulder at the double bed and wondered how many other women he had shared it with since their divorce. She quickly put away the thought. It was his bed to do with, and with whom, as he pleased. The one they had shared during their marriage was the one she still slept in alone, in the house they once shared in the suburbs of Skokie. The final part of their divorce settlement was Melissa's insistence she buy out his half of their home.
"I know how you feel about him, Remy, but I have to think about Abby and Ricky, too. I'll be the one who has to explain this to them."
He paused again as he closed the suitcase. "My flight leaves in less than three hours," he said. "I have to get to the airport soon. Please tell the kids I'll call them. Tell them I love them and give them a kiss for me. Please."
She nodded as she looked down. There was no point to keep at him. "Can I at least drive you to the airport?" she asked. "I can call the sitter and ask her to stay at the house with the kids for an extra hour."
Melissa had stopped on her way home from her nutritionist job at another hospital with which Remy wasn't affiliated. Her arrival was unexpected, but no surprise, after Remy realized why she was there.
It had hard to miss, if you were in Chicago and within earshot of a TV. Melissa was at work earlier that evening when she glanced over at a flat-screen on a hospital wall and saw Remy behind a podium at a news conference. He wasn't announcing some major breakthrough in the world of medicine. That would have been a welcome change. Instead, he was addressing the sensational missing-persons case surrounding his notorious brother. Remy told the media he would go to Louisiana to bulldoze past police — yet again — and follow new leads. Within a couple of hours, the gale force of a juicy local news item blew up the ranks to the national cable networks.
Jimmy Van Buren. An extremely handsome man who failed in Hollywood and then vanished, leaving no trace. Every so often if there was a sighting, the media would jump on it. First, the tabloid-type shows, and then the local Chicago stations, since Jimmy Van Buren hailed from there. It was almost like the Black Dahlia case from the 1940s — only there was no severed body to be found and exploited.
Nobody cared about them when they were alive and needy, but let a beautiful, struggling person fall into a dark abyss, and then they were a sensation to be shared — these days on social media — where they finally achieved the notoriety they had craved but never relished in life.
And, of course, any Jimmy Van Buren news item was accompanied by an over-the-shoulder graphic of some old modeling photo of Jimmy in a speedo, or some other form of half-nakedness.
"No, it's fine," Remy declined politely. "I'll take a cab."
"Okay then, if you insist," she replied. "Remy, just promise me you'll be careful."
Remy nodded quietly and then turned away as a memory from his childhood grabbed at him. He and Jimmy were nine years old and fighting over a basketball, of all things. The brothers had always gotten along and shared equally much of the time, but not that day. Both wanted the same thing at the same time, and neither would compromise — or play together. Each wanted to shoot hoops solo, at the goal posted above the garage door of their suburban childhood home in Skokie. The same home where their parents still lived, only about a mile from the other house Melissa received in the divorce.
The commotion and melee finally ended when Gerard Van Buren, the boys' father, walked outside, armed with a Phillips screwdriver. He grabbed the basketball from one of the boys and stabbed a hole into it. There! It was now deflated and no good to either of them.
The brothers' pursuit of the same things ended some years later. Remy was an honors student. Jimmy was a star athlete, though his brother didn't lack in that department either. But Remy had the grades, the athleticism, and the looks all rolled into one. As high school ended, Remy received a scholarship to Northwestern, and from there, medical school at Johns Hopkins. The pride of his parents.
Jimmy was only left with his good looks and little else. Remy still loved his brother, but Jimmy resented him. The closeness they shared early in their lives slowly eroded into estrangement. Jimmy pushed Remy away, and after a successful catalog modeling gig in Chicago, decided to try his luck in Los Angeles.
Then when they were both twenty-nine years old — Jimmy down on his luck, not exactly setting Hollywood on fire; Remy barely out of medical school, marrying, and starting a family sooner than he would have really liked — Jimmy vanished. He was last seen leaving a West Hollywood gay bar one night. It was a place detectives later learned he frequented, allowing well-to-do older men to buy him drinks — and buy him. Gerard and Maria Van Buren refused to believe it or talk about it. Their father Gerard, an upstanding upper middle-class Republican as he was; their mother Maria, who had come from a strict Catholic upbringing in an Italian home.
Remy sensed all the allegations surrounding his brother were grounded in fact. Instead of passing judgement, or worse, living in denial, he went to the West Coast for his own answers.
