"Dark magic is rife in this world-on-the-edge urban fantasy.Sean Cummings' great humor and awesome vision weave a thrill ride of a story." Erin Kellison, author of Shadow Bound
"Cummings has packed a lotinto these pages, and every single one of them flies past at the speed of areluctant superhero." Genre Reviews
'Sean Cummings does for superheroes what Charlaine Harris does forvampires. The book's reluctant hero, Marshall Conrad, puts the everyman intoSuperman in this spandex-free Urban Fantasy. A mighty read!' Wayne Simmons,bestselling author of FLU
From the Author
I grabbed Walter by the scruff of his flabby neckand ran like hell as he let out a wail in protest.
"Stupidfreaking cat," I growled as I glanced over my left shoulder only to seethe pair of
smoldering red eyes cutting through the blacknessof the pine forest. Walter wasn't helping any as he dug his claws into my chestas I cursed the day I bought my overweight feline at a garage sale for tendollars.
The psychicvisual I'd received that led me to the abandoned cabin nestled snugly amiddecades of new woodland growth was supposed to be where I'd find eight-year-oldVictoria Jenkins after she was reported missing by her parents four days ago.The Greenfield Sheriff's Department was treating her disappearance by followingstandard protocol, first issuing an Amber Alert within two hours of the timeshe was supposed to arrive at her after school program. Her mother issued atearful plea for her safe return at a news conference the following morning andme? I'd spent two straight nights combing the streets from up on high, keeping avigilant eye out for a red Chevrolet Venture minivan that she was reported tohave climbed into by a substitute teacher who assumed it was one of Victoria'sparents picking her up from school.
The migraine,like all the migraines that are a tell-tale sign of a Vanguard's ability toforesee a crime before it is perpetrated hit me just as Marnie Brindle and Iwere settling down to watch a chick flick on Netflix. (So sue me, I'm expandingmy horizons.) It offered two clues: One was the abandoned cabin and the otherwas that Victoria would be locked up inside an old refrigerator and left tosuffocate. It didn't tell me about a largely hairless monster with claws thattore could tear through the magical shield I'd invoked to protect Walter andme, and it sure as hell didn't say the refrigerator inside the cabin would beempty or that I'd be rescuing my cat.
Walter hissedloudly as he dug his claws deeper into my chest, naturally, this only acted topiss off the four-legged demon thing that was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.Instead of barking at my stupid cat as it chased us up a winding path that leadto where I parked my new old car, a 1995 Chevy Cavalier no less, it belched a jet ofcorrosive dog vomit which nearly took my head off as I dove behind a fallen log.
Evil? You bet!Bent on tearing out my throat? Why not? Such is the life of Greenfield's only residentmeta-human and part-time destroyer supernatural beasties.
Likedemonic dogs, for example.
The creaturecrashed through the log sending splinters of dried wood in every direction andthrowing me about thirty feet in the air. Walter the stupid cat landed againstthe trunk of a giant blue spruce and skirted straight up out of harm's way. DidI mention he's a treacherous bastard?
"Damn it,I'm a cat person!" I snarled as I landed flat on my back.
The demonthing gave its head a shake and bared its teeth as it readied to pounce. Shinythreads of saliva dribbled down from its three-inch fangs as a deep throatygrowl sliced through the relative silence of the woods and straight into mybowels. I scrambled behind a large boulder and spotted an opening in the forestcanopy where I could take to the skies. The dog-monster let out a mind-numbinghowl that I could feel in my fillings as it charged.
Of course Iwas going to cut and run, I might look like an idiot most days, but I have thegood enough sense not to duke it out with giant hairless K-9's on their ownturf. I'd have a better shot at taking the beast down from the sky. Thecreature leaped into the air and snapped at my boot heels just as I pushed offthe ground.
"Not sotough now, huh, Fido?" I snapped as I floated to a safe distance. Thecreature blinked a couple of times and then it let out a loud sneeze. Itscrimson eyes narrowed as the monster coiled back on a pair of hairless rearlegs that glistened in the moonlight.
And that'swhen the unexpected happened.
Fido launchedits body off the ground like a missile aimed straight at me. I pushed higher toavoid having one of my legs ripped off, and that's when gravity decided to playa trick on me. Instead of falling back to the earth, the creature continued itsascent. The damned thing could fly.
Oh, and he letout another corrosive hork of dog vomit.
I grated myteeth together as I climbed higher and higher into the air. Walter dug hisclaws into my neck as I held onto him for dear life.
No sign ofGreenfield's third missing kid in as many weeks. Only a demonic dog from someweird ass region of the Unseen World bent on tearing out my throat and probablypicking its teeth with my cat's bones. I wasn't stupid enough to think thedemon dog was responsible for whatever happened to Victoria Jenkins; ifanything, its presence at a location where my psychic radar told me I mightfind the little girl was evidence enough of a much larger plot because whoeverhad taken her obviously knew about me.
Walter hissedand spat as the creature slammed into my midsection sending me spinning wildlyout of control. It was clear I wasn't going to out fly the damned thing so Idecided to think outside the box. I broke into a quick dive as wind currentsbuffeted my body. Below me was a carpet of pine forest as far as the eye couldsee so I tossed Walter into the nearest tree and headed skyward once more. Iglanced over my shoulder to see the creature gaining on me, the wind flappingits lips back to reveal a set of razor sharp teeth that were only moments awayfrom digging into my forty-something frame. But there was something else, too,a throbbing hum of willful intent pouring off the monster.
I reached out through the darkness in order to tap into it - what I had plannedwas probably going to be my only shot at taking it down. I gathered the energytogether into a tight bind and instantly I could feel my own powers charging,as a jolt of energy surged through my veins. My eyes blazed furiously as Igazed quickly at my hands to see them glowing with emerald energy and that'swhen I struck out at the monster.
I flew straight into its path; my fingers digging into its rubbery cold flesh.It yelped as I pummeled it with my free hand; my fist connecting withits giant maw over and over again. All the while, we spun around in a tangledjumble of limbs and I could see the ground coming fast. I pivoted my bodyenough so the creature would crash land first, absorbing the shock of our fallto the earth.
We struck the ground like a meteor; the impact sending me careening into apine-tree with enough force to split its trunk in two. And it hurt like abastard. My entire body screamed with pain as I slid into a heap at the base ofthe enormous tree. I gazed out through the darkness to see if there was anymovement from the crater and I got back to my feet with a loud groan; myglowing eyes lighting up the gloom of the forest. I hobbled over to the craterand peered over, half-ready for the monster to leap at me and tear my throatout. And imagine my surprise to see only a German Shepherd whimpering like apuppy like it had just lost its mother. Its neck had been shaved clean down tothe skin and there was fresh blood seeping through a strange symbol that lookedalmost like an ancient Egyptian Hieroglyph that had been carved into the poordog's skin.
"Shit ... a proxy," I said quietly as I climbed into the hole. Thedog wagged its tail as it caught a glimpse of me and whimpered again.