John Wayne Cleaver hunts demons: they've killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loves, but in the end he's always won. Now he works for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can . . .
. . . but the monsters have noticed, and the quiet game of cat and mouse is about to erupt into a full scale supernatural war.
John doesn't want the life he's stuck with. He doesn't want the FBI bossing him around, he doesn't want his only friend imprisoned in a mental ward, and he doesn't want to face the terrifying cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John doesn't want to kill people. But as the song says, you can't always get what you want. John has learned that the hard way; his clothes have the stains to prove it.
When John again faces evil, he'll know what he has to do.
The Devil's Only Friend is the first book in a brand-new John Wayne Cleaver trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.
About the Author
DAN WELLS lives in North Salt Lake, Utah, with his wife, Dawn, and their five children. He is author of three previous novels about John Wayne Cleaver, The Hollow City, and the popular Partials Sequence of young adult books.
Read an Excerpt
The Devil's Only Friend
By Dan Wells
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 Dan Wells
All rights reserved.
I'm good now. I promise.
My name is John Wayne Cleaver and I was born in a little town in the middle of nowhere called Clayton. You know those little towns on the side of the road, the ones where you drive through and you don't notice them, or maybe you stop for gas and think, "what a dump, who would ever live here?" Well, I did, for sixteen years. And I wish I could say that it was boring, and that nothing ever happened, and that we lived in a sleepy haze of naive innocence far from the troubles of the modern world, but I can't. I killed people. Not as many as other people, I'll grant you, but that's not much consolation, is it? If someone sat next to you on a bus, held out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm John, I've only killed a couple of people," that wouldn't exactly put your mind at ease. But yes, I've killed, and some of them were demons, true, but some of them were people. That I didn't kill the people personally is beside the point; they are dead because of me. That changes you. You start to look at things differently, at lives and their fragility. It's like we're all Humpty Dumpty, held together by tiny, cracking shells, perched up on a wall like it's no big deal. We think we're invincible, and then one little crack and boom, out comes more blood and guts and screams than you'd ever thought could be inside a single body. And when that blood goes, everything else goes with it — breath, thought, movement. Existence. One minute you're alive and then suddenly you're not.
I used to wonder if it went somewhere. If the thing that used to be your "life" actually left your body and physically went somewhere else. Conservation of matter and energy and all that. But I've seen death, and life doesn't go anywhere, and I think that's because life doesn't exist, not really. Life isn't a thing, it's a condition; we switch it on and we switch it off. For all we talk about taking a life, there's nothing there to take.
But I'm good now. I promise. I've killed, and whatever bloodlust I used to have is sated. I wake up in the morning and I go to my tutor and I go to my counseling and I go to my job with the FBI, helping to track down other killers, and I say the right things and I do the right things and nobody's afraid of me and everything is good. I watch travel shows. I cook. I do logic puzzles to keep myself occupied. And then sometimes at night I go to the butcher shop and I buy the biggest roast they have and I bring it home and I cover the room in plastic and I hack the meat to pieces with a kitchen knife, slashing and ripping and chopping and grunting until there's nothing left but scraps. Then I roll up the plastic, meat and blood and all, and I throw it away and everything is clean and calm again.
Because I'm good now.
* * *
"I love you, John."
I used to think I would have loved to hear Brooke Watson say those words. Now they broke my heart every time. I never thought I had a heart until it was broken. It's hard to see the point of something that only ever causes pain.
"You don't love me," I said, shifting my weight in the uncomfortable hospital chair. We were sitting in the dementia wing of a rest home in a dirty little Midwestern city called Fort Bruce. It was bigger than Clayton, the town where Brooke and I grew up, but that's not saying much. We'd left Clayton almost a year ago, when Brooke was just starting to lose her mind. She'd been getting worse and worse ever since. "Your name is Brooke Watson," I told her, "and you're my friend."
She shook her head. "My name is Nobody."
"Nobody was a demon," I said. "You called her a 'Withered.'"
Her expression grew dark. "The Withered are evil."
