The evil in East Salem is no longer content to hide in the shadows. The stakes—and the darkness—are rising.
Dani Harris thought there wasn’t much left that could surprise her after serving as a forensic psychiatrist in East Salem. And Tommy Gunderson has faced few challenges in his life that he couldn’t overcome by either physical strength or his celebrity status.
But as they race to uncover what’s really happening behind the high walls of St. Adrian’s Academy, it becomes clear that supernatural forces have been at work here for generations. And now their focus is on making sure Dani and Tommy don’t interfere.
When the unseen becomes seen, faith is the only weapon strong enough to fight in a battle involving not just murder and betrayal—but angels and demons.
“Wiehl’s latest is a truly creepy story with supernatural undertones that seem eerily real.” -Romantic Times review of Waking Hours
About the Author
Lis Wiehl is the former legal analyst for Fox News and the O'Reilly Factor and has appeared regularly on Your World with Neil Cavuto, Lou Dobbs Tonight, and the Imus morning shows. The former co-host of WOR radio's "WOR Tonight with Joe Concha and Lis Wiehl," she has served as legal analyst and reporter for NBC News and NPR's All Things Considered, as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney's office, and was a tenured professor of law at the University of Washington. She appears frequently on CNN as a legal analyst. She lives near New York City.
Read an Excerpt
DARKNESS RISINGTHE EAST SALEM TRILOGY BOOK TWO
By LIS WIEHL PETE NELSON
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Lis Wiehl
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAbbie Gardener could remember sitting on the back of a very broad, gray, docile plow horse named Bob. She loved Bob.
"You are a very special girl," her father had told her, but she knew fathers always told their little girls they were special.
"Why?" she said.
"Because Jesus loves you. Do you believe Jesus loves you?"
"Did you say your prayers last night?"
"Did you say your prayers this morning?"
"That's a very good girl. You must say your prayers every morning and every evening before bed, and the Lord will protect you and keep you safe."
And she had done so for many, many years. But lately she couldn't remember if she'd prayed or not. It troubled her greatly. She was often certain that she had, but the next minute she wasn't sure, and two minutes after that she'd forgotten what it was she was trying to remember.
Bob pulled a plow. He was a good horse. I used to feed him green apples.
She suddenly realized where she was. She was not a little girl. She was very old. She was in the same town where she'd lived her whole life. East Salem, New York. But she was not in her home. She was not on her farm. She was in a nursing home.
Why am I here?
It was dark outside. The clock on the bed stand had jumped ahead again. Beside the clock there was a small paper cup with two pills in it and a glass of water. She'd promised the girl in the blue jacket she'd take the pills before she went to bed, but she hadn't.
Because it was coming.
It was coming soon, she knew, because it knew she couldn't fight it any longer.
She went to the window in her nightgown and looked out. She looked at the floodlight in the parking lot and saw that it was raining.
"Of all the gifts in God's domain, I think the most sublime is rain," she sang. She could only remember the hymns she'd learned as a little girl. There were so many more, she knew, but she couldn't remember them. Only fragments. "A mighty fortress is our God ..." She suddenly realized that she needed to lock the windows.
She tried to find the button to call the girl in the blue jacket to tell her she must lock the windows. Where was the button? Was it a blue jacket? Was it green?
She wanted to lock the door, but there wasn't a lock to lock.
The bracelet on her ankle itched. She wanted to take it off. If she didn't remove the bracelet, the thing that was coming would use it to find her.
Bob pulled a plow. He was a good horse.
She went to the window. It was still raining.
"When God first saw the world in pain, I think he wept and called it rain ..."
She thought she saw something moving on the lawn, in the shadows just beyond the light in the parking lot. Had she said her prayers tonight? Perhaps she should say them again, just to be safe.
"Our Father, who art in heaven ..."
How did it go? Why couldn't she remember?
"Our Father, who art in heaven ..."
"Our Father ..."