The looks Remy had received and the heads that turned when he walked into that bar one night! One old queen even dropped and shattered his beer mug, thinking the hot beefcake stud himself, Jimmy Van Buren, was back from the dead. Many of the different people who knew his brother, that he tracked down on his own and interrogated, told him as much. That they believed his brother was dead.
Remy refused to accept it. Not until he saw a body. Some of the men at the gay bar Jimmy hustled at didn't speak too highly of his brother. Jimmy was straight and only gay-for-pay. According to one tale, a man took Jimmy back to his place but wouldn't pay up when Jimmy refused to let the man kiss him on the lips. That man ended up with a broken nose, but, out of embarrassment, he refused to press charges.
All the stories Remy heard about his brother, scandalous or not, ended the same way.
Everyone believed Jimmy was dead.
Remy didn't care what they thought. He would hold on as long as he could, until solid evidence proved him wrong.
But then there was that horrible feeling that shot through him seven months ago and pulled him from his sleep in the wee hours of the morning. Cold sweat had run down his chest, as he sat up in bed and clutched his own throat. Then he put both hands around his neck to make sure his head was still attached. Something was amiss. Something was different now.
Remy had to find out what it was. And then the new reports surfaced about his brother.
Jimmy had been sighted first in New Orleans and then in north Louisiana after that.
Bayou Country. A world away from the skyscrapers, suburbs, and chilly late autumn of Chicago.
North Louisiana was where Dr. Remy Van Buren would begin.CHAPTER 2
Ten Points Plantation, north of Monroe, Louisiana — November 2015
She sat in the dark that evening in a leather chair. She twirled her long, blonde hair in the fingers of her left hand, as she watched the report on "America's trusted and most balanced news source."
So the cable network claimed, though many who leaned to one particular political spectrum often disagreed.
"He was an extremely handsome wannabe actor and sometime model who friends say was willing to do whatever it took to become famous."
The equally blonde commentator wore a smirk on her heavily made-up face as she delivered the story to viewers across America. The dramatic enunciations and pauses were in just the right places, as she read from the teleprompter.
The leather chair creaked a bit in the dark, as the other blonde, the viewer, found herself mesmerized by the television report and the woman who delivered it.
"What a bimbo," she muttered to herself. She could remember a time before twenty-four hour news networks. A time before TV. A time before radio ... or daily newspapers.
"It's a story with the makings of a Hollywood mystery written all over it ... Jimmy Van Buren was only twenty-nine years old when he was last seen at a well-known gay bar in West Hollywood seven years ago. People who know him say he had fallen on hard times and resorted to prostitution after his acting career failed. Sadly, his only claim to fame was a, err hmmm, large supporting role in a late-night cable soft core adult movie titled Lays of Our Lives. Hey, America, what can I say, that was the name of it. You really can't make this stuff up. Anyway, on a more serious note, Jimmy Van Buren's identical twin brother, Doctor Remy Van Buren, a successful general practitioner in Chicago, has renewed the search for his missing brother after reported sightings in Louisiana. Doctor Remy Van Buren held a news conference today. Here's what he had to say."
A man with a well-sculpted face, a chin with a familiar cleft, and thick wavy brown hair stood at a podium. Identical to Jimmy Van Buren, only he wore a more conservative gray designer suit and a solemn expression as he read from a prepared statement.
"For more than seven years my family has sought answers and hoped beyond hope that we would have some closure in the disappearance of my twin brother, Jimmy," Remy Van Buren said, as he occasionally glanced down at a piece of paper in his right hand at the bottom of the screen. "In the early days after he went missing, we had great faith that he would be found alive and with a simple explanation of where he had been. As time went on, we began to accept the fact that it wasn't likely to happen. But now, we have new hope. Numerous sources have reported sightings of my brother in Louisiana, in both the New Orleans metropolitan area, as well as near the city of Monroe in north Louisiana. Investigators in both areas have been contacted, and I plan to travel there myself to seek answers and hopefully bring my brother home. Let this be known: I will leave no stone unturned and will help follow every lead there is until I know where my brother is and have satisfactory answers as to what happened to him."
"How interesting," the blonde in the leather chair said. A slight difference in Remy Van Buren's speech patterns and mannerisms from those of his lookalike were also intriguing.
"So similar. Yet so opposite," she said to herself. A light cackle escaped. Her English was fluent and intelligible, but her thick Scandinavian accent clung like a persistent cough. This, despite the fact she had left her native Sweden long, long ago.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Katarina the Killer"
Copyright © 2018 Trent St. Germain.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
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