The first novel in the Adventures of Johnathan Rose!
When Jenni woke up, her hands were covered in blood and her neighbors were dead.
Jenni thought she was going crazy.
She wasn't that lucky.
Jenni has been targeted by a mysterious man, a man whose face can't be seen, a man set on using Jenni to spill enough blood to wake up a centuries-dead god.
But John Rose, a mysterious man with a dark past and frightening powers, has other plans.
The Demon in Keystone Apartments is available on kindle.
Read the first chapter now!
Tonight was going to be perfect.
Brenda rushed around the apartment, music blaring, dancing from place to place. The salmon was baking, the wine was chilling, the candles were burning, and Lance would be there soon. Brenda was dressed to impress, too, in a tiny black dress and the necklace Lance had given her for Christmas.
The buzzer rang. Brenda turned off the music and hurried to the intercom. "Hello?"
"Hey Brenda," Lance's voice came through the speaker. "Buzz me up?"
"I suppose so," Brenda said, smiling. She pressed the button to let Lance into the building.
"Thanks, lover," he said. "I'll be up in a minute."
"Don't keep me waiting," Brenda replied.
She grabbed a pair of towels and took the salmon out of the oven. It smelled wonderful and looked even better. God bless the internet.
The table was already set, and Brenda made plates for herself and her boyfriend. She turned the music back on, but it was softer and more romantic that what she had been listening to before.
Brenda took a step back and surveyed her work. She had to pat herself on the back. Her apartment looked like a movie set.
She was reaching for the wine when the lights started to flicker.
"Huh," she muttered to herself. They never had trouble with the power here.
A sudden thunderbolt crashed through the night, briefly illuminating the entire room in harsh, white light. Brenda jumped. The wine slipped from her hand and crashed to the floor. It shattered, sending blood-red wine and shards of glass spilling across the hardwood floors.
"Damn it!" Brenda hissed. There was no way she was going to be able to clean this up before Lance got there, and she had wanted everything to be perfect, magical.
She threw paper towels down to sop up the wine and started vacuuming the glass up with the Dust Buster.
The lights flickered again, then died completely. Brenda fought to keep her frustration in check. She was going to turn the lights off anyway, and the candles were still burning. She finished cleaning up the wine bottle, tossed the debris in the trash, and grabbed another bottle off the rack. It wasn't chilled properly, but it would do.
The wind began to howl, so hard that the windows shook. The lightning started again, five quick strikes one right after the other. The thunder crashed a fraction of a second later; the storm was right on top of her.
"Okay," Brenda said to herself. "So maybe this isn't going to be the most romantic atmosphere ever. But I can tell Lance I'm afraid of the thunder, and he'll have to protect me, and then we can have epic sex in the middle of a storm."
She stuffed the wine into the ice with a huff.
Bam! Bam! Bam! Brenda's door shook. Someone on the other side was pounding on it with all their strength.
"Lance?" Brenda asked, uncertain.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
Brenda took a step back. That wasn't Lance.
Bam! The door flew open and slammed into the wall. Brenda screamed and crouched down, instinctively folding herself into a fetal position. The candles flared. Red hot flames roared up to the ceiling, scorching it.
The hallway was filled with weird light, purple and undulating. A cold breeze that seemed to come from nowhere blew through the door, filling the room with an arctic chill. Brenda's breath turned to mist.
Brenda's next door neighbor stood in the doorway, too far away to have thrown the door open. Her posture was wrong; too stiff, and her limbs were bent at odd angles. Her hair stood on end and waved in the cold air.
"Jenni?" Brenda asked.
Jenni came forward, moving with strange, jerky motions, like a marionette controlled by a man having a seizure. Her bare feet stomped on the floor, splintering wood and shaking the apartment. She grabbed the table and flung it aside. China and silverware crashed.
"Jenni!" Brenda screamed.
"Brenda?" Lance called from the hallway. "What's going on? Are you all right?"
"Lance! Help me!" Brenda shouted.
Lance took a careful step inside the apartment. Jenni whirled around, staring at him.
"Jenni? What the hell are you doing in here? Brenda, what happened?" Lance asked.
Jenni moved toward him, her steps shuddering, spastic.
"Lance, get away from her," Brenda said, her voice weak.
Jenni's hand shot forward. Her fingers closed around Lance's neck. He grabbed Jenni's hand, struggling to free himself, but her grip was like a vice. He made a choking noise as Jenni closed off his windpipe. Jenni raised her hand, and Lance's feet dangled in the air, a foot off the floor.
"Don't hurt him!" Brenda screamed. She rushed forward and attacked, but she was no fighter. Her assault was little more than a barrage of ineffective slaps.