"It will come for you one day," her father had told her. But it wasn't her father. It was another man. The banker? "You have been chosen. You have been given gifts, and you will fight and be strong, but you will live to be very old and too weak to fight, and then one day ..."
She looked out the window and saw a shape in the rain, or rather a hole in the night where rain was supposed to be. It moved slowly, deliberately, wending its way toward her.
Where was the button to call the girl?
But when she checked, the windows were already locked. Good.
It drew closer.
She looked around the room for anything she might use to defend herself. The chair was too heavy for her to lift. Her umbrella was one of those short, collapsible ones, not the long kind with a sharp point that might have been useful. She would fight it even though she could not win.
She moved behind the bed.
The thing was outside her window now. She saw it rise up, translucent at first, or made from darkness, absorbing light. She could see through it to the parking lot beyond.
Then it came through the window.
She could smell it before she could see it, a stench like rotten eggs, fetid and metallic—she could taste it at the back of her throat, harsh and revolting.
The entity began to take solid form, drawing molecules from the air and the walls and the floor. She saw its heart first, black and horned, sprouting arteries and veins like vines, wrapping around stone-gray bones. As it grew, it gradually stood upright, the vertebrae of its long neck like a string of black beads. "You'll know it by the form it takes," the man had told her. "In the olden times, brave men fought it and called it a dragon, but it's a demon by any name or shape."
Scales great and small covered its skin. Unsightly blisters spread across the underbelly. The room turned cold. A month ago they'd killed the girl. Abbie had tried to warn the girl, but she was too old.
"What a friend we have in Jesus," the old woman sang. "All our sins and griefs to bear ..."
Fully formed now, the thing tossed the bed aside and stepped toward her. The room was dark. It looked like some kind of animal, but nothing she'd ever seen before.
"What a privilege to carry ...," she sang, louder now.
"WHERE IS IT? WHERE'S THE BOOK?" it said, commanding her not with sounds her ears could hear but with words that impaled her thoughts. A month ago they'd killed the girl because they knew her father was the one. The next. The girl, Julie, had tried to find him, and they killed her. Then they burned down the girl's house to kill her mother and sister. Had they killed her father too? If so, the book was the only hope left, the only thing standing in their way. Abbie tried to remember where she'd hidden it, then laughed, because she couldn't remember. What better hiding place was there than one the hider couldn't find?
"Get thee behind me," she answered.
"WHERE'S THE BOOK?"
"Is this the book you mean?" she shouted as she grabbed the Bible from the shelf next to the bed and held it up like a shield.
The beast cried out and slapped the Holy Book from her hand, sending it sailing across the room. It stepped closer, reached out, and pressed a bony finger to her lips. She struggled, lashed out at it, but couldn't back away. She felt all the air inside her being sucked out. As the air left her lungs, the air outside her body pressed in. She was being crushed beneath an invisible weight.
The demon lifted its finger from her lips, and she could breathe again, gasping.
"WHERE IS THE BOOK?"
She looked at him defiantly and spat in his face.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," she said. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside—"
The beast again pressed its finger against her lips, and the air rushed out of her. She was unable to breathe, her vision dimming. Slowly, life left her body as the room and the sky and the world pressed down on her. She heard her bones cracking but she felt no pain, no fear, and she was able to finish the psalm silently, reciting the words in her head as she died: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever ...
Then light ...
Chapter Two"Into the lions' den," Dani said.
"Danielle and the lions," Tommy said. "That has a ring to it. Hopefully we'll get the same kind of help he had."
"Hopefully we won't need it," Dani said.
Tommy put the Jaguar in neutral, handed his keys to the parking valet, a boy who didn't look old enough to drive, walked around the front of the car, and opened the door for Dani. Couples waiting to enter had gathered on the patio outside the art museum, men in tuxedos and cashmere overcoats, women accessorized in pearls and gold and diamond chandelier earrings.
