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The following is an excerpt from the book The Screaming Room
by Thomas O'Callaghan

Published by
Pinnacle; May 2007;$6.99US/$9.99CAN; 978-0-7860-1812-3
Copyright © 2007 Thomas O'Callaghan


The rain had stopped. The afternoon sun had resumed its assault on rotting corn shocks, casting distorted shadows across the abandoned farm. A pair of cicadas sounded, silencing the chirping of the nearby sparrows, sending them into flight.

In the middle of the field, a sturdy youth stood silently, eyes fixed on a mound of fresh clay.

A rush of cool air stirred wisps of his ripened wheat-colored hair. Bending down, he used a finger to inscribe the name Gus in the collected soil.

A second youth, a female, approached. "Can we go now?" she asked, wearily. "This is our tenth field and there's nothing left of him to bury."

"In a minute."

The girl looked around. "Someone could be watching, you know."

"Just need a minute."

"Well, you'd better make it a quick one."

The youth's eyes lingered on the newly formed grave. With a nod of satisfaction, he uprighted himself. As a smile lit his face, he used the heel of his boot to eradicate their victim's name. "Lovee," he said, "may the bastard rest in peace."

"You mean in pieces. Let's go."

Chapter 1

Cassie turned her head on the pillow as a sudden flash of light woke her.

"What the hell are ya doing?" she hollered. "It's two o'clock in the morning!"

Her brother, Angus, who was sitting up in bed next to her, grinned, his attention riveted to the gleam coming off the three-quarter-inch ball bearing he was holding between his thumb and index finger. The narrow beam of a pencil-thin flashlight had reflected off the ball's chromelike finish and shone directly onto her eyelid.

"I liked you better when you got off pulling wings off flies," she said, hiding her head under the pillow.

Angus, flashlight still directed at the ball bearing, brought his face to within inches of the tiny sphere, watching the reflection of his pupil get bigger and bigger, the closer he got. Hopelessly bored, and somewhat blind, he turned off the flashlight, slid his hand under the covers, and fondled his sister's rump.

"Not tonight, we ain't," she said through clenched teeth. "We got lots to do tomorrow. Get some sleep!"

Angus slid out of bed, slipped into a pair of boxers, and ambled toward the door, opening it. A blast of warm air caressed his body. The sensation aroused him. He glanced over his shoulder. His sister was snoring. He pushed open the screen door, sat on the top step, and glanced upward. It was a cloudless night. The moon, just shy of full, cast shadows on the weeds and tall grass that surrounded home sweet home; a fitting salute, perhaps to what would begin at dawn. The thought of finally executing what they had planned brought on a surge of adrenaline. He wouldn't sleep. Unlike his sister, he'd stay up and wait out the darkness.

A slug, slithering toward him on the surface of the step, caught his attention.

"I can kill ya, little fella. But I won't."

He had the urge to pet the small mollusk but decided instead to dabble his finger in the slime that trailed behind it. He brought it to his lips, applying it as a woman would lipstick.

Women. They fascinated Angus. Every curve. Every smell. Every everything. In his next life, he planned on returning as one. He could feel what they feel. Think as they think. God! Even screw as they screw!

He heard a rustling. It was not the willow tree, which was as limp as he was. No, something was pushing through the grass. A deer perhaps. He hoped so. He liked the sound they made just before dying, after he stalked them and twisted their neck, snapping their cervical vertebrae.

There it was again!

The rustling.

Following the example of the snail, he slithered down the rickety steps and began his pursuit, certain his sister wouldn't start their big day without him.

From THE SCREAMING ROOM by Thomas O’Callaghan, Copyright © 2007 Thomas O’Callaghan. Published by arrangement with Pinnacle Books, an imprint of Kensington Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.