The Devil of Light

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The Thursday mystery teaser from the bestselling first Cass Elliot novel

By Gae-Lynn Woods

“What are we tying it up for?”

“Do you know how to tell if a deer’s alive?”

“Good point. By the way, that’s a dollar for the cuss bucket. Might be two. Don’t know about dickweed.”

“What is your obsession with the cuss bucket? Mom’s not even around.”

“The more you put in, the sooner I eat all the pizza the all-you-can-eat buffet will let me.”

“It’s alive,” Mark said, rubbing his shirtsleeve across his forehead as they finished hog-tying the deer.

“How do you know that, Einstein?”

“It snorted. Or farted.”

“Great.”

“Lift on three.”

Grunting with the effort, they heaved the unconscious deer into the back of the Vega. The car moaned with the added weight, creaking as they shoved the lifeless body deeper into the hatch area. Breathing heavily, they leaned against the car.

“You get us into some serious messes.”

Photo by Philip Graves on Unsplash

“Hey man, it could have been you. The coin just flipped my way, and –”

“What’s that?” Matt asked, pointing into the woods. A light bobbed faintly in the distance.

“Not a flashlight.”

“More like a torch.”

They exchanged grins and trotted for the tree line, watching for a fence but finding none. The boys spotted a reddish glow and pushed underbrush aside to change direction, marking their trail. They moved forward another fifty yards and the smell of campfire underpinned with a slight tang hung in the air. The torchlight had vanished, either by virtue of distance or because it had been extinguished.

“Ouch! Damn honey locusts. I hate those things.”

“That’s another dollar,” Matt said.

“Shut up.”

They came to the edge of a clearing and hovered outside the perimeter, watching for movement. It was a crude circle no more than twenty feet across, a natural break in the woods rather than an area hacked open by man. The remains of a fire glowed inside a protective circle of small stones. Larger stones provided seating around the fire pit and the boys moved forward eagerly.

The seating stones were still warm and the stench hung heavier here. The underlying tang they had smelled in the woods had blossomed into a stinging odor.

“Nasty.”

“What did they cook?”

“Something with feathers on it,” Mark said, pointing to white down that clung to the stones ringing the fire.

“Think they would’ve plucked it first.” Matt stepped into the woods and twisted a branch from a bush. He poked at the ash. “They couldn’t have eaten it. Too foul.” He honked with laughter. “No pun intended, of course.”

“Lame, dickhead. If they didn’t eat it, what’d they cook it for?”

Matt shrugged, using the stick to scoot a small bone to the edge of the pit. “They leave anything?”

The two scavenged around the fire and made a quick survey of the surrounding woods, Matt returning to pick up the cooled bone. He turned it over in his hand as Mark wrinkled his nose. “Gross. Put it down.”

“Nope. It’s a talisman.”

“No it’s not.”

“It is if I say it is.” Matt shoved the bone in his jeans pocket and wandered around the clearing, eyes focused on the ground.

Mark scratched his chin, torn over the possibility that the bone could be a talisman, and then grabbed the stick and scooted a larger object out of the ashes. Using the hem of his shirt, he plucked it from the stones and bounced it between his hands until it cooled. “Mine’s bigger than yours,” he said, shoving his find into his brother’s line of sight before tucking it in his pocket, where it bulged.

“In your dreams, nimnod, we’re twins.”

“Let’s go. I’m hungry.”

They wove back through the woods, arguing over how best to inform their mother about the accident. As they cleared the tree line, Mark stopped in his tracks. “Dude.”

“What?”

Mark pointed at the car, where a pair of angry eyes glared through the side window. “It’s awake.”

About The Devil of Light

“This debut effort is further proof that there are undiscovered novelists out there who can more than keep up with the big names. I expect we’ll be hearing more of Gae-Lynn Woods in the future.” — Russell Blake, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Geronimo Breach, Fatal Exchange, and The Zero Sum trilogy.

A BIZARRE MURDER

When young Detective Cass Elliot responds to a 911 call at the home of a prominent businessman, she finds him violently murdered in the barnyard with his battered wife unconscious near the tool that killed him. Still raw from her own unsolved attack six years ago, Cass is stunned when confronted with graphic photographs scattered across their kitchen floor that lead to a shadowy sect called The Church of the True Believer.

A COVERT WEB OF LIES AND EXPLOITATION

Cass and her partner Mitch Stone delve into a cunning world of blackmail and violence – and find a cult concealed for nearly a century beneath the genteel, small town façade of Arcadia in East Texas. Their investigation triggers a brutal response from powerful men who will protect their identities at any cost. They unleash a ruthless killer whose actions create a media frenzy and destroy the fabric of trust within the police department.

A PERVASIVE EVIL

Cass and Mitch circle closer to the cult’s few members, following a slim lead into a night lit by fire. A night that begins with a blood ritual and ends with Cass holding a man’s life – or death – in her hands and struggling to walk the fine line between vengeance and justice.

Get it on Amazon.

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan mystery writer who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Visit Gae-Lynn’s

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