John G. Hartness is the winner of the EPIC Award for Best Horror Novel and the Manly Wade Wellman Award for Best SF/F book by a North Carolina Author.
Quincy Harker, Year One is the beginning of the award-winning dark fantasy series featuring Quincy Harker, the immortal magic-wielding son of Jonathan Harker and Mina Murray, featured in the historic novel Dracula. Quincy lives in Charlotte, NC hunting down demons and sending them back to Hell. Along the way he helps solve crimes, punish those who consort with evil, and drinks far too much Scotch.
"John Hartness absolutely slays with his Quincy Harker novels. Whip-smart, dark as hell, weirdly funny, wildly action-packed. Highly recommended!"– Jonathan Maberry, NY Times bestseller author of V-Wars and the Joe Ledger thrillers
"Quincy Harker—this is who i want protecting the world! I love these books."– EGOT Winner Whoopi Goldberg
"We all have our own demons to deal with—John Hartness's Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter series is better than therapy or exorcism."– Michael Knost, Bram Stoker Award-winner
I fuckin' hate demons. That's what ran through my head as I got out of the car and walked up the sidewalk to the Garda home. It was a nice place, for the suburbs. There was a two-car garage off to one side, a neatly manicured lawn leading up to flowerbeds in front of a nice little porch, and an SUV in the driveway because I'm sure the garage was full of bicycles, tools, lawnmowers and other shit that I only see when I get a call out here in the 'burbs. I live in a condo in the middle of downtown Charlotte, so the only time I see lawn equipment is when I get lost in a home improvement store looking for a new mallet or maybe a new wheel for my grinder.
I walked up to the pale yellow siding nightmare of a home and stepped up on the front porch. The welcome mat was a little askew, the only imperfect thing in an otherwise totally Good Housekeeping image. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, opening my Second Sight and taking a look around. My third eye saw nothing out of the ordinary on the porch, no roiling black evil miasma ready to consume my soul and suck me down into the depths of Hell. It looked just as Martha Stewart in the supernatural spectrum as it did in the visible one. Good, I thought, maybe the little darlin's just on the rag and I can get the fuck out of here and back uptown before the game lets out and traffic gets stupid.
I opened my eyes and snapped back to the mundane world. After a second to adjust back to seeing the world with my eyes instead of my soul, I rang the bell. A dog immediately went apeshit on the other side of the door, as if the real trouble wasn't already in the house. A couple of shouted "shut up"s later, the door opened and a flushed forty-something man opened the door. The top of his balding head stopped at about my nose, but I'm tall, so I was used to that. His polo shirt had sweat stains under his man boobs, and it stretched tight across his spectacular belly. He looked up at me, close-set brown eyes set deep in a florid face, capped off with a red nose that only happens when you've hit the bottle pretty hard for a pretty long time.
"You Harker?" he asked, glaring up at me.
"Yep," I said.
"You got ID?" he asked.
No. I just randomly wander up to houses in suburbia and pretend to be an exorcist, hoping to arrive at the exact time their appointment was set for. I bit my tongue before that one could escape and just handed him my card.
"You got any photo ID?" He had that belligerent tone of a middle manager, the kind of guy that shits on all his employees' good ideas until somebody smarter than him hears them, then takes credit for the good one.
I didn't bother to hold back this time. "You want my badge number, too? This shit doesn't exactly come with a union card, pal. You called me, remember? I'm here, the right time, the right address, now let's see if I'm in the right place. I'm Quincy Harker. You got something needs banishing, or should I just go back to my sofa and NFL network?"
"Sorry, sorry. No need to be a—" he cut himself off, but I didn't.
"Dick? Yeah, I'm a dick. You're the stupid bastard who lets a demon into his teenage daughter, yanking me off the couch in the middle of the first Panthers playoff run in living memory, but of course I'm a dick because I didn't immediately take off my hat and wipe my shoes before entering your fucking Ikea palace here. Now point me towards your daughter's room and get out of my way before I do something really dickish, like turn you into a toad."
