Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shadows in the City by Jonathan Wright

Shadows in the City
by Jonathan Wright

Cover art by ReneƩ George
ISBN: 978-1-60521-254-8
Genre(s): Paranormal, Action/Adventure, Dark Fantasy, BDSM
Theme(s): Interracial, The Dark Side
Series: Joseph Horn
Length: Novella


Before -- Summer of 99...
"Watch out for the crazy bitch, Horn. She's lookin' for the darkness! Seen her prowlin' the alleys and the basements of them places down below Market, where they doin' the reno -- rebuildin', y'know..."
So naturally, Horn goes looking.
Horn's spent the past twenty-five years running, always one step ahead of a nightmare. He has no home, and he never sleeps. He roams the streets, always alert. He does not need emotional complications.
Jasmine Torneau, black and regal, with eyes that could swallow him whole, qualifies as a serious emotional complication. Horn wants to know what she's seeking down there amid the condemned buildings.
And then he just wants her. But finding her means facing his greatest fear. And following her into hell is just the beginning...


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At two in the morning in downtown San Diego, fog of suspicious origin rolled off the bay and across the rail yard next to the trolley station below Market until the place looked like the moors of Baskerville. Snoring derelicts lay scattered across the ground, barely visible. Cops would roust them before dawn. If there were any left.
From the shadows of a recently renovated warehouse that now housed a microbrewery and several boutiques Joe Horn watched a black girl waltz down Market toward the high rise condos that overlooked the bay. She passed the snoring drunks, oblivious to the sinister fog. Swishing through the pale, insubstantial sea, she crossed Third, her form intermittently illuminated by the flashing traffic signal, paralleling the open rail yard.
With eyes a cat would envy Horn admired her buxom form, nicely displayed in tight dark slacks and a sheer white blouse through which he discerned heavy breasts with fat nipples, even at this distance in the middle of the night. Her close cropped head looked regally Nubian, in keeping with her slender waist and long, trim legs.
He shadowed her as she cut across an open dirt lot by the trolley line. Across the tracks stood an old four-story office building waiting for the wrecking ball, looking like a hoary sentinel full of black holes and stillness.
Bad choice for a shortcut, he thought, noting the distance to the nearest streetlight and the deeper shadows in the lee of the building. Not that it mattered.
He did nothing to disguise his presence about fifty feet back. She flicked him a glance. He sensed rather than saw the fear in her eyes.
Sorry, sweetheart. Wrong bad guy.
As he had expected, a shadow detached itself from a deeper shadow at the edge of the building.
She didn't look in Horn's direction as she quickened her pace, but he knew she had to be focused on him by the way she held her body, tense and ready to flee -- where? Her hand moved to her purse, where he assumed she had a can of mace.
The shadow, clad in a long coat, flicked across the lot behind her, leaving whorls of smoky fog in its wake, and reached her almost before Horn could react.
The girl screamed as dark limbs encircled her torso and neck. Three or four or five dark limbs that each ended in writhing, boneless appendages.
Horn's knife sliced three of the tentacles in half a second. As he sidestepped behind the girl the featureless face of her attacker split vertically, flashing multiple rows of wet teeth. He drove six inches of sharp steel into the maw, dragging sideways.
Black blood spurted from the ragged remains and the being released the girl and reeled away. Horn started after it, then reversed direction in an instant as three more shadowy figures appeared in the increasingly dense fog.
He turned and ran, grabbing the girl's arm and dragging her stumbling after him.
She shrieked and dragged her feet.
"They'll kill you!" he snapped. "Run!"
She glanced back and saw the oncoming attackers then glanced at Horn, who hesitated. Apparently deciding that he looked less lethal and perhaps a spot more human, she nodded once.
They took off. The fog, dense and palpable, had risen above them. Horn could see next to nothing. Running across Market, eerily empty and silent under the faint glow of the almost invisible streetlights, he heard the sloppy, slapping sounds of inhuman appendages following and prayed nothing lurked ahead.
The girl stumbled in her three-inch spikes. She staggered and almost fell as she kicked them off, then hissed in pain as she ran barefoot on the rough concrete sidewalk. But she picked up speed and in seconds the fog lessened as they left their pursuers far behind.
Horn realized he still had her arm in a steel grip and released her. She staggered over to a building and slapped her hands against the wall, hanging her head and gasping hoarsely. Sweat and dampness from the fog plastered the blouse to her impressive curves, giving Horn an eyeful if he cared to notice, which he did. He heard movement back the way they had come and instinctively moved closer to the girl.
She had managed to hang on to her purse and suddenly stepped back and whipped out a can of mace. "Back off!"
He raised one quizzical eyebrow.
"I know this scam! Get me all grateful and cooing over what a man you are and take me home and screw my lights out and then your friends come in and get everything I own and me in the bargain --"
Her face evidenced concentrated fear but her hand remained steady. Mace hurt a lot so Horn kept his distance. Over her head he saw that the fog had lifted. Miraculously, almost. He relaxed and shrugged. "I guess you didn't see the 'guys' who attacked you."
She relaxed a little, too, seeing him back off, then took an obvious second to appraise his appearance.
Worn Army surplus field jacket hanging on a pretty good set of shoulders. Hard planed face looking brooding and thoughtful, or at least he hoped so.
"Get lost, Lothario."
He backed up twenty feet, still watching her, mainly to make sure something slimy didn't drop out of the sky. Then he turned and walked away, uphill toward Broadway.
He glanced back and saw her walking back toward Market, presumably to get her shoes. Not smart, and she didn't look dumb. She ought to run down to the all night burger joint a block away, call a girlfriend to come get her.
He stopped and thought about it, decided he should risk a face full of hell, and trotted back after her. Then he heard her screams, and this time it didn't sound like a girl being mugged who was mad and scared and if she got out that can of mace it was going to be emptied into someone's face.
This time it sounded like she had seen the Truth.

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