Some Cost a Passing Bell [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Lee Barwood
eBook Category: Horror/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: The headlines are vicious--philandering husband murdered by mistress, who commits suicide. But the haunting is worse: Camilla Carthan, the widow, can't even grieve. Her husband betrayed her at every opportunity; now that he's dead, he won't leave her alone. Each night Tim returns in nightmares, with his dead mistress, looking even worse than he did on the morgue table and promising to stay with her forever. Though others knew him as vindictive and unfaithful, Camilla never saw the side of her husband that survived death. But now she's coming to know that side of him all too well.
In those nightmares, though, she finds shelter in a remote and ancient farmhouse that seems to offer protection. A golden-eyed presence there keeps Tim's gruesome ghost away, and when she wakes Camilla is convinced it's real; if she can find it, she believes, the nightmares will stop. Desperate, she sets off on her quest, not knowing her sanctuary too is haunted--by a man who went mad and died there.
Jeffrey Adams loved not wisely but too well; when his true love turned him down, he lost his reason. He died in the home he'd built for the girl who refused him, already bound to it with power so strong it's kept him there for nearly two centuries. He's used that power over the passing decades to ward off intruders and vandals, gaining his old home a terrifying reputation. Yet when Camilla, desperate, finds him in dreams as she flees from malevolent spirits, he offers her shelter--and later, love. Drawing on the ancient energies in the Ozark hills, he blocks Tim Carthan's spirit from following his widow--and makes a powerful enemy.
The locals interpret Camilla's residence in the house as witchcraft; at the same time, Tim is learning to use the strange, powerful forces on the other side of life. When he lived, he denied the existence of paranormal phenomena; now he understands too well how real they are; he unconsciously used them all his life. He may be new to death, but not to the use of power. He learns fast, practicing his new talents and taking out his rage at being dead on any handy target. Seeking revenge as much as reunion, he's determined to challenge Camilla's protective companion--and he doesn't care who gets in the way. People die horribly, and are reanimated to terrify others.
No one is safe as Tim learns to use the power in the hills where his widow now lives. The residents credit Camilla with Tim's evil deeds and decide to stop her. But they're up against a vast, terrible power as ghost battles ghost with the living as the prize.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon Publishing, Published: Double Dragon eBooks, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: June 2010
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PROLOGUE- ONE DYIN' AND A BURYIN'
October 1829--Blackburn County, Arkansas
As the wind whipped up and caught at the open door, a small straggle of people left the little church. One man stepped aside to hold the door as those carrying the coffin passed through from the shadows within to the gloom outside. Thunderheads roiled overhead, and the air smelled moist. Branches tossed uneasily in the path of the approaching storm; the dry voices of the leaves rose, and one of the mourners looked around uneasily.
Despite the threat of rain, the pace was slow; the pallbearers handled the hand-carved walnut box awkwardly, as if unwilling to let more of it touch them than absolutely necessary. Not one of them let its weight rest full on his shoulder despite its obvious heft.
Odd, thought the single silent onlooker, who was not a member of the group. He followed at a distance through the gate, past the whitewashed pickets surrounding the little graveyard, wondering what was wrong. A death from fever or other disease would have meant burning, not burial, for the body and all the deceased's belongings. There would have been no procession at all, no funeral. There would probably have been panic instead.
But these people were here, following the preacher and the coffin in silence out to the windy graveyard. Therefore it must have been a natural death. So why this reluctance to let the coffin support itself properly?
It was an unusually fine coffin, but that meant little; money could buy many things. Yet the people who trailed after the box were not rich, and the carving had been done with love--I would have done that kind of work, thought the silent man.
The wind rose, scattering the fallen leaves and whipping the women's skirts around their ankles, making it difficult for them to walk; the gray sky darkened still more. A dust devil danced for a moment in the path, and the onlooker nodded. Rain before noon, he thought; the poor soul they're burying should be at rest then. That's what rain on a funeral meant; everyone knew that. They'd all told him that when he'd first come here, and he'd remembered, strange though it seemed.
But standing there, feeling himself surrounded by the surge of energy from the approaching storm, somehow he knew it wouldn't be true this time, and the feeling was unsettling. He looked at the almost brilliant whiteness of the stones around him; they stood out in sharp contrast to the looming sky overhead, fairly glowing against the gray-brown background of dry earth and vivid green grass. Crosses tilted at odd angles here and there, as if whoever had set them in place just couldn't get them to stand straight against the relentless, capricious wind. The freshly dug hole gaped some distance ahead, its darkness an echo of the darkness in the sky above--and the darkness in their hearts, he thought, then wondered in surprise where that thought had come from. He wasn't given to profound observations ... or was he? He realized, surprised again, that he didn't know.
They reached the gravesite, and he studied the mourners. There were only four. The pallbearers deposited the carved box and shuffled around, waiting for the preacher to say his piece so they could lower the coffin into the ground and leave. They'll stay till the earth's filled in, but no longer, he thought. Bad luck if they don't--that's what they think, anyway. That's the only reason they've stayed this long. He sighed heavily. How sad to be so little loved, so little missed--so much feared. A gray-haired couple, evidently the principal mourners, walked to the edge of the grave. She wept; he only stood, shoulders stooped, head bowed. The other two--mourners?--stopped well short of the grave; a young man and woman, they stood apart from each other, though they seemed to be man and wife. The young man slouched, self-conscious, uncomfortable, obviously wishing he were anywhere but here. The young woman--only a girl, really, and very pretty, with pale yellow hair and a rosy complexion--stood defiantly, holding herself stiffly erect, blue eyes flashing, chin set. The onlooker sensed this was not from bravery, but rather bravado; she felt herself in the wrong, and was brazening out the opinions of others. Precious few others to see, or care, he thought, wondering what she had done--or what the dead man had done--to cause such a display. There was no grief in her for the poor dead soul; she was here only because she was required to be. And a bright pink ribbon fluttered in her fair hair--a ribbon that shouldn't have been there today of all days. Not at a funeral.
They began to lower the coffin, and he stayed to watch, though he could feel the storm looming closer, the power from it crackling around him and making his whole being tingle with its strength. The longer he stood there among the uncomfortable little group, the more he felt their inner emotions. It seemed natural to know how they felt. The girl was bitter--toward the dead man, her parents (for the old couple were her parents, he knew that), even her young husband. The old woman cried for shame as well as grief. The dead man had been very dear to her, but his death had brought her some dishonor, and the bystander wondered what it could be. The young man didn't much care one way or the other what had happened; he was only anxious for the brief ceremony to be over. The man in the carved walnut coffin was nothing to him. Once this was done, he thought, his bride would settle down again ... be like she was before. Only the old man sincerely mourned, and the bystander suddenly knew who had so lovingly carved the coffin.
Who was this dead man, that he had so few friends, that he should generate such turmoil of emotion?
A headstone sat close by, even though it couldn't be put in place till the grave settled. Someone determined to do the right thing, so that no one could accuse him--or her--of disrespect for the dead? Jeffrey Adams, the stone said. 1794--1829. R.I.P. That and no more--no Beloved Husband, no Dear Brother, no Devoted Son--as if no one knew him, no one wanted to. As if no one wanted to dignify his grave with the intimacy of an epitaph.
So none of these people were family. Poor devil, thought the bystander. Maybe he's better off where he is.
And as they began to throw in the first clods of earth, he bowed to the crackling that was now all around him and drifted silently away, as he had come.