Registry field op Chris Copeland arrives in Hungary on a routine mission: find a sacred spot, lay down a wire grid, and capture a full flask of a god’s energy. But when his arrogant new partner, Shailer, sabotages the wires, things go very, very wrong: the god manifests as a mirror image of Chris himself. Chris quickly destroys the god, and, for the good of the company and his own career, buries the evidence.
Six years later, Shailer is a rising star among the energy industry’s corporate elite, while Chris has taken a break from operations. But when a mysterious serial killer begins stalking Budapest-a psychopath who bears an eerie resemblance to Chris-the operative is forced back into the field.
With the help of Anna Ganz, a brusque, chain-smoking Hungarian detective, Chris tracks the monster across the globe. Only the real danger isn’t a killer on the outside . . . it’s Chris’s treacherous colleagues at the Registry who refuse to acknowledge the terrifying forces they’ve unleashed in the name of profit-forces whose origins lead back to the dawn of man . . . and beyond.
Tim Lees is a British author living in Chicago. His short fiction has appeared in Postscripts, Black Static and Interzone, among many other publications. He is author of the collection, The Life to Come, nominated for a British Fantasy Award, and the novel Frankenstein’s Prescription, described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a philosophically insightful and literary tale of terror.” When not writing, he has held a variety of jobs, including teacher, conference organiser, film extra, and worker in a psychiatric hospital. His blog is www.timlees.wordpress.com.
The God Hunter by Tim Lees – **EXCERPT**
Chapter 1: Field Ops
I was laying cable on the south side of the altar, working by instinct now, rather than planning. There is a point the brain goes quiet and the hands take over. That’s the point I like. I felt the wires grow warm under my fingertips. They pulsed and trembled; once or twice they caught a gleam of color from the windows high above, and then a spark would seem to flash along their length. I’d move them, one way or the other, depending which felt right.
The tools of my profession can be beautiful, seen from a certain angle, in a certain frame of mind.
So when Shailer called, “Watch this!” I didn’t look up straight away. I swung the second braid of wire off to the left, put a loop into the third, then took the fourth and held it for a moment, seeking my next move. I sucked my lower lip. I could have made a guess, and probably have even got it right. But the rhythm had been lost now, and the sense of things was gone.
I turned round slowly, pretty sure I wasn’t going to like what happened next.
Shailer was standing in the aisle. He wore baggy shorts and a long, sloppy T-shirt, which may have been the fashion back at home, but left him with the look of a collapsing tent. He’d put a chalice upside down on his head. It pushed his hair into his face. He grinned at me, waved, and started goose-stepping back and forth for all that he was worth. He raised his right arm. He sieg-heiled gleefully and bellowed in a dreadful German accent:
I told him, “Cut it out.”
“Lebensraum, mein Führer!”
“Cut it out!”
But it was my fault, I suppose, regardless of how inadvertently. Last night I’d tried preparing him. I’d had him watch the newsreels, the old stuff, to get him in the mood, get him acclimatized – given the place we were, the history; a quick reminder of the power of thought en masse. What my old mentor Fredericks, in his pompous way, would no doubt call an Invocation of the Deity, for what that’s worth. Still, I’d been hoping it might resonate, set a few thoughts spinning where there’d probably been precious few before.
Shailer hadn’t seen it that way. No, to Shailer, it had all meant something very different: a bunch of funny-looking guys in funny-looking uniforms doing funny-looking marches, much too long ago, and much too far from home to be of any interest now.
Especially to him.
He put his fingers up under his nose, the other arm still raised in a salute. It was more John Cleese than Hitler, to be honest, and perhaps not even that; more somebody impersonating Cleese, reality a dozen times removed.
I stood up, crossed to him in six quick steps, and slapped him hard across the face.
That got his interest, anyway.
The chalice toppled from his head and clanged onto the floor. The echoes shivered; it was as if the whole church suddenly breathed in, scenting something was amiss within it. The hairs upon my neck began to prickle. I recognized that moment, knew it instantly. I glanced around.
The going can get sensitive at this stage. Things get raw.
Shailer stared at me, shock and disbelief caught in the slack O of his mouth, the water welling in his eyes. Then his shoulders tensed, his fists came up, his eyes went thin and hard. I waited for the rush of anger to die down. I told him, “Be professional.”
His eyes stayed hard.
I said, “You fool around on one of these, then we could both die. You, I don’t much care about. Me, I do.”
His mouth squeezed tight. A muscle flickered in his jaw. I turned my back and walked slowly to the altar, giving him lots of time to jump me if he’d wanted to.
He wanted to, all right.
He didn’t try it.
“Fetch the flask,” I said. I said it in a neutral tone. Business-like. I kept my head down, bending to the work. Footsteps on the stone floor. I heard him coming, closer, closer. He set the flask beside me. It’s a thick metal container, like a strongbox with a socket in the top.
“OK,” I said. “That’s our receptor. Once we’re done, we double seal it, just for luck, and walk away. I’m hoping that it won’t take long.”
He didn’t answer. I was talking to myself. I linked the last few cables, showed him a third time how to do it, carefully explained it all, reciting from the manual. My heart-rate was up. Breathing too. The talking helped to calm me, normalize me once again. I like to stay cool when I’m working; no stray emotions, nothing to latch onto. It’s like a meditative process. I tried to focus on the task, to let that side of my brain come to the fore. Signs were, we’d got a pre-incarnate here. Tricky. Or worse. And Shailer was the last person I wanted with me. All right – to be fair, perhaps it wasn’t his fault he was such an idiot. But if it wasn’t his, I’d really no idea who else to blame.