An ancient evil has returned…and it comes for the children.
A battle between good and evil rages across otherworldly dimensions. Caretakers protect earthly souls—jumpers hunt them as prey. RG and Kacey Granville have made it their life’s mission to intercept and defeat these dark forces, but nothing could prepare them for the malevolent spirit they're facing—a deadly jumper, plucking children from their homes, taking them back in time to a hidden corner of the past
…adding them to his collection.
In a heart-stopping trek across time, the team must risk it all and jump seventy years into the past to rescue the innocent—and hope their mission isn't a one-way ticket into history. And if they’re to save the children, they must halt an unspeakable evil that will stop at nothing to protect its 'precious' souls.
The second installment in the Caretakers Series, The Soul Dweller brings every child's nightmare to life and puts a face to that monster in the closet.
Praise for The Soul Dweller:
"Grips you from the first chapter and refuses to let go until the heart-stopping end." —Darcy Coates, USA Today bestselling author of THE CARROW HAUNT and CRAVEN MANOR
"A terrifying tale of demonic possession that is perfectly paced and will have you hooked. One you do not want to miss!" —Lee Mountford, Best Selling author of THE DEMONIC and HORROR IN THE WOODS
"Everything you'd want in a riveting supernatural horror story. Crisp writing, engaging characters, and a brazenly refreshing plot pitting good against evil that will keep you turning pages late into the night." —Jeremy Bates, author of SUICIDE FOREST and MOUNTAIN OF THE DEAD
“A wildly engrossing novel that I literally could not stop reading…the pace is non-stop, the intrigue is complete.” - The Haunted Reading Room
" A faced-paced page turner, easy to immerse yourself in, and hard to put down.” – The Falmouth Enterprise
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It happened at least once a day…sometimes more.
It just took one misstep, a toe stub, a shoe scuff, or an awkward footfall. Either one was sufficient to aggravate the Glock 9mm slug embedded in Detective Mike Stahl’s hip and rouse millions of eager pain sensors. And then it would come, an explosion of steel daggers hurtling across his neural networks and into every forgotten nook and cranny of his body. Stahl wasn’t bothered much by the pain anymore. He could block that out. But the pain triggered the rush—that’s what the department shrink labeled it—the dark memories he couldn’t block out.
Hard to imagine how hip pain linked to heart-stopping brain flashbacks, but that’s the funny thing about trauma and stress.
It’s all connected.
Stepping into the interrogation room, Stahl winced as his pain sensors unsheathed the daggers. A psycho cop with a gun and a demon on fire, swaying in Stahl’s living room, emerged from his memory, rocking him, caving his knees. He reached for the doorjamb to steady himself as he struggled to breathe, a pair of hands gripping his windpipe. He swiped sweat beads off his forehead once the episode subsided.
He never knew when it would come, but it was always just one step away. If only he could figure a way to stop moving, maybe his brain would leave him alone, give him peace.
Today, there would be no peace as he stepped across the interrogation room’s chipped, gritty tile. He squinted through the dim light of the single 70-Watt bulb dangling from the ceiling fixture, its full capacity failing to penetrate the basement room’s deep shadows. Decades of sweat, nicotine, and cleanser leeched from the humid, stained walls and floors, a room as ugly and corroded as the soul of the man resting on the other side of the scarred, wooden table.
Stahl took a seat and faced the child killer, Abner Stennett.
He thought he had witnessed some gruesome deaths investigating the ‘Fugitive Professor’ case, but nothing could compare to eight-year-old Nathan Stennett’s broken body folded like a deflated tent on the rocks below the windswept bluff in Eastham, his sightless eyes staring upward from his shattered skull. Stahl, one of the Cape’s handful of forensic investigators, had been forced to stomach countless murders throughout his years as a detective for the Chatham Police Department, but this one would haunt him.
He produced a digital audio recorder from his pocket, placed it on the table, and triggered the on switch. “You’ve waived your right to counsel, and you’ve agreed to have your statement recorded, is that correct?”
Abner Stennett nodded.
