Not surprisingly, the block looked deserted. The hour was too early for most users and dealers, who would still be sleeping off whatever form of intoxicant they poisoned their bodies with. The relatively few from this neighborhood holding down an honest living were hours into their day elsewhere. But give it a few more hours and the derelicts would ooze out of their burrows and conduct business on the street like they were holding court.
The ramshackle three-story apartment building was probably in some phase of litigation, a few court motions removed from being condemned. More windows were broken than not, some covered and taped with cardboard cutouts, sunbursts of shards left untouched in others. Tattered sheets hung as curtains inside a few, each a different pattern and color.
According to Eddie, AK Jay lived alone in a one-bedroom on the third floor.
Nate pulled two extra .45 magazines from his console and tucked them in his hip pocket upon exiting the vehicle. His cell rang. He set it to vibrate and let the call go to voice mail. Eddie climbed from the vehicle with reluctance and eyed the windows as though expecting a muzzle flash.
The apartments—or rather the occupants therein—had been the source of 911 calls for decades. Nate frequented the place when he had been assigned to patrol, and his former partner, now retired, had been dispatched here for many years before that. It looked more vacant now than ever.
Once upon a time, probably before Walt Disney bought 27,400 acres of swamp a few miles southwest, the stairs had been covered by carpet. Years ago the carpet had been removed, and the landlord at that time hadn’t bothered to refinish the wood underneath. Decades of human detritus seeped into the grain and gummed the surface in a dark trail. The fire door leading from the stairwell to the hallway on the third floor was non-existent, one of dozens of code violations.
“It’s the last door on the left,” Eddie said between wheezing gasps.
The nagging vibration of Nate’s cell activated at the top of the stairs. Probably the same person who had tried to contact him a minute ago, he thought. He didn’t recognize the number. Maybe an attorney looking to depose him, or a C.I. with a tip. Maybe something meaningful.
What the hell. A few seconds won’t dampen the hospitable welcome awaiting him from Florida’s premier personality, Jason Kowalski, also known as AK Jay.
The pungent odor of urine wafted down the hallway, curdled his breakfast, made him regret taking the call and having to open his mouth. Breathing something that rank couldn’t be healthy.
“Don’t go in there…the apartment. Don’t open it. I mean…the door. Don’t open the door!”
The caller was shouting. A male voice so rushed he tripped over his own words. Nate stopped, and stepped back toward the stairwell where reception was tolerable. He watched Eddie with mild diversion as the unkempt man continued to pace down the hallway littered with fast-food wrappers, cigarette butts, and dirty diapers.
“Calm down,” Nate said. “Who is this?”
“Never mind, just get the hell out of there!”
The caller’s voice calmed a degree, and with that came recognition. “Michael Tabscott?”
Eddie had reached the apartment that he claimed belonged to Jason Kowalski. He lifted a boney fist to knock on the door, but stopped. “The door’s ajar,” he called back to Nate. He tried peering through the gap. “Hey, Jason, you home?”
“No! Don’t go in there!” screamed the voice from the phone.
Eddie’s light tap swung the door just a few inches.
Title: Unholy Bargain
Author: Travis Holt
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
An assassin is at work—one of the best in the trade. His body turned to dust long ago, but his spirit roams the Earth freely, undetectable to the five senses. He stalks his victims waiting for just the right opportunity. Then, in quick succession, he possesses a human host and strikes down his quarry. For a century and a half he has served this way.
Deputy Sheriff Nate Barrington is riding the crest of a new relationship. Kaitlyn Spencer is beautiful, altruistic, enlightened—everything he’s not. She teaches classes in New Age philosophy at her growing school. Nate doesn’t share her spirituality, but the physical passion hasn’t subsided enough for him to care.
Nate’s nirvana quickly unravels when Kaitlyn’s life is threatened on two separate occasions. With no apparent motive or any evidence suggesting collusion, the police are stumped. Even more troubling to Nate, Kaitlyn is eventually convinced she is the target of unseen forces.
A hardheaded pragmatist, Nate isn’t prone to believe that spirits can possess people. As far as he’s concerned, Kaitlyn’s claims of perpetrators possessed by a spirit assassin are on par with comic book stories and have nothing to do with reality, and her esoteric, New Age mumbo jumbo begins to drive a wedge into their relationship. And why Kaitlyn? What secret is she hiding?
Even with the sheriff’s resources at Nate’s disposal, the odds for Kaitlyn’s survival are not in her favor. The true enemy is virtually invisible, and Nate’s conventional police tactics have no effect on the spirit world. Strikes come from anytime, anywhere, and from random, unwittingly manipulated people. Behind it all is a deal the assassin had made with the devil: send Kaitlyn Spencer to an early grave in exchange for a fresh start. For that, the assassin will stop at nothing to uphold his end of an Unholy Bargain.
Travis Hallden Holt is a former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer and veteran of the Persian Gulf War. He’s worked the past twenty-two years in the corrections side of law enforcement, first in the prison system, then in the streets as a probation officer. He spent three years supervising felons in a south Atlanta neighborhood ranked the ninth most dangerous neighborhood in America, where one in every twelve residents becomes a victim of crime each year.
For years, his interests were in weaponry (both small arms and large scale), warfare tactics, hand-to-hand combat, criminal justice and unsolved crimes. But life has a way of molding perspectives, and Travis came to realize the physical world known to the five senses didn’t have all the answers. It scratched the surface at best. Accordingly, Travis’s interests shifted to supernatural phenomenon, spirituality, the mysteries of life, the invisible world beyond our five senses and the forces that lie therein. He’s still a peace officer, but one who has mingled with psychics, mystics, mediums, energy healers, shamans, gurus, artists and denizens of the “underground.”
Travis is the author of Unholy Bargain, a supernatural thriller published by Blood Moon Publishing. He resides in Atlanta, GA.
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