Demon's Trust (The Chronicles of Arcayos #1) - Raven Dark
The Man In Black
Wolfhead Creek, New York, 1986
Fuck, I hate this place.
There are too many bad memories here, but if I’m going to find her, I have to do this.
It’s early afternoon when I pull the Junk Pile up in front of the old house and kill the car’s engine.
Gripping the steering wheel to stop my hands from shaking, I take a deep breath. Come on, Cass, woman up.
I pull a pair of black leather gloves from the pocket of my leather jacket and slip them on. No one wears gloves in July unless they’re me. It’s too warm for a jacket, but it’s the best way to hide my gun.
I fish my badge and pistol from inside the glove compartment and climb out of the car.
The white stucco house is drenched in sunlight, and vines creep around the pillars out front. The upper-floor windows stare down at me like soulless black eyes.
Ah, home sweet fucking home.
I clip the gun’s holster to my belt, stow my police badge in my jeans pocket, and make my way up the front steps.
A sharp cawing shatters the silence. I spin around.
The rusty carcass of an old pea-green ’74 Plymouth crouches in the drive. A raven is perched on the roof. The bird cocks its head, its black eyes locked on me.
A shiver skitters up my spine. Gotta stop letting this place get to me.
Ringing the doorbell, I make sure my jacket covers my firearm and badge. Cops make everyone nervous. No need to alarm the house’s occupant unnecessarily.
“Jesus.” I glare at the bird. It glares back, cocking its head the other way. I pick up a pebble and whip it toward the raven. “Fuck off.”
The bird shoots off with an angry squawk, wings flapping.
I ring the bell again. Feet shuffle from inside. The door opens and a short, plump old woman with pretty, white hair in curlers sticks her head out.
The words lodge in my throat, and I swallow.
“Sorry to bother you, ma’am. I’m Cassidy Morgan. I used to live here years ago. Could I come in and take a look around for a few minutes?”
The woman’s soft blue eyes assess me, darting about the sheltered porch. “Another one? I suppose it never gets old, does it?”
“Wait.” She opens the door wide, apparently deciding I haven’t stopped by to rob her. “Are you here about what happened twelve years ago?”
The sympathy in her eyes makes me cringe. I throw on a smile. “Yes, ma’am.”
Her mouth turns down, and she waves me in. “Come on in, dear. Sorry. Reporters have been sniffing around this place. Guess they wanna do a story on what happened.”
Yeah, I bet. There’s always some asswipe wanting to turn the one story all of Wolfhead Creek would rather forget into a fucking media circus. Idiots.
She pushes the door shut and locks it. I shake her hand. She furrows her brow at my gloves.
“Skin condition,” I say with a practiced embarrassed look.
“Ah. I’m Claire.” She nods to the general inside of the house. “Take all the time you need.”
A wooden staircase leads to the second floor in front of me. From the door, the living room is partially visible. A state-of-the-art twenty-five-inch TV mutters the infamous trailer for Top Gun. I smile. Saw the movie last week with the guys from work, and, yes, I shed a tear when Goose died. I have a soul.
“Thanks,” I say. “I won’t be long.”
“Oh no, take your time. It’s nice to have someone else in this old place other than my cat.” Her brow crinkles. “Say, did they ever find the little girl?”
No. My gut clenches.
“I need to see the upstairs. Mind if I snoop around in the bedroom?”
“Not at all. It’s my office now. Do you want me to go with you?”
“That won’t be necessary, ma’am.” I start for the stairs.
Claire offers me a cold glass of lemonade. I don’t want one, but I need her to leave, so I politely accept.
Claire goes down the hall and shuffles in the kitchen. I glance upstairs, licking my lips. This part of the house is exactly the same as it was when I was a kid, all scuffed wood and smudged walls. The hole in the wall a few steps up has been patched, but there’s a bulge where it’s been filled in. Dad put his fist through the wall after I broke one of his wine bottles.
I set my foot on the bottom step. My heartbeat thuds in my throat. I slowly pull