“I need a verbal confirmation.” You piece of shit! He wanted to add…but didn’t.
He eyed the Chatham Card & Candle proprietor, a respected Cape Cod citizen, former city councilman, and unrepentant Boston sports fan as he recounted how he and wife, Maria, had weathered two miscarriages until Nathan’s birth blessed them, how he had coached his son’s hockey team, took him to Red Sox games, and walked him to Sandi’s diner every Saturday afternoon for milkshakes.
“…he’d always get chocolate and I’d stick with vanilla. We used to be close…best friends, even, but then…”
Detective Mike Stahl thrust his chair back from the table and struggled to his feet, shadowing the man who had once been a pillar of the community. He leaned close to the murderer’s pale and strained face, bracing one hand on the table and the other on the back of Stennett’s chair. “Do you think a jury gives a shit about what flavor ice cream you like? Just tell me what you did to your son. Quit the bullshit.”
“That boy wasn’t my son.” Stennett tapped his fist against his lips. “He looked like him…he even moved like him. But it wasn’t him. I’m not sure…what it was.”
What the fuck?
“How could you…a father, for God’s sake…ever kill…Jesus Christ…”
Stahl shoved Stennett’s chair with a pained and flinching heart, picturing the boy’s indelible, lifeless stare. He could only hope Nathan’s eyes would be the first thing Stennett would see when he lay down to sleep and the last thing he would see when he rose upon awakening. And if they jolted him from his hellish dreams in between, all the better. It would serve him right but would never be punishment enough. No, Stahl wished he had never answered that 911 call.
He dropped into his chair, releasing the coiled fingers pressed into his palms. “Help me understand, Mr. Stennett, because I don’t.” He leaned forward, wincing as he rested his elbows on the table—the other slug buried in his shoulder vying for attention now—“I need the why. Why throw an eight-year-old child off a cliff?”
“Nathan hadn’t been…” Stennett trained his eyes upward, grasping for the right word. “…present…for a long time.” He swiped a pudgy hand through his thinning hair. “The boy replacing him, well, he wasn’t gonna do.”
Stahl positioned the digital recorder closer to the killer. “Replacing him?”
Psych eval, anyone?
Stennett clasped his hands together on the table, as if in prayer. “Nathan left us about three weeks ago. He didn’t want to leave. In fact, he begged us to help him. But Malachi had gotten too strong, too persistent. Malachi wanted life, and Nathan had it.”
“Wait. What are we talking about here? Who’s Malachi?”
Stennett surveyed his surroundings with eyes unfocused, smirking at the one-way glass panel against the adjacent wall. “Malachi would peek out from the back of Nathan’s eyes.” He turned his head in a slow arc toward Stahl. “You know, eyes are like windows. If you look deep into them, you can spot all sorts of things.”
Mike leaned forward, eyeing Stennett. “Well, I’m looking real hard, but I’m not seeing much.”
Stennett pressed his eyes shut. “I saw things in Nathan’s eyes I’d never imagined, flashes… shadows. You see, Malachi was quick. He would hide.” His jaw muscles rippled as he clenched his teeth. “It wasn’t long before he turned mean.”
Stahl stopped doodling on his frayed notebook and raised his eyes.
“Maria took the brunt of it. She’d have these unexplained bruises, scrapes. She wouldn’t tell me much, but I figured it out.” He tapped his fingers against the table. “We even took the boy to the doc to see if there was something triggering his outbursts.”
Stahl filled his cheeks with air before releasing. “And?”
Stennett grinned. “Well, Malachi made sure Nathan was on his best behavior that day. We looked like fools. But afterward, the real changes came. It started with the odor…like something died inside him. I’d smell him from his bedroom, this rancid stench wafting off him, hanging in the air, stopping me in my tracks as if I’d marched into a brick wall.”
A vein twitched in Stahl’s temple. “Well, maybe you should have bathed him once in a while before you killed him.”