Jenni threw her arm back, catching Brenda across the chest. The force of the blow threw her across the apartment. She crashed into the sofa, overturning it, and tumbled to the floor.
"Why are you doing this?" Brenda pleaded.
Lance struggled in her grip. His face was turning blue. He kicked Jenni in the stomach, hard, but the girl barely noticed. She just turned her head sideways, looking at him like a confused dog.
And then she snapped his neck.
"No!" Brenda screamed.
Jenni dropped Lance's body unceremoniously to the floor. He landed in a heap and stared at her with eyes made out of glass.
Tears streamed down Brenda's face. This couldn't be happening. This couldn't be real.
Jenni jerked and shuddered toward her. She kicked an end table out of the way. She lifted the sofa with one hand and tossed it aside.
"Why are you doing this?" Brenda repeated, her voice trembling.
Jenni stared down at her. Her eyes were empty, white. She grabbed Brenda's hair and lifted her off the floor. Brenda screamed and clutched her scalp. Jenni dangled her in the air, just like she'd done to Lance.
"Please," Brenda said.
Jenni cocked her head to the side and drove her fist through Brenda's chest. Brenda wasn't able to scream. But she did have time to see her own quivering heart, held in Jenni's hand, before she died.
Jenni dropped Brenda, and Brenda's heart, onto the floor.
The white cleared from Jenni's eyes. The crazed puppeteer released his grip on her strings. Jenni looked around the room, confused.
"Brenda?" she asked. "Where am, how did I get here? Brenda? Bre..."
She saw her neighbor, eyes glazed over. She saw the gaping hole in her chest. And she saw the blood on her own hand.
Jenni started to scream.
"What a shitty night," Detective Prince said.
The lab geeks scurried around in their stupid bunny suits and slippers, putting those little tents next to a bunch of random crap. He could never understand what made them think something was important. The giant pool of blood? That was important. The goddamn heart someone had kicked under the couch? That was important. But the flowers laying by the door, or the little pile of wood splinters? Whatever.
"What've we got?" Prince's partner, Detective Morton, asked. He popped a piece of gum into his mouth and started jawing it. Guy'd given up smoking last week. Again. Prince hoped he fell off the wagon soon. Morton was always a dick when he quit smoking.
Prince took out his notebook. "Two victims. Lance Trellis, over by the door. Stiff wrangler thinks cause of death was a severed spinal column. Complete internal decapitation. His girlfriend is over by the couch. Brenda Carlot. She owns the place."
"How'd she die?"
"Her heart was torn out of her chest," Prince said.
Morton made a face. "Don't fuck with me tonight, man. I'm not in the mood."
"Take a look," Prince said, waving his partner toward the victim.
Morton made another face and waddled across the apartment. He crouched down--his knees were still good, for such a big man--and drew back the sheet covering the female vic.
Morton let out a long, low whistle. "God damn. You ever see anything like this?"
"Just in the movies," Prince said.
"Dispatch said a girl did this?"
"Yeah." Prince consulted his notes. "Jennifer Lamonte, twenty-five. She's down at the station."
"What'd she use?"
"We're still looking for the weapon," Prince said, "but her arm was covered in blood up to her elbow, so we're thinking she pulled the heart out with her hands after she cut her open."
"Jesus Christ. So what are we thinking? Jealous lover?"
Prince shrugged. "Maybe. We're still interviewing the neighbors. So far it's just a bunch of 'but she's so nice' and 'I can't believe she'd do something like that.' You know how it is."
"Always the quiet ones," Morton said, and dragged the sheet back over the vic's face.
Morton stood up and cracked his knuckles. "Well, this should be pretty open and closed. Perp was here when the uniforms arrived, right? We just need to find the murder weapon to put a bow on it."
"A motive would be nice," Prince said. "Juries like motives."
Morton shrugged. "Sudden onset of Crazy Bitch Syndrome. Case this tight, that'll be motive enough."
"I'd still like to know why she did it," Prince said.
"You got an unhealthy obsession with the inner workings of the psychotic mind, you know that?"
Prince shrugged and closed his notebook. "I like closure."
"You need to become comfortable with a certain sense of ambiguity," Morton said.
"I couldn't have said it better myself," a voice said from the hallway. Prince and Morton turned toward the door.
Morton ran his hand over his face. "Mother fucker. Who called him?"
John Rose stepped past the uniforms manning the door, lifted up the crime scene tape, and entered the room. "Captain Acosta," he answered. Rose scanned the room, looking from left to right, taking everything in. Prince recognized the behavior. It was what he did when he arrived on a crime scene. Get the big picture, before the details make everything fuzzy.