I looked out the barred window, seeing the slate-gray sky over the week-old January snow that covered the city like a layer of ash. New snow is clean; old snow is black and coarse and full of dirt and garbage.
I looked back at Brooke. "That's right," I said. "The Withered are evil, and you're not one of them. 'Nobody' was a monster and she possessed you, but she's gone now. She's dead, and you have her memories, but you're not her. You're Brooke." I looked at her, wondering again — for the thousandth time — how to help her. Her mind seemed to come and go like a breeze, ethereal and impossible to predict.
"Possessed" wasn't really the right word for what had happened, but it was close; possession implies a spirit or a ghost, but Brooke was taken over by a physical entity — a monster made of ash and grease, a black sludge that, in her more lucid moments, Brooke called "soulstuff." The demon known as Nobody was made of it and crawled inside her bloodstream and moved her like a puppet. I suppose the best word would be to say that Brooke was "invaded," but honestly, when you're talking about a bodily invasion and using words like "best," things are pretty screwed up and you might as well just not talk about them at all. But that's life in the demon-hunting business, I guess.
Brooke looked over my shoulder, her eyes locked on some distant memory rather than the hospital wall barely ten feet away. Kelly Ishida, the cop on our little team of hunters, had covered the wall with posters of flowers and landscapes, but that seemed almost insulting. Brooke's mind was buried under thousands of years of nightmare memory, from when her mind had merged with that of a demon who'd spent millennia invading body after body, girl after girl, only to inevitably grow disillusioned and kill itself — and the host bodies — over and over. Were some pictures of flowers supposed to make that go away?
"My name is Lucinda," said Brooke, stating it almost slyly, like she was telling me a secret. "I used to sell flowers in the market, but now I'm stuck in here." She paused a moment and then her eyes fixed on me. "I don't like it in here." A small tear welled up in the corner of her eye, growing bigger and bigger until it spilled over her eyelid and trickled down the side of her face. I watched it roll down her skin, leaving a thin, wet trail. I focused on the tear because it helped me to ignore all the horrible things that surrounded it. Her voice seemed far away and quiet. "Can you get me out of here?"
Here, as I said, was the lockdown wing of the Whiteflower Assisted Living Center. We traveled a lot, following Brooke's patchy memories of various Withered; we'd spent about four months in St. Louis, hunting a demon named Ithho who stole people's fingers, and then nearly seven months in Callister, hunting a demon who could only hear people in pain. "Demon" wasn't really the right word any more than "possessed" was, now that we knew more about what they were — which still wasn't much, frankly, but at least we knew they weren't the typical boogeymen from Catholicism or Judaism or any other big religion. We'd come to Fort Bruce because of an unprecedented two Withered in the same city, and we'd been here about three months, gathering information. And because Fort Bruce didn't have a real mental institution, Brooke was in Whiteflower with a bunch of dementia patients. She was the youngest patient by several decades, but aside from that it was a pretty good fit: her room and the floor were locked, she was under constant surveillance, and the staff was experienced with both memory problems and suicide risks. One of the few things Brooke remembered consistently was killing herself and surviving it tens of thousands of times. Her perception of things was a little screwed up.
"You need to stay here for now," I said. I said it almost every day, no matter how much I hated it. A year ago I wouldn't have said anything — I probably would have just left, if we're being perfectly honest. Being a heartless wallflower had been so much easier than feeling guilty all the time. "You're sick, and they can help you here."
"I'm not sick, I'm Lucinda."
Lucinda was one of the people Nobody had killed over the centuries, and her memories were mingled in with all the others jumbled up in Brooke's head. Dr. Trujillo, our team's psychologist, had counted more than thirty different personalities so far, but he said few of them surfaced more than once. Lucinda had popped up three or four times so far, and I wondered what it was about Brooke's situation here that called that specific girl to mind. Had she been in an institution or a hospital? Few of Nobody's victims were that modern, if we understood her correctly; most were hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. How had Nobody found Lucinda, and where? What had attracted her to the girl's life, and what had eventually caused her to end it?
How did Brooke remember dying?
