Day three of my week of REVENANT previews brings Chapter Two. If you're just checking it out now, you might want to read the prologue and Chapter One first... [;
Here's Chapter Two:
“Help me with him, for crying out loud,” Raven grumbled. “He might look like a bag of bones but he’s still heavy!”
Max Acton ignored the petulance in her tone and strolled out the front door of the crumbling, two-story Victorian home. He had watched from the living room window as she leapt from the driver’s seat of the Porsche with her peculiar, cat-like grace and crossed in front of the car to the passenger’s side. Now he smiled in amusement at the sight of the tiny young woman grabbing their sleeping target by both shoulders and shaking him awake, tugging on his arms insistently, trying to pull him out of the vehicle.
It had taken exhaustive research followed by months of surveillance to narrow the list of potential subjects down to Earl Manning. Paskagankee was a small and isolated community, but even in a town this small, dozens of men fit the profile Acton was looking for, and selecting the proper target was not a decision to be rushed into or taken lightly.
In the end, though, it had come down to Manning. The loser in this particular sweepstake was relatively young and in apparently decent physical condition, despite years of heavy drinking. He was single, a loner with no wife or girlfriend, no steady job, and only a broken-down alcoholic mother to raise the alarm when he suddenly vanished. Max knew the cops would pay little attention to her.
The only real cause for concern regarding Earl Manning’s suitability as a test subject was his past relationship with a female Paskagankee police officer, a beautiful young woman named Sharon Dupont. The last thing Max Acton needed was some ex-lover cop digging into Manning’s disappearance, unearthing—Max smiled to himself at the pun—things that were best left undisturbed.
The more research Max conducted, though, the clearer it became that this Dupont bitch would be a non-factor. The relationship—such as it was—between the cop and Max’s chosen test subject had taken place years before, while the girl was still in high school, and had been based more upon a shared passion for alcohol and getting high than on any kind of mutual love or respect. Dupont had gone on to straighten her life out, eventually attending the FBI Academy before eventually returning to Paskagankee to care for her terminally ill father.
Now, all indications were that Officer Sharon Dupont had become involved with the Paskagankee Chief of Police, Mike McMahon, leaving little doubt she had left her tenuous connection with Earl Manning behind forever. Of course, Max knew that if he was wrong, he would be inviting trouble of the worst sort, but the fact of the matter was that eventual police involvement was inevitable. There was no way around it. Even if they avoided arousing suspicion with Manning’s disappearance, when Max began putting his plan in motion an investigation would definitely be launched.
The goal was simply to avoid the appearance that anything was amiss for as long as possible, and to leave nothing tying Max Acton to the fallout when the authorities did become involved. Earl Manning seemed to be the subject who would best allow him to accomplish this goal, so Earl Manning it was, despite his long-ago ties to a member of the Paskagankee Police Department.
In a way, Max was comforted by his discovery of Sharon Dupont’s alcoholic past. He had seen Officer Dupont around town, and her beauty was truly breathtaking. She was perhaps the equal of Raven in the looks department and it was a rare woman who could make that claim. The connection between a pretty go-getter like Sharon Dupont and an alcoholic loser like Earl Manning had initially mystified Max. There was no accounting for taste, though, as the old saying went, and his discovery of Dupont’s alcoholism explained a lot. Addicts liked to hang together.
Max stood back a couple of paces and watched Raven struggle to remove Manning from the Porsche. The subject had been roused from his torpor but still seemed logy. Manning peered around confusedly, clearly attempting to get his bearings but just as clearly unable to do so. Max wasn’t surprised. He had leased a home in one of the most out-of-the-way, obscure little corners of an out-of-the-way, obscure little town. It was entirely possible, likely even, that Earl Manning had never seen the house or even visited this area despite being a life-long resident of Paskagankee.
Raven grabbed Manning by the elbow, yanking, pulling the drunk out of the car with surprising strength for such a delicate-looking woman. The drunken man scrabbled for purchase as he exited, trying to get his feet underneath his body, standing too soon and smacking his head against the car’s frame with a loud clunk.
“Come on baby, slow down,” he protested, rubbing one hand vigorously over what was going to be a good-sized bruise on his forehead. “We’ll get started soon enough, don’t you worry, I’m gonna—" He froze when he saw Max in the shadows and began backing up, shrugging out of Raven’s grasp. Only now did he seem to suspect that his anticipated night of passion was never going to happen. But now, of course, was much too late for this potentially life-saving insight to make any difference.
Max moved forward quickly and flanked Manning on the left, leaving Raven to steady his right elbow, and together they began escorting their guest across the driveway in front of the Porsche and up the cracked flagstone walkway toward the front door.
“What’s this all about?” the drunk sputtered, turning his attention to Raven and in the process spraying her with spittle. She grimaced and wiped a palm over her face and didn’t answer.
He looked to his left. “Who are you?” he asked Max, who didn’t have to wipe any saliva off his face but who didn’t answer, either. They were moving quickly, taking advantage of the surprise factor to hustle their guest into the house. He would be joining them inside now no matter what—that particular die had been cast the moment Manning joined the seductive Raven in the Porsche—but the farther they could move things along before he got truly frightened rather than just angry and confused, the easier and more painless the whole process would be.
At least for them.
They bum-rushed their stumbling, complaining guest up the three rotting front steps, through the door and into the house and as they did, Max withdrew a heavy plastic bag from the back pocket of his sharply creased dress pants. He moved methodically, taking his time. It would not do to drop the damned thing now that they were so close to completing the first step in the plan.
Raven continued to shepherd Manning into the living room and Max hung back after pulling the front door closed. With their guest safely inside the house, there was no need for haste. Their victim’s fate was now sealed.
Tomorrow will feature Chapter Three. REVENANT is a 75,000 word novel which works as Book Two in the Paskagankee series and also as a stand-alone supernatural suspense novel. It's priced at $3.99. Thanks for reading!