Author: Bill Schweigart
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Horror
Fans of Stephen King and Bentley Little will devour The Beast of Barcroft, Bill Schweigart’s brilliant new vision of dark suburban horror. Ben thought he had the neighbor from hell. He didn’t know how right he was. . . .
Ben McKelvie believes he’s moving up in the world when he and his fiancée buy a house in the cushy Washington, D.C., suburb of Barcroft. Instead, he’s moving down--way down—thanks to Madeleine Roux, the crazy neighbor whose vermin-infested property is a permanent eyesore and looming hazard to public health.
First, Ben’s fiancée leaves him; then, his dog dies, apparently killed by a predator drawn into Barcroft by Madeleine’s noxious menagerie. But the worst is yet to come for Ben, for he’s not dealing with any ordinary wild animal. This killer is something much, much worse. Something that couldn’t possibly exist—in this world.
Now, as a devilish creature stalks the locals, Ben resolves to take action. With some grudging assistance from a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the crackpot theories of a self-styled cryptozoologist, he discovers the sinister truth behind the attacks, but knowing the Beast of Barcroft and stopping it are two different animals.
Sunday, November 9
Ben McKelvie watched a survival show on cable from his couch in Arlington, where the host, with an enthusiasm bordering on mania, was trekking across the Serengeti. The host stopped and unzipped his pants, and in his Australian accent said, “In this climate, dehydration can kill you in hours. I’m going to demonstrate how to create a solar still to distill my own urine!”
Ben shook his head at the television. “Oim gonna drink me own yoo-rine, so yew don’t have to.”
Ben’s greyhound lifted his head, one ear folded inside out. He had been sprawled out on the couch, leaving Ben little room, but as soon as he heard his master’s voice, he perked up.
“All right, all right.”
The dog sprang from the couch.
On his way to the back door, Ben passed the small galley kitchen and found the garbage can’s lid tilted up from all the trash. As he pulled the trash bag out and put a new one in, he saw movement through the window. Even in his torpor, his heart quickened. Was it a trick of the meds? He stared across the short distance between his house and the house of his neighbor and waited. Finally, he saw her drawn shades rattle. Then a large rat traversed the windowsill, between the blinds and the closed window. Disgusting, but not surprising. Once he had glanced over while making a cup of tea and spied her through the window, sitting on her couch in her bra, with a plump raccoon waddling across the couch’s back, past her head.
It was hard to believe Madeleine Roux was dead. At thirty-eight, she had been only a few years older than him. It had been sudden. Her porch light was still on, and even in that, she defied the neighborhood. It was orange in color, bathing the façade of her brick home in a dim, eerie glow. Perpetual Halloween. A moment later, an even bigger rat darted past.
He made a face, but Bucky was at his heels. “All right, let’s go.”
The greyhound squeezed between Ben and the door and bolted into the backyard as soon as he was able, nearly knocking Ben over with the trash. Ben cursed at Bucky, but his heart was not in it. The only thing that truly annoyed him anymore was that house.
He stepped out the back door into an unseasonably warm November night. He tried to appreciate it.
The dog ran back and forth along the length of the tall fence, sniffing and barking at whatever vermin still remained in Madeleine’s yard instead of moving into her house. A corner of Ben’s mouth curled upward. Other than filing complaints with the Department of Human Services, the only other weapon he had against the sprawl of filth was Bucky. A counter-irritant. But with Madeleine dead now, it seemed unnecessary. And maybe even cruel.
“All right, Buck. Do your business.”
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