"Your name is Brooke Watson," I said again. "My name is John Wayne Cleaver." I hesitated, knowing what I wanted to say and not daring to speak it out loud. I sat with my mouth open, struggling with the words, and finally just said them, softly in case Dr. Trujillo was listening. "I'm going to get you out of here — I don't know when, but I promise. Out of this hospital, out of the team, out of everything. We're going to run away."
"Are we going to get married?"
Her words were like an ice pick in my chest, and I shook my head. "No, Brooke, you don't love me."
"I love you more than anything," she said fiercely. "I've loved you for a thousand years — I've loved you since the sun was born and the stars sang songs to wake it up. I love you more than life and breath and body and soul. Do you want me to show —"
"No," I said, trying to calm her. "Just stop. I'll get you out of here, but you have to stop saying that."
"It'll be our secret, then."
"No," I repeated. "It'll be our nothing. You don't love me."
She paused for a moment, studying me with eyes that looked far too old for a seventeen-year-old girl. "I know all about nothing," she said softly. "I'm Nobody."
I sighed. "You and me both, Brooke. You and me both."
* * *
Nathan Gentry tapped his fingers on the conference-room table. "This chick is crazy."
Of all the people on our team, Nathan would be the easiest to kill. Not that I wanted to kill any of them, necessarily, but I had a plan for it in case I needed to. It never hurts to be prepared. Nathan was soft without being fat, an ideal mix of "out of shape" and "uninsulated" that left his vital organs right at the surface, without any muscle or fat to get in the way. For the others I needed a plan, but for Nathan all I'd need was a knife: slash the gut or the legs to slow him down, get in close, and cut his throat. He'd fight, but I'd win. If he was distracted at the time, buried in a book with his earbuds in the way he spent most of his time, it'd be even easier.
I kind of hoped, if the time ever came, that he didn't make it easy.
I wasn't supposed to think about that, obviously. I had rules to keep myself from hurting anybody, rules I'd been following since I was barely seven years old — ever since I'd discovered, with a dead gopher's blood trickling down my hands, that I was different from other people. That I was a sociopath, cut off from the rest of the world, surrounded by normal people but forever and relentlessly alone. I had rules to help keep my most dangerous impulses safely locked away. But I also had a job, and my job was to plan killings. All day, every day, I studied our targets, discovered their weaknesses, and figured out exactly how to kill them. It's a skill set I'm particularly gifted at, but not one that's easy to turn off.
I looked away from Nathan and back at our surveillance photos, forcing myself to focus on the task at hand. The "chick" Nathan thought was crazy was Mary Gardner, and he kind of had a point, though that didn't make me hate him any less. I deflected my hatred into what I hoped was playful teasing.
"Sensitivity training," I reminded him. As government employees we had a lot of sensitivity training, and it had become one of our go-to punchlines for any kind of joke, insult, or banter. I liked having running gags like this because they made it easier for me to know what the others would find funny and what they'd find off-putting. I couldn't always tell on my own.
"Sorry," said Nathan, "this 'woman' is crazy." The cadence of his voice was off, in a pattern I'd come to recognize as frustrated sarcasm. I suppressed a smile, knowing I'd gotten to him.
"That's not what he meant," said Kelly, and her voice had a fair bit of frustration in it as well. "He means that you shouldn't use 'crazy' as an epithet, since John has a mental-health issue too."
Kelly Ishida would be much harder to kill. She'd trained as a cop and worked homicide for six years, according to her file, so she knew how to handle herself. Her file also said that she was twenty-nine years old, but if I'd seen her on the street I would have sworn she was twenty-two. Twenty-three at the oldest. She was about my height, Japanese-American, with long black hair and dark eyes. I also knew that she slept very lightly and kept a gun on her nightstand, neither of which is a sign of a particularly healthy psyche; I assumed it had something to do with the incident that caused her to leave the police force and join our team, but I didn't know for sure yet. The exact details were redacted from her file, but whatever it was had left her with a lot of trust issues. Not as many as she thought, though; she still had me pick up her coffee almost every day. When the time came — if the time came — I could poison her virtually at will.
