The Devil of Light by Gae-Lynn Woods
“The Devil of Light is an extremely well crafted mystery, a complex web of treachery and betrayal building to a killer finale. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good mystery, or just good writing.” — Amazon Book Review
INVESTIGATORS UNLEASH a ruthless killer whose actions create a media frenzy and destroy the fabric of trust within the police department. They 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.
An Excerpt from The Devil of Light
THE MOON VANISHED AS the first raindrop plunked into a bucket, rippling its dark surface. Hitch looked heavenward and sucked a last drag, the lines in his face etched deeper in the ember’s glow. Crushing the cigarette against his boot, he shoved the butt into a pocket, pausing beneath wide limbs as the next flush of drops chattered across the river’s surface and left smoking dimples in the dusty clearing. A lone cloud
whisked its bulk beyond the moon’s face, releasing the starlight and carrying its payload of tiny missiles deeper into the forest. He tugged his work gloves on and snapped lids on buckets, enjoying the creak of heavy rope against the still night.
He’d first killed for the old man in the autumn. Fresh from prison, he was toying with but unable to fully grasp the idea of living a clean life. He honored no particular religion, but somehow knew that God had created each man for a purpose. And try as he might, he couldn’t find a purpose for which he was better suited than killing. Oddly enough, he’d been popped for armed robbery – not one of his God-given talents, obviously – but never for the lives he had taken. Spat out of the justice system and grateful to breathe free again, he drifted from town to town using false identities and traded manual labor for cash, careful to avoid any place small enough that a strange face would attract attention, sampling the taste
of a life without death.
He’d come across the old man in the feed store outside of Arcadia while loading another man’s order of hay. Although neither spoke, each recognized in the other something he needed, and in himself, something he was willing to give in return. Hitchhiking back into town, he was unsurprised when the old man pulled alongside him on the highway.
To his credit, the old man had spoken little, stating only that he had an opening for a crew boss on one of his cattle ranches. Pay wasn’t much, but the man who took the job would have a roof to himself and access to a vehicle. If things worked out, the old man added, more lucrative work would find him.
He’d listened, nose full of the pickup’s ancient vinyl scent and the sweet smell of cherry tobacco, watching the tight jaw bristling with white five o’clock shadow as it bunched around the pipe clenched between thin lips. With a glance away from the road, the old man had asked for his name. He’d looked out the window and remembered his outstretched thumb, a dry smile on his lips.
“Hitch,” he stated, setting the old man to laughing.
“Good,” came the reply, chortle dying away. “I need a man who don’t gab like some damn fool woman.” The old man slipped a shiny cell phone from his shirt pocket and passed it across the cab. “It’s clean. Set with my number. Once you’re with me, you won’t come into town. My wife’ll do what shopping you need.” He sucked on the empty pipe as they pulled up to a dingy motel. “Put your notice in at the feed store. Two weeks.
I’ll expect to hear from you then.”
Hitch paused, hand on the door. “What should I call you?”
The old man grinned, long teeth gleaming faint green in the blue light stuttering from the motel’s sign. “Sir.”
“Yes, sir. Two weeks.”
He shut the pickup’s door, watched the old man drive away and felt as if he’d made a pact with the devil. The thought was oddly exhilarating for a man who had been thinking of going straight. Hunching his shoulders against a sudden chill, he slid the phone into his jeans pocket and headed inside.
But that had been months ago. Good to his word, the old man had set him up with legitimate work as crew boss, and with illegitimate work as need dictated. Hitch possessed special skills that the old man had sensed and used; cautiously at first, and now, it seemed, with more confidence. His eyes followed the strong length of trunk upward to a thick branch, pleased that his improvised pulley system was working. The first time, last autumn, he had still been dithering over that mythical clean life, and truth be told, his stretch in Huntsville had left him out of practice. He completed the task with a measure more mess and less productivity than he would have liked – he’d discovered long ago that a job poorly completed left its mark on the soul – but he followed the old man’s instructions as closely as possible. Hitch had dressed and dumped the corpse where instructed, taking with him one small bucket and a newspaper wrapped package.
The old man was disappointed with the bucket’s weight but had cackled with pleasure at the sight of the wetback’s foot nestled in the previous day’s sports section. Patting Hitch on the back, he had told him where to find payment for this unusual job and instructed him to consider what he would do differently given the same set of instructions.
And so he had. He was back in the same small clearing in the early spring, but this time with the tools to make his work much easier.
Hitch gazed up again at the clear sky and was tempted to smoke another cigarette, but shook off the urge. He removed his leather work gloves and replaced them with heavy latex before he took the drill apart and wrapped it in a towel to be cleaned later. The buckets were warm and heavy as he lifted them into the passenger side floor of the old truck. Hitch climbed behind the wheel and with a low growl from the engine,
slowly reversed the pickup beneath the motionless form suspended between heaven and earth, catching the young body just at the shoulders. When he glanced in the rearview mirror at the dead man’s legs, bound together and pointing toward the stars, his soul sang with satisfaction. Death was his purpose, and no one was better at it than him.