Source: Review copy
Publication : 14th February 2019 from Flame Tree Press
When family man Joe Crawford confronts a young mother abusing her toddler, he has no idea of the chain reaction he’s setting in motion.
How could he suspect the young mother is part of an ancient fire cult, a sinister group of killers that will destroy anyone who threatens one of its members?
When the little boy is placed in a foster home, the fanatics begin their mission of terror.
Soon the cult leaders will summon their deadliest hunters―and a ferocious supernatural evil―to make Joe pay for what he’s done.
They want Joe’s blood and the blood of his family. And they
want their child back.
Today I am delighted to welcome Jonathan Janz to my blog to introduce an extract from his novel, The Nightmare Girl.
Over to you, Jonathan.
Hello! Thank you so much for hosting me today. What follows is an excerpt from early on in my novel THE NIGHTMARE GIRL. By this point in the book (just a couple of chapters in), my main character Joe Crawford has intervened on behalf of an abused toddler, who is then taken into custody and out of the hands of his abusive mother. The local police chief (Darrell Copeland) assures Joe he has done the right thing, but Joe is sad about the whole situation and afraid it might eventually come back to haunt him and his family. The toddler’s mom and grandma are very frightening people.
Without further ado…
Wind gusted outside their white bungalow home. The rain pattered against the windows, steady but not exactly an all-out assault. Joe did his best to concentrate on the book he was reading – The Nightrunners, by Joe R. Lansdale – but he couldn’t keep to it. The thunking of the rain on the windowpanes kept intruding.
As did the face of Angie Waltz.
He kept seeing her not as she’d been yesterday at the gas station but as she might have been as a young, pregnant mother. Probably a scared, young, pregnant mother. He saw her lying propped up in bed because her back ached, saw her stroking the taut skin of her distended belly, pausing every now and then to feel for a kick or one of those breakdancing moves fetuses often performed.
He saw Angie Waltz in labor, watched her eyes whiten not in rage but in raw terror. He remembered when Michelle went into labor with Lily. God, they’d been through so much trouble and heartache trying to conceive that Joe had assumed the actual pregnancy would be a breeze.
But it wasn’t. First, there was an ultrasound scare, the OB thinking Lily might have cystic fibrosis. Then, when that fear was quelled, it was the incapacitating morning sickness, which Michelle called morning, noon, and night sickness. Her back hurt like hell, her emotions went haywire. And on the day her water broke, it took twenty-seven hours of agonizing labor for their OB to suggest they try a C-section.
Had Angie Waltz gone through hell too? Had she experienced even a modicum of what Michelle was forced to endure? If she had, Joe couldn’t help but feel—
“Why aren’t you in bed?” Michelle asked, and Joe damn near shat himself.
He put a hand on his chest, felt his heart galloping. “I’m gonna put a bell around your neck, stop you from giving me a heart attack.”
“It’s one in the morning.”
“You practice that or something? Sneaking up on people?”
She made her way over, knelt on the carpet, and placed a warm hand on his knee. “Come to bed, honey. Lily’s gonna be up bright and early.”
She massaged his knee. “Want a backrub?”
He smiled wearily. “That’s nice of you, sweetie, but you don’t need to. No reason both of us should go without sleep.”
She rested her chin on his knee, peered up at him. “You don’t regret it, do you?”
“What? Helping the kid?”
He threaded his fingers through her silky black hair, let his fingertips move gently over her scalp. They’d been married ten years, and he was more attracted to her now than he’d ever been. And those brown eyes of hers…they calmed Joe more than anything in the world.
“Joe?” she asked.
He said, “Only thing I regret is that there are people like Angie and Sharon Waltz. I’ve never been much for the death penalty, but when it comes to hitting an innocent little kid…”
Michelle closed her eyes. “I know. I can still hear the sounds of her slapping him.”
Joe continued stroking her hair. Outside, the wind had abated slightly, but the rain was coming down in sheets. “I keep thinking of Lily.”
“I can’t help it. She’s not much older than that boy.”
Michelle exhaled shuddering breath, leaned back. “Come to bed, Joe.” “I’ll just lie there awake.”