Stennett’s eyes lost focus, as if Stahl’s words hadn’t reached past his ears. “And when you looked at Nathan real close, he didn’t even resemble a little boy anymore. He had these bloodshot eyes and thin, blue veins fanning out along his pasty skin. Sometimes you’d see them; sometimes you wouldn’t. Ropy muscle chords protruded from his neck and arms,” Stennett said, bristling, “as if something inside pulsed against Nathan’s skin, pushing, trying to get out.”
Something inside him? This guy has lost his—
Stahl’s throat tightened as he found himself back in his old living room, bleeding out…a wall of flame barreling toward him. As fingers around his neck squeezed harder, he struggled to shake the images from his head—the rush in full effect. Pushing back from the table, he stumbled toward the bubbler for a gulp of water. What the fuck…must have tweaked my hip somehow. Sitting in a chair? Stahl shook his head, no arms manufacturer in history having gotten more mileage from a pair of bullets than the ones whose slugs remained lodged inside him.
“And he would laugh sometimes in this raspy bark. Sounded like an old man.”
Fucking lunatic. This is bullshit. Next, he’ll be telling me the boy was possessed by a demon. Maybe he should have called a priest, not kill the poor kid. Now he was on fire, a detonation hurling him into the air. His knees jackknifed as he ripped at his flaming shirt, stumbling backward into the cooler. He steadied himself against the wall, shutting his eyes as he blindly reached toward the bubbler to fill his cup. He gulped down the cooling fluid. The fire died out, and the musty basement walls resumed in his vision. He emitted a slight groan as he crushed the paper cone and tossed it in the garbage.
“You okay there, detective? Hope I didn’t scare you.”
“Just a little dehydrated, that’s all.” Stahl’s arm remained draped over the bubbler.
Stennett leaned back, raking a hand across his two-day stubble, a slight tremor flitting across his fingers. “You got a smoke? I think the both of us could use one.”
Stahl smirked through his mind’s foggy haze. The discomfort pulsing through the man’s nicotine-starved body provided a welcome distraction. He never interfered with a suspect’s need to light up, despite recent changes in policy. A well-timed butt established rapport and relaxed a perp, helped uncover details someone jonesing for a nicotine fix would never reveal otherwise. With anyone else, Stahl would have found a match, struck it against the table’s edge, cupped his hand around the flame, and ignited the man’s tobacco. But he was content to prolong Stennett’s suffering.
Stahl nodded toward the ‘no smoking’ sign on the wall as he hobbled to his seat. Just get through this. “Where’s Mrs. Stennett? Why didn’t she come with you to make your statement?”
Stennett waved his hand, dismissing the detective. “After the doctor’s visit, we took to locking our bedroom door at night. I’d wake in the darkness to the floorboards creaking outside the room. I’d glimpse his shadow beneath the door. He’d be standing in the hallway. When the doorknob would jiggle, Maria would lunge for me, wrapping her arms around me to stop me from getting up and unlocking the door, because it wasn’t Nathan. It wasn’t my son out there.”
Mike leaned back and pressed his eyes with his palms. He had sat across from countless psychopaths and listened to their stories, but this one would have the mental health professionals scratching their heads. Time to call the Wacky Ward and book a nice long vacation.
“Frankly, Mr. Stennett, your story’s pretty out there.” Like Mars, out there! His gaze darted to the wall clock, its second hand hammering out each painful moment of the interview. “Anything else you want to tell me?”
Stennett deliberated a moment before lifting his gaze to Stahl, meeting his stony gaze. “That boy wasn’t my son.”
Mike leaned forward, a few careless strands of hair tumbling over his lined forehead. “Can you wife corroborate any of this? It would go a long way toward—”
“Maria…?” Stennett tilted his head to the side. “I don’t think so…not anymore.”
Stahl dropped his pen, the tumblers clicking into place. He burst from his seat, pressing his fists into the table’s grooved wood surface. “Mr. Stennett, where’s your wife? Tell me she’s okay.”
Stennett’s empty stare met Stahl’s stony gaze.
For the second time, Stahl’s throat tightened, the images building behind his eyes. “Where the hell is she, Stennett!”
“She’s back at the house…” He leaned forward and whispered, “…in the basement. Malachi killed her a few days ago.”