šŸ”¦In the Bookish SpotlightšŸ”¦: Luna's Veil by Wes Verde

 


Title: Luna's Veil

Author: Wes Verde

Publication Date: June 29, 2024

Pages: 328

Genre: Horror

Leonard Burton wakes up to find his life in ruins. His wife is dead, and no one believes his story about what killed her – he’s not even sure he believes it himself. Now, in jail for the crime and with no friends, his prospects are bleak. That is, until he is rescued by Dr. Cecil Gainor, an enigmatic investigator and perhaps the only other man who knows what unnatural horrors are really at work.

Unfortunately, more questions arise when Cecil’s partner disappears while chasing the same dark forces responsible for the death of Lenny’s wife. The two men realize they must follow the trail themselves, or many other lives may be at risk.

What follows is a race against time to clear Lenny’s name and find the real killers before the full moon. The death and destruction that has already been suffered is nothing compared to what will occur beneath Luna’s Veil.

You can check out his book at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0D1LK45JH




Prologue:

“Wait here, please.”

It was a simple enough request, if unexpected. They had invited him, why make him wait now? Lacking for other options, he complied, but kept still to avoid appearing nervous. Much was at stake.

After several minutes of nothing, it occurred to him that impersonating a statue for this long might arouse suspicion in itself. And so he began pacing. As more time passed without any sign of his host, his feigned boredom became genuine and he took account of the vestibule.

It spoke of wealth. The immaculate white tiles were surely mopped following the passage of each visitor. Damask wallpaper with raised patterns that might have been real silk covered all four walls. The doors leading to the house proper were intricate and solid and – to this visitor’s mild discomfort – locked for some reason. He could not say for certain that he was trapped since he had not attempted return to the street, but such an act might have tipped his hand.

It mattered little. He would not allow himself to leave yet.

As his nerves got the better of him, he touched his cheek, recently shaved for the first time in months and the smooth skin felt foreign. To make matters worse, it occurred to him that in his haste, he neglected to put the razor away back home. At least he was confident the other parcel was secure.

This was all wrong. Really, he shouldn’t be here alone, but there had been no time to send for Cecil. Events were happening quickly and so he had been forced to act.

His discomfort notwithstanding, they needed this lead. The missing persons were a matter of concern unto themselves, but the reason behind the disappearances was quite another. 

For want of better options, he examined the room’s central feature in more detail and quickly decided that he would never understand art. The clever drawings advertising soda pop or ice cream were about the extent of his appreciation.

This piece was something beyond. It was possible, he supposed, that he lacked the ability to comprehend the subtle nuances or else it was exactly as it appeared.

The room’s only piece of furniture was a table that might have cost more than a modest car, but atop it was a sculpture of a man. Or at least, it was a human of some kind. That was part of the confusion. While skillfully executed, the figure was twisted into a shape that no circus contortionist could possibly get into without snapping one’s spine. The face and posterior were somehow contrived within inches of each other.

A complete lack of genitalia was apparent and a mirror provided view of the opposite side along with this visitor’s expression of mild disgust. Noticing himself, the agent carefully relaxed his face. In his fifty some years of life and unique line of work, he had been jaded by things that defied both reason and standard decorum. The macabre contortionist perhaps bothered him more than it should have and it took a moment to realize why.

His eyes were drawn back to the mirror. As a young man, hunting in the Pine Barrens, he had developed a sense for movement and of being watched, a skill which he had honed to a sixth sense. When he detected such now it put his hairs on end. But in looking up, he saw nothing.

Staring for perhaps a full minute without any sign of movement or other smoking gun beyond his own reflection, the feeling nonetheless persisted. Knowing he was being watched was not in itself unsettling, but in the interim he had cause to ponder the summation of oddities.

A provocative art piece in the middle of an otherwise empty room would surely draw attention as would the mirror deliberately placed behind it. A mirror that he was now sure was a one-way observation window. This left him with the question that rattled him: was he meant to understand the fact that he was being watched?

The door clicked with the manipulation of the lock from the far side. The butler reappeared and wordlessly motioned for him to proceed.

Following, they soon arrived in a dining room, just as fine in quality as he had come to expect in this house. A long table lined with chairs and place settings occupied most of the space.

“Are we meant to have an early dinner?” he asked the butler. The hour was wrong, but he felt compelled to make some kind of sound. The silence inside the house was pressing.

When the butler made no response, save to ask him to wait again, the agent’s eyes were drawn back to the table. Judging from the chairs, it was likely a work of art in itself and something that a man would want to show off. The tablecloth was strange.

The click of a shutting door momentarily broke his concentration and he realized that he was once again locked-in.

Does he suspect something? he wondered. Thus far, he had managed to resist niggling doubts, but the fact that he was being drawn further into this house was difficult to overlook.