“Make love to me.”
Unexpectedly, he felt a crooked smile forming on his lips. “Isn’t it past your bed time?” And it was. Michelle often remarked how she’d go to bed at seven P.M. every evening if it weren’t for Joe and Lily, both of whom were night owls.
“I’m awake now,” Michelle said, pushing to her feet. “And the way you were fondling my hair made me horny.”
“I’ll be in directly.”
She angled toward the stairs and smiled at him over her shoulder. “Thought that’d get you to come.”
Joe chuckled. He reached over, fetched the paperback, and dog-eared the page he’d been reading. Placing the book on the nearest shelf, he twisted off the lamp on the end table and rose. He’d already brushed his teeth and washed his face, but he’d never eaten dinner. Of course, he thought as he passed through the dining room and into the dark kitchen, if he grabbed a bite now, his window of opportunity with Michelle might pass. She’d nod off soon, and there was no way she’d wake up just to have sex with him. The woman could sleep through a nuclear holocaust.
Going mostly by feel, Joe fished a glass out of the cabinet and filled it with tap water. The sensation of it washing over his desiccated throat was exquisite, and for the first time since pulling into the gas station, what might have been the start of some good spirits began to pierce the turmoil that had shaded his existence. He deposited the glass on the counter and made his way through the dark house.
Coming back into the living room, he noticed that the raindrops were intermittent now. They’d aired out the house earlier that day, and Joe was pretty sure they’d closed all the windows securely. Still, he couldn’t stop himself from walking over and making sure. No sense in allowing the windowsills to warp out of carelessness. Joe had checked the first two windows and was reaching for the third when he became aware of chill at the nape of his neck. There wasn’t a draft – he could see well enough now that the third window was shut as securely as the other two had been. Suddenly sure Michelle had snuck up on him again, maybe as a joke or just feeling so frisky she couldn’t wait for him to come to bed, Joe spun and stared into the darkness leading up the short flight of stairs.
So Michelle was in bed waiting for him.
He blew out nervous breath, but for whatever reason that sense of being watched remained. Joe was moving away from the window when something in his periphery drew his attention. Something in the road out front of their house.
Holy God, he thought.
Angie Waltz stood in the middle of the road, hair soaked and tangled. She was staring at Joe. Her head was tilted down, but he could just make out the hollows of her eyes, see how they were upturned and glaring. Searing into him through the veil of murk and rain. It couldn’t be more than forty-five degrees out there now, even colder with the rain and the wind. Yet Angie wore only a sodden tank top and jeans. The rain glistened on her shoulders, drizzled down her slender arms and onto her balled fists.
Unhinged, Joe thought. The word was inescapable. Unhinged.
He didn’t think he could move, but his feet obeyed his orders, carrying him away from the girl’s cursed stare and toward the short flight of steps. Joe was about to ascend, but he paused, thinking of the depthless fury he’d glimpsed in the girl’s oval moon of a face. Heart hammering, he rushed over and tested the locks on the front door. After a moment’s deliberation, he hurried to the kitchen and checked the back door too.
It was locked, but what of the windows? God, of all the days for Michelle to have chosen to open every window in the house. Joe hated the notion of Angie Waltz seeing that she’d gotten to him, sent him scurrying to double- check every window they had. But he had to be certain.
He moved through the living room making sure not to look toward the street again. He didn’t need to see Angie Waltz to know she was there. Hell, he could feel the malice baking out of her.
Joe crept into his bedroom, and it was as he suspected. His wife was asleep already.
Careful not to wake up Michelle, Joe tiptoed out of the bedroom, closed the door, and sat on the stairs. He thought it over for maybe ten seconds.
Then, he called Darrell Copeland.
Jonathan Janz is the author of more than a dozen novels and
numerous short stories.
His work has been championed by authors like Joe R. Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, and Brian Keene; he has also been lauded by Publishers Weekly, the Library Journal, and the School
His novel Children of the Dark was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Horror Book of the Year.
Jonathan’s main interests are his wonderful wife and his three amazing children.