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Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Horror/Scary · #1715111
Publishing Mogul, Timothy Lynch receives a gift, an ancient book.
Promotional Art for Hounds of Hell 
Excerpt from the novel, The Book:
        "Screams occur when the soul must express what words or actions cannot convey. In my grandfather’s screams I heard pain, terror, and utter helplessness. I screamed, too, and choked on the odors of burning human flesh and brimstone. Never shall I forget how he struggled to break free of the powerful, unseen force that dragged him into the ravenous pages of The Book."
~        ~        ~
        Birthdays were for those that had friends or family with whom they wished to make merry. Timothy Lynch cared for no one and nothing other than his work and his collection of rare books and antiquities. Relieved to have his fiftieth birthday celebration behind him, he poured a generous amount of brandy into a snifter. After taking a sip, he nodded his approval and proceeded to the library.
        Having dismissed his in-house staff for the evening, he luxuriated in the liberating sensation of solitude. As he passed through the dining room, he reached above a pear-shaped, bombe chest and turned on the lights. Gold glistened on the walls, the furniture, even on the laurel leaves adorning the wide moldings that framed the painted ceiling. Tonight, in addition to the gold, the lights revealed a final reminder of the day, sitting by itself at the end of the long, formal table. "Another gift?" he sighed.
        The sparkling, white package loomed like an iceberg on an otherwise flat and empty sea. Lynch assumed it came from a member of his house staff, perhaps Bradley Herrington, his long-time, head manservant. The corners of his mouth curled upward in a thin smile of simple acknowledgement, conveying neither warmth nor gratitude. Setting his drink down, he eased into the end chair and tugged on the satiny ribbon, undoing the elaborate bow. After tearing away the glossy wrapping paper, he whistled with mild surprise and whispered, "Well, will you look at that." His pupils widened as he beheld a remarkably well preserved, antique book.
        As President and CEO of Pierson - Thompson, one of the largest and most successful publishing companies in the world, he wouldn’t normally have been impressed by a book, but this one seemed different. He slipped out of his jacket. After draping it over the nearest chair, he leaned forward to take a closer look.
        “That’s not a restored cover.” His eyebrows arched in genuine respect for the medieval artisan whose skill and creativity he now admired. “That’s an original. Probably fifteenth century, maybe older... maybe much older.” A unique, swirling pattern of gold scrolling adorned the rich, dark red leather cover. 
        The instant he grabbed the cover and lifted it, Lynch thought the inlaid loops and spirals emitted a strange glow. At the same moment, the lights above the table flickered and dimmed. He’d be sure to mention that to Herrington. A wiring problem could lead to a catastrophic fire.
        With barely enough light to read, Lynch began turning page after thin-milled, gilt-edged page. Puzzled by the fact that the first eight or nine leaves bore no script, his curiosity gave way to major annoyance. As he riffled through the rest, the thought struck him, Is this somebody’s sick idea of a joke? Who would dare do such a thing?
        “Not one word,” he muttered. Illuminated by the ceiling’s recessed halogen bulbs that brightened as soon as he closed it, The Book lay on the formal dining table like a lone, charismatic performer on an intimate stage. It tempted him, as if it might be able to provide answers to the questions its presence presented if only he would take another look.
        Drumming the fingers of his left hand in frustration on the table, he experienced an odd sensation. His manicured nails clicked on the polished tabletop, and upon contact with the wood, his fingers thumped appropriately. However, when he rubbed his thumb across the tips, they tingled and felt numb. The skin texture seemed dry and thin, almost like paper.
        Lynch shrugged and reached up to loosen his collar. Contemplating who might possess the wherewithal to perpetrate such an elaborate hoax, he ran the thumb of his left hand across his fingertips once more. The tingling seemed less intense. Satisfied, he brushed his graying hair from his brow and  headed for the room where he did his best thinking. 
        Nothing stimulated him, or made him feel more in control, than strolling through his library. He slowed as he passed by his favorite acquisition - the world's most expensive book. In the middle of the room, housed within a special climate controlled glass enclosure, sat Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester, a notebook filled with the master's original drawings and scientific writings. Microsoft's Bill Gates purchased it for $30.8 million in 1994. Subsequently, Gates sold it to Pierson - Thompson's CEO for a cool 50 million. In addition to the ancient notebook, Lynch owned an original Gutenberg Bible.
        To obtain insurance for the crown jewel of all privately owned book collections, as well as his other priceless antiquities, Lynch complied with the Lloyd's of London's representatives' demands. He employed a fulltime security force of no fewer than ten guards to patrol the sprawling grounds of his French countryside estate. He contemplated calling the chief of his security team. This could be more than a sick joke.
        Lynch considered the individuals dismissed from the publishing company and his personal staff without what his HR department deemed sufficient cause. He conceded that some of the firings stemmed from sexual liaisons grown tedious. But, he shrugged, what multi-millionaire didn't commit a few minor indiscretions? The affairs didn’t concern him. Most ended with generous financial settlements and the signing of legal waivers. Other skeletons existed in his closet, skeletons whose bones he preferred not to see rattled about in public.
        Before returning to the dining room, Lynch stopped to admire his copy of the Gutenberg Bible. Only forty-eight copies existed. Many, unlike his, exhibited various states of deterioration. When the opportunity to obtain a perfect copy materialized, he didn't hesitate to pay the asking price of seventeen-point-three-million Euros. "Carpe diem," he whispered.
        Pierson - Thompson's board of directors hailed the widely publicized purchase as a stroke of sheer genius. The public believed only a righteous man of great conviction would pay so much for the word of God. "Humpf," Lynch shook his head, amused by the thought. If they only knew. He headed back to take another look at his mysterious gift.       
        Sitting back down at the end of the dining table he examined the previously tossed aside wrapping paper. He found no card and nothing written on either side of the paper. Too bad.
        He reached for The Book. Slightly larger than the Gutenberg Bible, it measured one-and-a-half-feet tall by one-foot wide. Turning it over, he grunted, finding it heavier than expected. About ten pounds, he thought. On the back he found only a leather cover like that on the front, but with none of the elaborate scroll work.
        When Lynch set The Book down and reopened it, the ceiling lights flickered as before. "What the . . ."
        Imperfections of any sort irritated Timothy Lynch. Normally, he would summon Bradley Herrington. Bradley would have this bulb replaced, or this faulty wiring promptly repaired. But tonight, because he craved solitude, he had dismissed Bradley and the rest of the wait-staff. 
        When he gazed at the first page, where before nothing existed, Lynch beheld a boldly printed title. In the dim light, he read the words penned in fluid script. The Murder of Adele Badeau. Goose flesh formed on his arms. The hairs on the back of his neck rose. Beneath the title, his name appeared as the author, or in this case, the perpetrator.
        Suddenly he felt invisible fingers tightening about his throat, exactly as his closed around Adele's. Panicking, he shut The Book and jumped up, spilling his brandy and almost knocking the chair over.                   
        Momentarily overwhelmed, he got the notion that the ancient relic would have turned his fingers and hands, which felt strangely numb again, into paper. Something told him he would have been dragged right into . . . Into what? he wondered. Keeping his eyes on it, fearing that it might fly open, Lynch backed away.
        Trembling and breathing hard, he wondered, Could my mind be playing tricks on me? Could fatigue and alcohol be responsible? Perhaps I should look again. Lynch took a tentative step towards the table and stopped. Something inside him screamed, Hell no!
        He shuddered and retreated one step. Then, because that step made him feel no safer he took yet another. Digging his cell phone out of his right pants pocket he hit the speed dial number to ring the head of his security team.
        “Delaflote here,” the chief answered. “Is there a problem, Monsieur Lynch?”
        “Oui, Francois, we have a problem - gros problème.”
        “Has something been stolen?” Delaflote inquired.
        “No, quite the opposite," Lynch replied. "Something has been delivered.”
        “Delivered?” Francois seemed confused as to how this represented a problem.
        “It would be easier if you came inside," Lynch suggested. "Bring a couple of your men with you, s’il vous plait."
~      ~      ~