The last time Dani Harris, a forensic psychiatrist, and Tommy Gunderson, her "assistant," had visited St. Adrian's Academy for Boys, it had been to question a boy they'd suspected of murdering a girl named Julie Leonard at a place called Bull's Rock Hill. Dani's employer, Ralston-Foley Behavioral Consulting, had been hired to consult with the district attorney's office. Although the DA had officially closed the case, as far as Dani and Tommy were concerned, it wasn't over. And though Dani was technically on leave of absence to deal with any post-traumatic stress disorders she might be experiencing, she knew there was no time to waste.
"Ready when you are," Tommy said. In his pocket he had a device he'd purchased on the Internet, an electronic bug in the form of a coil of wire with what looked like a small black transformer on one end and a USB jack on the other. It could be plugged into a free USB port in the back of any computer, where its presence would go unnoticed, hidden in plain sight in the nest of wires and cords most people had connecting their peripheral devices. Once programmed and in place, it would use the Internet to transfer all the host-computer's hard drive and keystroke data to a second monitoring computer, in this case, Tommy's. They'd come to plant the bug or die trying, though dying wasn't part of the plan, exactly.
"Onward," Dani replied, offering Tommy her elbow.
* * *
The art museum was a brightly lit modern building with straight, clean lines and white surfaces on an ancient campus where the dormitories, halls, administration building, and student commons favored stone or red brick covered with ivy, slate roofs, garrets, balconies, leaded windows, bell towers, sloping dormers, marble cornices, and chimneys capped in wrought iron.
The occasion was an exhibition marking the first time the major works of Dutch renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch had been shown in America. The show included his mysterious triptych Garden of Earthly Delights, on loan from the Prado in Madrid but owned by St. Adrian's alumnus Udo Bauer, a German multibillionaire whose family owned Linz Pharmazeutika. Dani's boss had received an invitation but had a prior commitment and couldn't attend. Dani had said she'd be happy to go in her stead, though "happy" wasn't the right word, because she didn't know how to be happy and scared at the same time.
Inside, Tommy steered Dani to the coatroom off the entry hall.
"Quite the turnout," Dani said. "A Who's Who of East Salem."
The reception was in the atrium. Boys in black pants, white shirts, and black bow ties circulated bearing silver trays of canapés or glasses of wine. Dani accepted a tomato and basil bruschetta as Tommy surveyed the room.
"Keep an eye out for anything that isn't human," he said. "And make allowances for bad plastic surgery."
They passed two women in conversation, both of whom looked like their faces had been shrink-wrapped in cellophane. A student string ensemble in the corner provided chamber music. They played well, Dani thought, but mechanically and without much feeling. There was, she noted, a kind of flattened affect to many of the boys in attendance, a palpable stiffness. They were all polite but unsmiling, slightly robotic. Her evaluation of the St. Adrian's student they'd suspected, Amos Kasden, had been that he'd suffered from a dissociative identity disorder. His mind had become disconnected from his body and nothing seemed real to him, emotions reduced to ideas, and confusing ones at that. Zero empathy. Somewhere in the computer belonging to Dr. Adolf Ghieri, the school psychologist, there had to be a file on Amos. What it would tell them, they could only guess, but that was the computer they were targeting.
"You're rocking the room, by the way," Tommy said. "You're what women who have plastic surgery wish they looked like."
Dani was wearing a sleeveless black Carmen Marc Valvo cocktail dress she'd picked up at a sample sale, with black and tan ribbing at the bodice above a taffeta skirt, accessorized with silver earrings, a silver evening bag, and a pair of Prada knockoff shoes she'd picked up at T.J. Maxx for $25. Tommy wore the black Armani tuxedo he'd purchased the first time he'd accepted the ESPY award as NFL Defensive Player of the Year, tailored to allow extra room for his broad shoulders and less for his tapered waist.
"Thanks," Dani said. "I assume you mean that as a compliment."