I pushed past the stammering jackoff and stomped towards the stairs, registering him mumbling something about the bedroom at the end of the hall. I didn't need his instructions; as soon as I stepped onto the second floor, I could feel what I was there for. This time the sense of evil, of just wrongness was so strong I didn't need my Sight to find it. It almost knocked me over the second I turned toward the door.
The hallway was just like a normal two-story house, scene for slaughter in so many slasher flicks. There was a small bathroom to the right of the stairs, and three bedrooms arranged around the left-hand hallway. One of these would be the master bedroom, with its own bath, and the other two would be the kids' rooms. The one on the left had pictures of motorcycles and rock bands with more makeup than KISS, but the one at the end of the hall was unadorned. Just a simple brass nameplate announcing it as Kayleigh's room.
I could tell from thirty feet away that Kayleigh's room had some seriously evil shit in it. I rolled my head and cracked my knuckles, then opened up my Second Sight to get a good look at the evil in the magical spectrum.
I slammed my Sight shut almost as quickly as it came into focus, shaking my head to clear the images from my mind. But there is no Visine for the mind's eye, and I was stuck with that shit forever. Whatever was on the other side of that door wasn't human, was powerful as shit, and was really hungry. It was also in a really good mood, which disturbed the fuck out of me. There's nothing worse than a happy demon, at least as far as the humans around it are concerned.
"Mr. Garda?" I yelled down the stairs.
"Yes?" his voice came back. I might have heard ice cubes jingle in a glass. Good—if this was as bad as I thought it was, he was going to need to get seriously drunk.
"Who else is home?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, who else is in the building? Is your wife here? Your son?" I left off the "jackass," but it was pretty well implied.
"No, they're gone. My wife is out of town on business for two weeks, and my son has been staying at a friend's house since Kayleigh got sick. It's just you, me and Kayleigh." And whatever has got its claws wrapped around Kayleigh's soul.
"That's good. You might want to make yourself scarce for a little while." Please don't ask a lot of fucking questions.
Shit. "Because what I'm dealing with up here is pretty dangerous, and I don't want you to get hurt." And I don't want this fucker to have another vessel to jump to if your daughter suddenly becomes uninhabitable.
"I don't think I can—"
"Would you please just get the fuck out so I can quit worrying about your fat ass and save your daughter?" I yelled. Maybe a little direct, but I really didn't want to have to fight this thing more than once. I heard a clatter of footsteps and then the front door slammed shut. Nice. I didn't believe he'd actually leave. Maybe that panicked edge in my voice was useful after all.
I turned back to the door. "Just you and me, now, buddy. So why don't you come out of the girl and let's handle this like men?"
The voice that answered rang through my head like a dentist's drill, piercing and ululating. "I can't come out. Not yet. But when I do you'll see that I'm nothing like a man."
Then it laughed, and in that laugh were the screams of millennia of tormented souls, all shrieking together to make one terrible sound.
"Then I guess I have to come in," I said, and strode to the door. I lifted a size 11 Doc Marten and kicked the door just beside the lock. The jamb splintered, the door flew in, and my worst nightmares were realized.
"Oh fuck me," were the only words that came to mind as I looked at the picture before me. Geiger couldn't have imagined a sense of greater torment. Hieronymus Bosch had nothing on the cruel artist that created the image before me. I didn't throw up, but only because I learned years ago never to have breakfast before an exorcism. You puke on a couple of nuns and that gets drilled into you pretty fast.
The thing in the bed used to be a pretty little girl. I knew this because I'd seen enough pictures of her around the living room and on the walls going up the stairs to figure it out. There wasn't anything pretty about what was in front of me. It still kinda looked like a little girl, if that little girl's face was stretched into new positions from screaming for the last two days, if that little girl's pajamas were covered in piss, shit, sweat, blood and pus, if that little girl's matted hair was stringy with vomit and other bodily fluids. If that little girl, who probably stood around five-two and weighed maybe a hundred ten pounds last week looked like she was about to give birth to a goddamn baby elephant.
