Drummer Boy: A Supernatural Thriller

Drummer Boy: A Supernatural Thriller by Scott Nicholson Read Free Book Online

Book: Drummer Boy: A Supernatural Thriller by Scott Nicholson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Scott Nicholson
with rabies, hell, maybe even a wild, man-eating goat. Stranger things have walked this goddamned mountain.”
    As the two deputies negotiated the stumps, fallen trees, and jagged stones, Perriotte leaving long black strips of mud where his patent-leather shoes dragged, Littlefield climbed the last hundred feet to the slope. The pines, oak, and beech trees at the top of Mulatto Mountain were bleached by acid rain, the limbs jagged and broken from savage winds and ice storms. While the woods below were comforting, the kind that evoked images of cute little chipmunks and dewy-eyed deer, the ridge was raw and bristling, full of sharp edges and broken chunks of granite.
    From the top, which was about a thousand feet in altitude above the valley floor, Littlefield took in the 360-degree view. Titusville spread out in a chaotic grid, the streets squeezed together to accommodate the uneven topography. The main strip was a four-lane boulevard that looked like Anywhere, USA, with a Walmart, Western Steer, Taco Bell, Burger King, Auto Zone and enough different banks to foreclose on half the county. When Littlefield was a boy, the town had been little more than a motel, general store, and a Greyhound bus terminal with a gas station attached. Now Titusville was the biggest town in three counties, evolving into a business park for Realtors, lending institutions, and lawyers, who were basically all hogs at the same trough sucking down the swill of vacation-home owners.
    But not everything was new and glistening with white concrete, glass, and steel. Mulatto Mountain had stood watch over all of it, and its legends had seeped into the dirt and run down the gullies like spring freshets spawned by melting snow. The forest, despite having been logged heavily a century before and now squarely in the sights of a development group, still had a primal feel, as if extinct predators might emerge from cover at any moment and give a hungry grin. Though the town was an hour’s hike away, it might as well have been a thousand miles.
    Littlefield walked the ridge, looking for any signs of recent passage. He found a lump of animal spoor, most likely from a deer, but it was too dried and desiccated to have dropped from Perriotte’s target.
    “He walked on nothing.”
    That didn’t sound much like a deer, either. Being dead didn’t always account for much in Pickett County. The dead could rise up and walk, though not many people remembered the last time it had happened. And those who remembered tended to keep it to themselves.
    He was about to give up and head back to the cruiser when he saw a series of long gouges in the soil. It looked like feet had dragged across the ground and kicked up small piles of leaves. The line of footprints tracked from a deadfall to a fern-pocked cluster of rocks. Littlefield followed the trail, one hand on his pistol, but when he reached the rocks, he saw only a mound of dirt. The footprints had abruptly ended, and no feet were in sight. Nor any face, body, or soul.
    Littlefield knelt and rolled the cool, dark dirt in his hand. If it came to it, how could you fight a mountain and its most sacred and sick secrets?

    Bobby struck a match and held it aloft, the momentary stench of sulfur overpowering the fungal, wet-fur smell of the cave. “You hear that?”
    Vernon Ray nodded, and then realized Bobby couldn’t see his face. They were about twenty feet inside the Hole, and though they could still see the jagged opening and the forest beyond, daylight didn’t penetrate to where they stood. The floor of the cave was uneven and peppered with tiny rocks that glinted in the bobbing flame. Vernon Ray wanted to grab Bobby’s sleeve for comfort, but didn’t want his best friend to think he was a sissy. That’s why he’d entered the Jangling Hole in the first place, despite every cell in his body screaming at him to run.
    The rattling snare had faded a little, as if the drummer were marching deep into the bowels

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