        Lynch halted about five feet from the end of the table and pointed.
        Seeing the confused faces of his two guards and still not understanding the nature of the problem, the chief of security spread his arms and inquired, “Monsieur, what is it that you want us to do? Clean up the spill?” Delaflote produced a handkerchief from within his jacket and dutifully began to dab at the puddle of spilled brandy.
        Aggravated, Lynch pointed again. “The Book. When and how did it get here?” Before Francois could begin to answer, Lynch added, “And, where did it come from?”
        Again, Francois reached into the breast pocket of his jacket, this time pulling out his cell phone. He touched the screen and pulled up his notes. “Let me see, we accepted many deliveries. I don’t believe Monsieur Herrington kept us up to date on everything that came in, but that is understandable. The day became hectic at times.”
        “You mean you weren’t checking everything and cataloging it as it arrived?” Lynch sounded mortified. “My God! Someone could have delivered a bomb!”
        “No, no Monsieur, I assure you, we sent everything through the metal detectors. The dogs checked everything out. We opened and cataloged every single item that set off the detectors, but we did not open all of the items that contained no metals.”
        “What about plastic explosives and —”
        “The dogs would have detected any plastic explosives, Monsieur. They’re trained to sniff out explosive powders. We cut no corners.”
        Unconvinced, Lynch pointed at The Book again. “If that's true, tell me where that came from and who sent it.”
        Unable to answer, Delaflote posed a question of his own. “Monsieur, may I ask, why are you so concerned about a book?” Intending to open it, the security chief stepped forward.
        "Don't do it. Don't open that book!" Lynch cautioned. He couldn’t allow Delaflote to see the story of the first murder he committed and he couldn't voice his fears that the pages might pull them in.
        "Search the mansion," Lynch ordered. "I don't think we're alone, and I still want to know where this book came from."
        Delaflote turned and ordered the two guards to begin searching. As they briskly walked away, each in a different direction, Francois turned back to his employer and asked, "What is going on, Monsieur?"
        "Blackmail," Lynch replied. "Blackmail or something worse. My life may be in danger."
        "Come with me, Monsieur. If what you are saying is true, you should not be alone." They walked out of the dining room together, leaving The Book where Lynch found it at the end of the table, begging to be opened

And it's begging you to turn the page . . .
 Hounds of Hell - Chapter 2  (18+)
A One way ticket to Hell.
#1737107 by George R. Lasher

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