He took a breath, counted to four and considered the fact they had not patted him down for a weapon. The one way mirror also came to mind; surely there were similar means of surreptitious observation in this room as well and he took care not to glance at his ankle. The .380 Colt pressed reassuringly against his skin. Six rounds were not much, but he had faced worse odds before. Of course, that was years ago.

The table. Odd that it was covered. Odder still what it was covered with. What at first appeared to be squiggly lines refined into text upon closer observation. Pages from a book. There was no telling for how long the host would make him wait this time and no sense in appearing anxious if he was in fact being observed. He read the nearest line.

And when he was out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.

“Is that…?”

He read another line. Then another page. He examined the rest of the table and found the pages were similar. It was no simple reprinting, but an actual tapestry of paper pages. He inhaled.

One… two… three…

His face remained as stone. This was another provocation, he was sure. A tablecloth made from Bible pages was sure to elicit a wide range of emotions. Would the subject show revulsion? Offense? Perhaps amusement. And all of it discretely observed from somewhere out of sight. Surely, it would tell his yet-to-be-revealed host any number of things about his state of mind. Or at the very least, get under his skin.

The agent opted to refrain from any emotional display at all only to realize that such a withdrawal was itself a reaction of another kind. Then in the next moment, wondered if that was a mistake to reveal that he was onto the game. Surely, it would only give the mysterious tycoon cause to double his efforts at subterfuge.

He had come to this house thinking himself a cat, only to discover with increasing certainty that he was in fact the mouse.

Hands at his side. Level breathing. Conscious of his body language, he took great care to avoid fidgeting or revealing his distress. There was still a job to do and if he failed in this meeting there was no telling how many more would suffer for his bungling of an opportunity. It was almost enough to make him long for the simpler days of decorating cakes.

A new door opened. This time it was not the butler but a new man. He did not have the understated, borderline meek demeanor of household staff, but quite the opposite. Half a head taller than the agent and broad in shoulder, he was anything but subtle. Security?

The guard did not acknowledge the man in any way, but merely held the door and looked off to a neutral spot on the wall. Lacking for options, the agent obliged the tacit request to continue and braced for what would surely be another test.

It was a living room or perhaps a library. They were surrounded by books, but built with comfort in mind. It smelled of old paper, leather, and – strangely – Lysol. His footfalls muffled by a deep pile carpet, he approached the only furniture present. Two chairs took up the center of the room, facing each other.

This time, he was not forced to wait long at all. Muffled giggling, indistinct and somewhere from the depths of the house could be heard in the otherwise still room. Without speaking, the guard moved to a door on the opposite side of the room and opened it precisely in time so the new arrival and his companion did not even need to break stride as they entered the library.

It was surreal, seeing this face in person for the first time. Until now, this handsome jaw line and wavy, dark hair had only existed in newspaper clippings and photographs taken from afar. He had a charming, easy way about him. So much so that the agent had to remind himself of what this target was capable of.

Hens. Eggs.

“Mr. Crenshaw,” the young man greeted. “So glad you were able to accept my invitation.”

It was the name the agent had provided during their correspondence and was, of course, a pseudonym.

The agent replied automatically, but was not sure what to make of his host’s companion.

“Happy to do it, Mr. ah…”

“Please. Make yourself comfortable. Sit.” He made no move to introduce the woman, or even acknowledge her presence.

She followed, but as there were only two chairs, it was not clear where she was meant to sit. On his host’s insistence, “Crenshaw” took his seat first. Considering the size of the room, the seats were placed unnecessarily close together. He thought about sliding backward, but did not want to draw attention.

This would be the most delicate part of the operation.

To say they sat across from each other would imply there was some kind of gap, but their knees were practically touching and then the young woman took her seat on the host’s leg.

Ten years a widower and Crenshaw had seen few women in that time. Of those, none were as lovely as this one. Such was their proximity that her perfume wafted over him. The younger man had still made no overt indication that he was even aware of her presence, keeping his eyes patiently and resolutely fixed upon Crenshaw.

“I must say, I was intrigued by your proposal,” the host went on. “Your story really touched my heart.” The very edge of a grin curled up one corner of his mouth.

Then, the woman started bouncing. Her giggling never quite rose high enough to drown out the conversation, but teased at that threshold. She sensed the precise level at which it would become impossible to ignore and deliberately stayed below it.

Had he been a younger man, he might have been too stunned by the proximity and her state of dress to think clearly, but thankfully Crenshaw had achieved that enlightened age where the female form had lost just a bit of its mystery. Nonetheless, he was stumped in another way.

This is another test. How best to proceed then?

The host motioned for him to speak, as though there were no reason he would not do so. It helped to avoid looking at the girl, despite the fact that her exposed legs were now brushing against his pants. For a moment, he struggled to remember his cover story. He cleared his throat to buy a few more seconds.