"Us crazy people have to stick together," I said, still studying the surveillance photos. I had seen something in one of them, and after another moment of thought I slid it across the table to Kelly; trust issues or not, she was an excellent detective. The photo was mostly identical to all our other photos of Mary Gardner — a nurse's uniform, a sweater, and a blue hospital face mask — but this one had a key difference. I tapped an odd shadow in the center. "Look at this bulge by her waist."
Kelly took the photo, examining it closely. "Sweaters do this sometimes, so it's hard to be sure what's under there. You think it's a gun?" "It's not a hip," I said, "unless she has very weird hips."
"Sensitivity training," said Diana, and I suppressed another smile. Diana Lucas was the only other person on the team who ever joined in my jokes. Not only would killing her be physically hard — she was former military and as tough as a brick — but I'd regret it afterward. We weren't friends, per se, but we got along, united in our shared annoyance with Nathan, if nothing else. Nathan always told her they had to stick together, as the only black people on the team, and I think that annoyed her more than anything else. She'd even punched him once. I sincerely hoped I never had to kill Diana.
I looked back at Kelly. "Compare that photo to this one," I said, sliding another image across the table. "This is an older shot, from a few weeks ago, so she's wearing different clothes and we're seeing it from a different angle. The bulge is still there. It's too consistent to be a random fold in a sweater."
"Maybe," said Kelly. She pulled out magnifying glass — a real live magnifying glass, like an old-timey detective. It was one of Kelly's quirks. I kept waiting for her to pull out a pipe and a Sherlock Holmes hat. "Could be a gun," she said, studying the photo intently. "Do we have any other shots of that side?"
"What's the big deal about a gun?" asked Nathan, watching as I sifted through the photos. "She's some kind of supernatural monster anyway, right? Seems like a gun should be the least of our problems."
"Sensitivity training," I said.
"Oh, come on, what now?" asked Nathan, his voice even more frustrated than before. "We're not allowed to call the monsters monsters anymore? Are we worried about offending them?"
"I was actually warning myself that time," I said, finding another photo and passing it over to Kelly. "I'm about to call you an idiot, and I was saving everyone else the trouble of pointing it out."
"Hey —" said Nathan, but I cut him off.
"You're an idiot," I said. "But to be fair you're also new, so maybe you haven't done all the reading yet."
"I've done more reading than anyone in this building," said Nathan. "Or did you forget that I'm literally a doctor of library science?"
Diana rolled her eyes — we couldn't forget Nathan's credentials because he shoved them in our faces every chance he got.
Excerpted from The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells. Copyright © 2015 Dan Wells. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Not as good as the others in this series. Not a lot of excitement. I still liked it because it is part of an awesome series but..........
Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read the early stories, this review may contain spoilers. John’s only seventeen and lost everyone important in his life. With no where to turn he joins a covert team that hunts the monsters that go bump in the night. It’s a whole new ball game, maybe. Hunting monsters isn’t new. John’s still battling his dark side. But the team he’s joined isn’t much better than the monsters. The twisted lengths he goes through to not kill are so very macabre. I’m so glad the author kept John on course. Kept him scary. It’s his constant struggle not to give in and go on a killing spree that keeps the story taut and edgy. Egads. Just when I thought this series couldn’t get any better, that Dan Wells couldn’t take it further into the out of, I’m proven wrong. This is a chilling read and makes you squirm. I loved every bit of it and smiled in ghoulish glee. Way to go, Dan. Keep em coming. And please, keep making me squirm. Narrator Kirby Heyborne I’m so glad Kirby is still narrating this series. I’ve gotten used to his voice and his ability to give the character’s distinctive and easy to recognize voices makes him a favorite of mine. Thanks so much to Tantor Audio and the author for this complimentary copy. My review is voluntarily given.
Greatest series ever, hands down. Good guys who aren't so good, and bad huys that aren't all bad mixed in with a lovely (though Morbid) sense of humor
I never heard of this book or series so i have yo read the other 3 books beforw i can give a proper analysis but it sounds good