Authors: W. G. Griffiths
The events and characters in this book are fictitious. Certain real locations and public figures are mentioned, but all other
characters and events described in the book are totally imaginary.
Copyright © 2003 by W. G. Griffiths All rights reserved.
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Visit our Web site at
First eBook Edition: June 2003
Gavin had seen enough of Krogan’s other matches to know that the beast would first wait to be attacked. He found it hard not
to take him up on his offer. Every natural cell in his body was screaming for him to throw the first punch, second punch,
and anything else he could throw in. But that wasn’t the game plan. Gavin neared him, hands down.
“What’s the matter, Krogan? Feel like we’re ganging up on you?” Gavin bluffed.
Krogan smiled nonchalantly. “Gang up? You are alone, Pierce.”
“That’s not what I see. You’re surrounded. Nervous?”
Krogan frowned, then started to circle around to Gavin’s side.
The audience impatiently started chanting Krogan’s name.
“Confess, Krogan. Did you—” Gavin said, when Krogan suddenly lunged.
“When I get you, I’ll have no mercy.”
“Highly original… spooky… impressive… outstanding suspense…a skillful mix of passages that entertain and frighten.… Fast-paced
and drenched in evil… a solid crossover novel.”
“Impossible to put down… exciting, suspenseful, and surprising, with one of the most original villains I’ve come across in
—Bentley Little, author of
and winner of the Bram Stoker Award
“The suspense never lets up.”
“The world has a soul, and is full of demons.”
Thales of Miletus, the earliest known Greek philosopher
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness
of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
The Apostle Paul
going in there!” Amy’s fist clenched a Zip-locked bag of breadcrumbs, her perfect profile steeled straight ahead.
“Then wait out here.” Gavin sighed and started to leave.
She reached out and grabbed his arm. “You know I can’t do that.”
“You’ll be fine. The sun is out. There’re people everywhere, and you have plenty of food for the starving fat pigeons. I’ll
be right back.”
“You know you won’t. You’ll get drawn in again and I won’t be there to snap you out of it.”
“Please… stay right here on the bench. I promise I won’t be long.”
Amy looked him in the eye. “You swear?”
“More than I should… but I’m trying.” He pecked her on the cheek and left.
Detective Gavin Pierce turned the corner and entered the darkness of the Bronx Zoo’s Reptile House, as he had done every Sunday
for the last three months. The weekly ritual he practiced was a paradox he had thought reserved only for the very religious
or the insane. The Reverend Jesse J. Buchanan, better known to Gavin and Amy as Buck, called it “believing in order to see.”
Gavin considered what life would be like if he had never met Buck, an obscure lead in a homicide case in which his grandfather
had been a victim. The killer—or rather,
killer—might still be at large, but because of Buck, Gavin’s eyes had been opened to a nightmarish world he had never before
known existed. Even more important, he and Amy would never have been concerned about the prisoner getting free. Especially
this prisoner. So his conclusion, which would change with the tides, was that ignorance was truly bliss, right up until the
time you realize you’re on the wrong side of the rhino pen.
As usual, Amy could not stay put. By the time the door shut, she had hurried to his side, taken his hand, and squeezed it
tightly. In the moment it took for his blue eyes to adjust to the darkness, the dank air seemed to drop forty degrees. Amy
slipped her arm around his, hugging it like a firehouse brass pole. The hall was crowded, as it should be on a hot summer
day, people dressed in shorts and T-shirts, bearing no goose bumps or frosted breath. Odd how the eerie chill never seemed
to affect anyone else. Somehow the “thing”—or demon, to use Buck’s terminology—had a way of sniffing out their presence and
rewarding them with an unearthly cavern-deep cold, as if this were its way of saying, “I remember you.” And putting on more
clothes didn’t help. No. An arctic goose-down parka would have no more success warming their chilled bones than a sleeping
bag could warm a corpse six feet under.
Amy shook off a shiver. “You feel it?” she whispered.
“Yes,” Gavin said, hating to admit it.
“Good. Then we know it’s still here and alive. Let’s leave.”
“No, I need to see it.”
“But why?” Amy’s tone reflected her frustration over repeating this strange ritual week in and week out.
Gavin didn’t answer. Didn’t want to answer.
“Sometimes I think you
for it to see you.”
He couldn’t argue that but wouldn’t admit to it either.
“I’m never coming here again,” Amy declared as if she meant it.
“I know. You say that every week.”
“I mean, I don’t ever want to come to the zoo again… the Bronx… anywhere near this place.”
“But I have to.” Gavin squeezed her hand as they continued on through the darkness.
He didn’t have to look to his right as they passed the first cage to know there was a twenty-four-foot python named Samantha
curled up on a limb under leafy foliage. He had seen her, and all of the other inhabitants of this corridor leading to “the
cage,” enough times to render a detailed sketch and bio of every one.
Gavin acknowledged the elderly attendant’s wave with a nod as they turned the final corner. The man never spoke to Gavin,
though he had tried once. After Gavin’s sixth Sunday visit in a row, the old guy had finally ventured, “I guess you must really
like this place.” Gavin’s response had been an honest, “No, actually I hate it here.” The old man had never spoken to him
again… just waved.
As usual, people moving down the dark hall didn’t stop long at the tortoise cage, the more interesting species being housed
before and beyond. Little did they realize that Jeremy, the boring young Galapagos Island tortoise, backed into the far corner
where it always stayed, would be any zoo’s main attraction if the truth were known.
Here come the nails,
Gavin told himself as they drew near. No sooner had he thought it than Amy dug in.
“Easy,” he whispered to her.