“I’m glad that it did. Your philanthropy is rather famous in certain circles.”

“A man does what he can. What did you say was the name of your establishment?”

He paused. “St. Theresa’s Home for Children. We’re a rather small organization and so it hasn’t appeared in any of the registries as yet.”

“I see.” He narrowed his eyes for the span of a breath and then relaxed again. “I’ll confess I do have something of a soft spot in my heart when it comes to orphans. Comes from not yet having any children of my own, I suppose. May I assume that you would be looking for some kind of financial contribution?”

Crenshaw resisted the urge to bite his lip.

“Actually, I was hoping you might share your secret.”

He stared blankly, long enough for the girl to bounce two times before he responded.

“And what secret would that be?”

“You have a great skill at finding homes for your wards. According to the Home for Children in Jersey City, you relocated no less than five in the span of a month. Our organization is somewhat smaller, but we are blessed with contributions. What we lack is your reach and influence and – most unfortunately – facilities to house them all. At the worst of times our charges must share two or even three to a bed. It’s an untenable situation.”

“Homes,” he repeated. Working his jaw in thought, he placed a hand on his companion’s leg. She responded with a flash of concern before stopping and then switched to slowly wiggling her hips back and forth. “Yes, I think that’s something we could accommodate. About how many are you currently trying to move?”

“Six would be a good start. But of course, all twelve would be ideal.”

“And their ages?”

“Between seven and eleven.”

“I see. This is fortunate. As it happens, I was recently speaking with a colleague of mine who knows several interested families. How soon?”

“Immediately. If you provide an address, I can have them transported tomorrow.”

The host blinked. “Don’t trouble yourself. I have an associate who can pick them up from your facility. Where are you located?” He tapped the girl and she resumed bouncing on his leg, apparently relieved.

Crenshaw forced a smile. “Sir, you do too much. Your help is already more than enough and I couldn’t ask you to provide transport on top of that.”

“Are you opposed to visitors, Mr. Crenshaw?” His eyes narrowed and his tone dropped.

“Nothing of the sort. We just-”

“That is not his name,” interrupted a voice from somewhere unseen. “And he lies.”

This time, the woman stopped moving entirely as a look of real fear crossed her face. Annoyed, the host pushed her off his lap. Heels clacking, she fled the room and the young man leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. Already close, now they bordered on intimate.

“Concerned about a break-in perhaps?”

The situation was tenuous, but perhaps salvageable despite the Crenshaw moniker being compromised. He thought of the gun, but down near his ankle it was effectively blocked. Perhaps there was still a way to recover.

His head began to itch, but he fought the urge to fidget and cleared his throat instead.

“Certainly not. We have nothing worth stealing. We simply find that it’s best to avoid too many unfamiliar faces. For the sake of the children.”

“He lies again,” said the disembodied and foreign voice. The high back of the chair prevented Crenshaw from looking around. “This is the same presence I felt at the office.”

Crenshaw’s heart sank. They knew about the office? How was that possible? He had been meticulous in covering his tracks.

He recovered his composure, but with the host sitting so close and no girl to hide behind, the damage was done.

“Been mucking around in places you ought not be?”

Things had soured beyond recovery and not-Crenshaw considered his options. He had but one card left to play. With as much strength as he could muster, he kicked against the opposite chair, sending the young man skidding backward to a safer distance. At such speed, it snagged on the lip of the rug and he flipped onto his back.

In the same motion, he pulled up his pant leg and reached for the .380. Recalling the guard in the corner and how many locked doors were between this room and the outside, he had no delusions about escape. This mission had just turned into a one-way trip. At least he would cut the head off the snake; not an ideal trade, but one he would pay gladly.

Only he never got the opportunity.

Both his arms were seized at the exact same time. He never even got a full grip on the Colt. He looked up at two expressionless faces as the pair of goons hauled him from the chair and shoved him into the floor. In their eyes was something impossible, but they pinned him facedown on the rug before he could think about it.

Overpowered and overwhelmed, not-Crenshaw struggled for a moment before the reality of the situation became impossible to ignore.

Breathing into the carpet, the bristles roughed up his freshly-shaved cheek and he grit his teeth. Things went still then. The host, having composed himself once more, crouched beside him.

“Who else knows you’re here?”

No one. He left notes back at the stilt house office, but they only contained the false address, which led to an innocuous building from which he was ferried here. Anyone who followed his footsteps would arrive at a dead end. And even then, there was no telling how long someone from the Organization would be in checking in on him. By then it would be too late.

“My whole team,” he answered instead. “Where you live. What you’re up to. The Cult of Dagon. You’re finished.”

Another pair of shoes stepped into view. “He lies again. No one is coming.”

“Well spotted, brother. We’ll dump his body in the river. Food for the Deep Ones.”

“Not just yet. You stole a book – a diary – from the office, yes? Where is it?”

He said nothing.