The demon hadn't possessed Kayleigh Garda. It had impregnated her. And it was about to deliver Hell on earth.
I staggered back from the shock and the stench and raised my Bible in front of my face. The thing laughed. I realized that I wasn't talking to Kayleigh, or the demon that possessed her—I'd been talking to her soon-to-be-born half-demon child this whole time. Kayleigh was gone, dead from the inside as the demon consumed her body and soul. And in a couple of hours, it was going to burst free of Mommy and move on to eating anything and anyone it could find. I backed slowly out of the room, then turned and ran down the stairs, almost tripping over an Xbox controller in my mad dash to the front door. I took several deep breaths, then stepped out onto the porch where Kayleigh's dad stood chain-smoking Camels. I guess he hadn't really left after all.
I walked over to him and leaned on the porch rail.
"Well?" he said after a moment's silence.
"It's worse than I thought."
"How bad is that?" His voice went up a little on the end, like he was fighting off panic. I didn't blame him. I was a little, too, and it wasn't my little girl up there. Of course, I did have to live in this dimension, so demons running loose sounded like a terrible idea to me.
"Your daughter is dead. I'm very sorry."
"But I heard her, she was talking just a minute ago!" He spun around to rush back inside, but I grabbed his arm right above the elbow.
"That wasn't her. That was the demon. It was using her vocal chords." Please don't make me explain.
"What? That's stupid. It was Kayleigh. She's up there, and she's in trouble, and you're too chickenshit to help." He pulled against my grip, but got nowhere. I'm a lot stronger than I should be for my size.
"Demons don't have voices like you and I do. If they're possessing someone, they can control their body completely, use their voice perfectly. You'd never know it wasn't Kayleigh if it didn't want you to. But this thing, it won't have to use Kayleigh's voice for long."
"You mean it's going to let her go?" I hate it when they hope for the best.
"I mean it's almost through with her. It's killed her and has devoured almost everything it can. When it's finished, it will leave Kayleigh and come out here looking for another meal. If that happens, it will be almost unstoppable, because it will have one foot in our world and one foot in Hell. Usually demons can't stay in this world past sunrise, but not this one. It won't be bound by normal demonic rules, and it will be very, very hungry. I need to destroy it while it's still in your daughter."
I watched him process as much of that as he could, and thought he got pretty far for a mundane, but I could almost see the moment when hope made him go stupid again. "But you can save her, right?"
Yep, every friggin' time. Sometimes I think we should have left Hope locked in Pandora's box. It causes as much trouble as it fixes. "No. She's dead. Her heart is still beating, but Kayleigh is dead. The demon inside her has eaten her soul. All that's left up there is a meat suit that a demon is wearing with a face that kind of looks like Kayleigh's, but not really very much. And if I don't get up there, and send this thing back to Hell before it delivers, we're going to all be in a lot of deep shit."
I saw the realization cross his face a second or two after I said the word "deliver." "Deliver? You mean my Kayleigh is pregnant with a demon? But, she's only fifteen! She wears a promise ring! This can't happen! We had the talk, we agreed that she should wait… She doesn't even date." He collapsed into a chair on the porch and I just stood there, staring at him. The man wasn't the least bit surprised that his daughter was possessed by a soul-eating demon from Hell, but the mere thought of his precious little girl bumping uglies with some senior in the back of daddy's Lexus reduced him to tears. People and their fucking priorities.
I went back inside, but not before popping out to the trunk of my Honda for a few extra goodies. I sealed the door behind me both mystically and physically. Mystically with a spell of warding designed to provide a non-lethal shock to humans trying to get in, but a lethal shot of balefire to anything from any of the lower realms. Angels could come and go with no problem, although I wasn't expecting anyone from the upper reaches to come join my party. Physically I wedged a chair under the door.
A few strides and a lot more deep breaths found me outside the bedroom again. I so did not want to do this. But it's my job. This was why they paid me the little bucks.
I raised my foot to kick the door in again when a soft voice called from within. "Come in, John Abraham Quincy Holmwood Harker. We've been waiting for you."