He touched her arm and gestured toward a group of men standing near a statue of a figure Tommy guessed was St. Adrian, the school's namesake.
"There's Wharton," he said.
Dr. John Adams Wharton, the headmaster, was shaking hands and greeting guests. He wore a black tux, his position of authority marked only by the boutonniere in the school colors of purple and red pinned to his lapel. His long, thinning white hair was brushed straight back.
"Where's Ghieri?" Dani said. The school psychologist had seemed menacing and defensive when they'd questioned Amos Kasden. Something about him exuded evil. Dani couldn't put her finger on it, but Tommy had told her to trust her feelings, comparing it to the way people instinctively fear snakes.
Then they saw him, balding and stout, standing between two men they didn't recognize. One was in his seventies, with unkempt frizzy white hair, a white moustache, and round wire-rimmed eyeglasses. The other man was tall, fair-haired, and too tan for November; in his forties, with a long neck and a narrow head that reminded Tommy of a ferret. His expression was pinched and annoyed, as if he'd just caught a whiff of something foul.
"I bet the tall one is Bauer," Dani said. "He looks very German. And very rich."
Tommy surveyed the room and noticed that all the exits were guarded by young men in black shirts with walkie-talkies and earpieces.
"I know these paintings are valuable, but am I the only one who thinks there's more security than they need?"
"Should we wait for a better time?" Dani asked.
"No," Tommy said. "As long as they're concentrating on the paintings and not on Ghieri's office, this could work in our favor. Plus, when are we going to get another invitation? Let's chat 'em up and see if they recognize us. I'll take Ghieri. See if you can get a rise out of Wharton."
"By doing what?"
"I don't know. Flirt with him."
"Not in my skill set," Dani said. "My sister says I must have skipped class the day they covered that in Girl School."
"Don't overthink it. Just pretend you care. Laugh at his jokes. If a guy thinks a pretty woman is interested in him, he'll change the litter in her cat's litter box," Tommy said. "Which reminds me—I changed the litter in Arlo's litter box."
"Thank you," Dani said.
"Don't underestimate yourself. Text me if you need me." Tommy patted the phone in his breast pocket.
Dani furrowed her brow. "Be careful," she said.
"You know me."
"That's why I said 'Be careful.'"
She straightened his bow tie and brushed a bit of lint from his shoulder, then moved left, accepting a glass of chardonnay from one of the waiters. Then she set it down, found her phone, and entered SOS in a text message for Tommy's mobile number, ready to send just in case.
She paused to chat with two women from her book club. They were reading War and Peace, having recently finished Moby Dick. "We really need to pick thinner books," one said. Dani nodded and kept moving.
She had no problem engaging strangers at dinner parties, looking judges or attorneys in the eye, teaching classes at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, or speaking at conferences, but idle chitchat was a challenge for her. Dani knew men found submissive women attractive because it made them feel powerful, but how did one fake "submissive"?
Dr. Wharton, the German, the man with the moustache, and a fourth man were standing by a framed Albrecht Dürer sketch of a rhinoceros. The older man, the one with the moustache, seemed to be explaining something to the others as Dani approached.
"Dr. Wharton," she said. "I'm Dani Harris. Irene Scotto asked me to give you her regrets. She had a conference in Washington, so she sent me here to represent the district attorney's office."
"Yes," Wharton said, giving no sign that he remembered meeting Dani or cared whom she might be representing. "I'm pleased you could attend."
Dani remembered Tommy's advice, but there was nothing funny in the words I'm pleased you could attend. She thought of how idiotic it would be to laugh, and she must have made a face, because Wharton looked at her as if she were utterly demented. So much for flirting.
"If you'll excuse me," he said with a polite bow and a puzzled expression, moving on to greet another guest.
Excerpted from DARKNESS RISING by LIS WIEHL PETE NELSON Copyright © 2012 by Lis Wiehl. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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