“Hm. Perhaps he might benefit from the Seed.”

The host exchanged an uneasy look with the unseen speaker.

“Are you sure?”

“He stole some of our secrets. Why not return the favor?”

And with that, Crenshaw’s head went into a bag and he saw no more.


 

Wes Verde is an engineer by trade, a busybody by habit, and a lifelong Jersey boy.

A fan of nature, he spends as much time outside as possible.

His latest book is the horror/action novel, Luna’s Veil.

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šŸ”¦In the Bookish SpotlightšŸ”¦: The Beauty of Tribulation by J.A. Cox

 

Title: The Beauty of Tribulation

Author: J.A. Cox

Publication Date: August 28, 2020

Pages: 98

Genre: Christian Nonfiction

The Beauty of Tribulation was written to provide answers based upon scripture to help us understand things such as:

  • The purpose of tribulation in the life of a believer.
  • Reasons why it is necessary.
  • How God uses it for our edification and his glory.
  • How God is not the author of our tribulation.

At the root of it, the greatest purpose is to depict the beauty of our painful, frustrating, and most hopeless moments when we allow God to complete the work he is trying to accomplish through them. As you turn the pages of this book you will be taken on a journey that will delve you deep into the tribulation process and come away with a firm understanding of it, perhaps like never before. Every premise is backed with scripture, focused on what the bible says rather than my own ideas.

J.A. Cox hopes that all who read will walk away with a greater appreciation and devotion toward the Lord in regard to this troublesome subject and inevitable part of our lives.

PRAISE:

“…I think The Beauty of Tribulation will be relevant for Christians seeking a deeper understanding of their faith, as well as for those grappling with questions about the presence of evil in the world and the nature of divine justice. Cox’s approach which blends insightful queries, scriptural citations, and logical explanations, facilitates a comprehensive and engaging learning experience. The book encourages a connection to the experiences of Jesus and offers a perspective on suffering as a path to dignity and honor, both in heaven and on earth. Its insightful and reflective nature makes it a valuable read for people looking to deepen their understanding of Christian theology and the human experience within it.” – The Literary Titan

You can pick up your copy at Amazon or Kobo.



Tribulation is the most abundant commodity that everyone is looking to sell but no one is willing to buy.  It is an experience so common to mankind that it transcends social, cultural and language barriers.  It requires no introduction or explanation.

We commonly associate the following with it:

1.                   Suffering.

2.                   Adversity.

3.                   Trial.

4.                   Pain.

5.                   Temptation.

6.                   Infirmity.

It is safe to assume that the general perception of tribulation is not positive, and we desire to avoid it as much as possible.  This places a Christian in a precarious position. 

This is the case when we consider what God's word exhorts:

1.                   To count it all joy, James 1:2,3.

2.                   To greatly rejoice in it, 1 Peter 1:6.

3.                   To not think of it as strange, 1 Peter 4:12.

4.                   That we glory in it, Romans 5:3.

5.                   Paul expressed exceeding joy in it, 2 Corinthians 7:4.

6.                   We must experience much to enter God's kingdom, Acts 14:22.

In regard to such maybe you have thought the following:

1.                   Okay Paul, I know you were a great man of God and had endured much hardship but I'm having a difficult time finding joy in this.

2.                   Is there something wrong with me if I have no joy in suffering?

3.                   Why must we go through tribulation?

4.                   Why does God allow us to suffer?

5.                   Do we experience tribulation as a form of punishment?

6.                   Does tribulation mean that God has forsaken me?

I realize that these are thoughts believers scatter from as roaches do from the light.  This is done out of a fear that entertaining such could give authority to them as well as make it a reality.  While there is truth in that line of thought, the realization of that reality is on a conditional basis.  In other words, those thoughts would not manifest without effort being put into making them so or a lack of effort to bring them about.  There is also an equivalent level of danger in believing that a Christian is above such lines of thinking.  It is also devastating to deny their reality. Those types of thoughts are a natural and unavoidable occurrence generated from our unconverted body. Also, another truth needs to be realized, your tribulation is not being orchestrated by God.


 

J.A. Cox is a husband, father and disabled veteran. He is passionate about Jesus Christ and has a desire to allow God to use his writing to bring glory to his name and reach others for him. His other passions lie in: 1) Empowering people by teaching about things that he is knowledgeable in in a simple and fun as well as interesting manner. 2)Inspiring others that they may realize how the true potential to overcome their perceived dilemma lies right between their ears and how they allow it to manipulate what their eyes behold. 3) Helping people to realize that being healthy truly begins with realizing how important it is for them to be intimately acquainted with their own body in order for others to help them resolve its maladies that beset it. Along with those, he enjoys entertaining with fiction based on the concept that fact is stranger than fiction and then stretching it just a tad to create some memorable page turning moments that you will likely recall for some time to come.

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