Rose crouched next to the male vic and ran his hand over him. He never touched the body. His hand just kind of hovered, six inches above the dead man's corpse.
Rose walked to the kitchen portion of the flat. He opened the oven, looked inside, and closed it again. Examined the cabinets. The fridge. Beneath the sink.
He disappeared into the bedroom. Prince and Morton followed him. Rose opened the closet, and each dresser drawer. He lifted up the mattress and peered beneath it, then got onto his hands and knees to look under the bed.
"I think her panties are over there," Morton said.
Rose climbed to his feet. "I would count on you to know that. Where is the other victim?"
"What?" Morton said. "Spirits didn't tell you?"
"I am careful about expending my power," Rose said, and walked past Prince's partner.
The lab geeks were taking photographs. Rose slipped past them, knelt next to the female vic, and drew back the sheet.
"You mind not contaminating the evidence?" Morton asked.
"The physical evidence is relatively unimportant," Rose said without looking up.
"Is that so?"
"Quite. Two homicides, the assailant found next to the bodies, covered in blood ... I'm certain that even a man of your limited capabilities can add all of that up."
"Fuck you, Rose," Morton spat.
"Buy me dinner first," Rose replied, still not looking up. He held his hand above the woman's body, just like he'd done with her boyfriend. He pulled her dress aside to examine the wound.
"That turn you on?" Morton asked.
Rose ignored him. He reached into his long coat and drew out a black leather journal, opened it to roughly the middle, and laid his fingers on the pages.
"I don't suppose you can conjure up the murder weapon?" Morton asked.
Rose shut his notebook and looked up at them. "I don't need to, Detectives. The girl did this with her bare hands."
Morton snorted. Prince usually found his partner's attitude frustrating, but in this case he couldn't blame him.
Rose stood and returned the book to his pocket. "Now, I believe you have this young woman in custody?"
"Yeah," Morton said. "She's down at the station. That is generally where we take murderers."
"Excellent," Rose said. "I would very much like to meet her."
Jenni had lost her mind.
It was the only logical explanation. No, not logical. There was nothing logical about this. Nothing that made sense. She wasn't dangerous. She wasn't a killer.
But Brenda and Lance were dead, and everyone said she did it. The idea was crazy, but the evidence ... the evidence all said that they were right. She'd blacked out, and when she came to they were gone, she was standing over their bodies, and her hands were covered in blood.
What the hell had happened?
Jenni sat in her holding cell, still wearing the tank top and yoga pants she's woken up in. They hadn't even let her wash her hands. Didn't want to destroy the evidence, they said. She was all alone in there. It wasn't a cage; the walls were solid concrete, the door thick steel. There was a small window, but a metal plate had been drawn across it on the outside.
She was all alone.
It felt like she'd been in there for hours, trapped in this little cement box, this little five by five coffin. There was no furniture in the room besides the bed, which was built into the wall. There was no mattress or pillow. A stainless steel toilet occupied the back wall.
The window slammed open. Jenni jumped and pushed herself as far away from the door as possible. A fat woman's face peered in, her nose pressed against the thick, wire-lined glass. She huffed and slammed the window shut.
A slot in the middle of the door slid open. "Walk toward the door, turn around, and cross your wrists behind your back," the guard barked.
"What?" Jenni stammered.
The guard sighed. "Get your skinny ass over here and stick your manicured hands in the window so I can handcuff you, moron."
"God damn it, if I have to come in there I'm gonna shove my baton so far up your ass you'll taste it. Now get the hell over here."
Jenni slid cautiously out of bed and walked toward the door. The cement was cold on her bare feet. She was unsteady, almost like she was drunk. She turned around and crossed her hands behind her back. Cold metal closed around her wrists. A moment later, Jenni heard keys rattling.
She stepped away from the door. It squealed open, steel grating on concrete. "This way, cupcake," the guard said, motioning with her nightstick.
Jenni stepped into the hall. "Where are we going?"
"Disneyland, Lamonte. Shut up and walk."
The hallways were all the same: plain cement painted an ugly yellow. Jenni couldn't figure out where she was, or where she was being led. There were no distinguishing features, no signs, no maps. But the guard seemed to know exactly where she was going, barking "left" or "right" at the appropriate intersections and tapping Jenni with her baton.
The guard led her to a plain white room, containing three metal chairs and a metal table, all screwed into the floor. The side wall was a giant mirror, and Jenni had seen enough CSI to know that it was one-way glass.
"In the chair," the guard said, tapping it with her nightstick. Jenni took her seat. The guard grabbed her wrists and slammed them down on the table. Jenni grunted, but the guard ignored her. She fastened Jenni's manacles to a steel ring on her side of the table.