“Sorry,” she said as they stopped just before
window. “Couldn’t Buck have sent Krogan into a different kind of animal?” she whined. “Did it have to be something they keep
in the Reptile House?”
“He wanted something with a long life expectancy… you know that,” Gavin explained patiently.
other animals that live long, you know.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“I don’t know… elephants live long… and they keep them outside in the sunshine.”
Gavin looked at her. “A demon-possessed elephant. Now, why didn’t Buck think of that?” he said dryly. “Look, the only reason
the tortoise is in here is because it was trying to kill the other tortoises.”
“I don’t think Buck figured on that.”
“Nah, he’s got this all worked out to a science,” Gavin muttered sarcastically.
“Oh, look,” the woman in front of them said to a couple of children. “It’s coming this way.”
They had arrived at “the cage.” When Gavin took another step and looked in, the giant tortoise wasn’t watching the woman or
her children some twenty feet away. No. As expected, it was coming straight toward Gavin.
“Is it there?” Amy asked, hanging back.
“Anything else in the cage with it?”
“Of course not.”
“Does it look… healthy?”
“As healthy as it always does.”
“Good. Then let’s leave.”
He didn’t answer, his focus now fully on the tortoise, which had stopped just a few feet from the glass. As always it was
staring—or, as Gavin thought, glaring. He was no mind reader, but he could easily imagine what was going on inside the tortoise’s
head, and he believed somehow the entity inside knew what Gavin was thinking too… every thought.
“How’s the food, Krogan?” Gavin sneered, tapping on the glass.
The tortoise just stared, unblinking.
“That’s not what we’re here for,” Amy said sternly. “Remember what Buck said about getting it mad.”
“Yeah, wouldn’t want to get it mad.” Of course he remembered Buck’s warnings. First, “
” The reason for going to the zoo was to check on the tortoise’s health. Period. Leave the pain of Krogan’s past atrocities
outside. His second warning was, “
Don’t look in the tortoise’s eyes.
” Buck said the eye was the window of the soul, and the last thing Gavin should do was connect directly with the powerful
demon inside the tortoise. A demon the likes of which, Buck—supposedly a seasoned exorcist or deliverance minister or whatever
they called him—had never encountered. And above all, “
Pray to God for the tortoise’s continued protection.
” According to the verse Buck had read to them from the Bible, if the tortoise died, the demon would escape and go on a mission
to destroy its captors, namely Gavin, Amy, and Buck.
Gavin had the most trouble with the prayer part of the instructions. In fact, he just didn’t pray at all. There was nothing
he hated more on the planet than the demon that was allegedly inside the tortoise, but he found it impossible, even embarrassing,
to pray for the helpless animal in which it was trapped.
Amy tugged on his arm. “It’s here, it’s alive. Let’s go.”
Gavin nodded but didn’t move. Curious. When he had first started these visits, the tortoise would meet him in… well, a kind
of tortoise rage. Snapping, kicking dirt, snarling, biting at anything that came close—“
Like a baseball manager arguing a call,
” Gavin had once told Amy. That kind of behavior eventually caused the zoo to separate Jeremy from the other animals. But
recently the tortoise had calmed, at least physically, content to just get close and stare intently. The question loomed:
What was it so intent about?
Amy spoke, but Gavin wasn’t listening. As on their last visit, the tortoise offered its profile, its large, black eye holding
Gavin’s attention, appearing larger than life, sucking in all the energy surrounding
it. The truth was Gavin wanted Amy outside. Not so much for her protection as to keep her from interfering. If Buck had actually
sent an entity that had killed Grampa into this tortoise, an entity that could read Gavin’s thoughts, then he would think
of nothing but hate, scorn, and dominance over the evil thing that had taken away Grampa’s precious life.
You are nothing,
Gavin thought as hard and focused as he could, trying to make his thoughts louder than words.
Suddenly his mind was filled with other words.
Soon I will be free and you will be mine.
Gavin was about to ask Amy if she’d heard that, but then realized the message wasn’t audible. He wondered if Krogan had planted
the thought in his mind or if his mind had just made it up by association. How could he know, the brain being so complex,
and spiritual energy being impossible to prove?
Gavin answered silently.
Laughter. His mind was filled with mocking laughter. Gavin could no longer blink, didn’t want to blink. He wanted to focus
his thoughts, but the laughter wouldn’t leave. He began to see images in the tortoise’s oily eye… faces… faces that were
alive, moving, talking. Talking to him. Grampa, his friend John Garrity, the news reporter Gassman, Amy’s twin sister’s fiancé
… all talking about their everyday lives… all dead now because of the demon. He started picturing their deaths. Was his mind
just remembering what he’d seen… or was he being prodded?
“They’re not yours,” Gavin said aloud. “They
Other faces. Buck’s, his own, Amy’s. Amy laughing, running away, teasing him to chase her.
Soon. When you least expect it. Mine.
“Nooo!” Gavin yelled.
Abruptly, Gavin was falling away from the eye—no, from the cage.
“What is with you?” Amy scolded. She had yanked him away and now had him against the wall, shouting in his face. “You’ve been
ignoring everything I’ve said to you for the last ten minutes.”
“At least five.”
“But nothing!” She wouldn’t let him finish. “You’ve been doing the very thing Buck told you not to do.”
Gavin massaged the bridge of his nose. He felt groggy, tired. He looked toward the cage. He wanted… needed to see what…
“Don’t even think about it,” she said, pushing him back away from the cage. “We’re done with this place and that freakin’
turtle. If you ever come here again, you won’t find me when you get back. And that’s a promise.”