"I want to speak to my lawyer," Jenni said.
"Like I give a damn," the guard said. She stuck her nightstick back through the loop on her belt and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
"Well this sure is a nice change of scenery," Jenni muttered to herself.
The door eventually opened. Jenni couldn't be sure how much time had passed. Two men walked in, one a fat white guy, the other a bald black man. Both of them were dressed in rumpled suits. Both of them looked tired. Only the fat guy looked angry.
"So this is good cop, bad cop?" Jenni asked. "When can I talk to my lawyer?"
"Public defender's runnin' a bit late," the fat man said. "She'll be along any day now."
"Well I'm not talking to anyone until I talk to a lawyer," Jenni said.
"Guilty people always lawyer up," the fat man said.
"Give it a rest, Morton," the black man said. "We got everything we need for a conviction. No reason to work her over."
"If you're so sure I'm guilty, why are you talking to me?" Jenni asked.
Jenni's head jerked up. She hadn't noticed the third man, lurking in the hallway.
He practically glided into the room. He was tall, more than six feet. His clothing was dark, blacks and grays and charcoals, and a long coat hung off his frame like a cape. He had a light beard, raven black hair, and gleaming black eyes.
"Are you my lawyer?" Jenni asked.
The man smirked. "Hardly."
"Then why should I talk to you?"
"Because," the man said, gliding forward, "I believe you're innocent."
"Oh for fuck's sake," the fat man muttered.
The dark man dragged one of the chairs to the center of the table, across from Jenni. The cops were both startled. Jenni's eyebrows scrunched up. Wasn't that chair bolted to the floor?
The dark man took a black book out of his coat pocket, opened it, and set it flat on the table. He sat down, his movements fluid, catlike, and folded his hands in his lap. He left his coat on.
"Your hands are dirty," he said.
"They wouldn't let me wash them."
The tiniest flicker of anger shot through the dark man's eyes. He craned his neck toward the fat man.
"What?" the fat man said. He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked away. "That's evidence."
"Did they swab your hands?" the dark man asked.
"Um, yes?" Jenni replied.
"And they took photographs?"
"Yeah. Polaroids. I didn't know they still made them."
"They probably still use typewriters, too," the dark man said. "But since they've collected all of the evidence they need, there's no reason to make you sit like this."
The dark man reached across the table. Jenni shrank away from him, but the manacles held her tight. She didn't want to be touched, not by one of these bastards.
The dark man's hands passed over the handcuffs, and they fell away.
"What the fuck?" the fat man barked. He pushed himself off the wall and fumbled for his gun. "Get your hands up in the air! Both of you! Back away from each other!" He pointed his gun at Jenni, and then the dark man. He couldn't decide who to aim at.
"Relax, Detective Morton," the dark man said. "She's no danger to me."
"She murdered two people, you son of a bitch," the fat man grumbled.
"Innocent until proven guilty, Detective. Let me see your hands, child."
Jenni hesitated, but stretched her hands across the table. The dark man closed his hands around hers and began to stroke them, like he was petting a cat or something.
Water began to run down her hands.
Not a lot of water. It wasn't like someone had turned on a faucet or something. But cool water ran over her hands and collected in a puddle on the table. After a moment, her hands were clean. "What the hell?" Jenni asked.
"God damn parlor tricks," the fat man--Morton--muttered.
"Your partner is bothering me, Detective Prince. Please take him away."
"Fuck you," Morton said.
The black man put a hand on his partner's shoulder and steered him toward the door. "Come on, buddy. Captain wants him in on this. Let the man work."
"Work?" Morton huffed. "Bullshit con artist."
The Detectives left, and Prince closed the door behind them.
"Much better," the dark man said. "Now we can finally talk."
"They're still listening to us," Jenni said, looking at the mirror.
"Quite right." The dark man stood up, crossed the room, and laid his hands on the glass. He leaned his head against the mirror and moved his lips, like he was whispering to himself. The glass shimmered, like it was made of water and someone had dropped a pebble in its center.
"They can't hear us now," the dark man said. He crossed to the door and ran his fingers over the handle, then reclaimed his seat.
Jenni looked at her hands, her clean hands, and the pink water gathered on the table. She had definitely lost her mind. "What are you?" she asked. "Some kind of magician?"
The dark man leaned back, crossed his arms over is chest, and folded one leg over the other. "Magicians perform tricks, Jenni. I do not. My name is Jonathan Rose, and I intend to find out who used your body to murder those people."
The Demon in Keystone Apartments is available on kindle.