Photo by Thomas Burchfield; wood sculpture by John Radostain

Friday, September 16, 2016

"Now Speaks the Devil": An excerpt from Ambler House's Newest Publication!

“I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore as wise as serpents and harmless as doves”—Matthew 10:16



JADE RENO, a neon peacock riding a three-wheeled motorcycle and sporting the loudest, ugliest sunglasses made by man, cruises down the dark city street. He parks neatly at the curb and powers his bike down. But just as he hops off, he freezes.

A COP CAR cruises by. Jade warily watches it as he locks up the bike. Much as he loves attention, he fears the police. His cool returns as the cop car disappears around a corner. Then, swinging his skinny arms, Jade struts into a small, dumpy coffee shop.


The café is fly-strewn and nearly empty. Jade slides into a booth by the window, glances at his wristwatch, looks around as though expecting someone.

A WAITRESS steps up to take his order.

JADE: Coffee, babe.

She scribbles the order and leaves. Jade looks over his shoulder, out the window.

Outside, the Cop Car circles again. The same one? A new one?

Jade sighs nervously, turns back . . . and jumps three feet in the air.

Across the table sits THORNTON, as though conjured out of thin air—cold and coiled like a snake, graceful, hungry and patient as a spider.

JADE: Shit n’ Jesus! Thornton. (He swallows) They sent you.

Thornton smiles thinly. The Waitress brings Jade’s coffee, looks fearfully at Thornton. Jade waves her away. She exits.

THORNTON:  We got word you got business, Jade.

JADE (nervous laugh): You betcha.

Thornton nods: keep talking.

JADE: Snow, big bags it. The best! Sprinkle it on your corn flakes–

THORNTON: How big?

JADE: Three bags, ten el-beez each–

THORNTON: Price?                         

JADE: Two mil.

THORNTON (a nod and a smile): So: We give you the money, you fetch the goods.

JADE:  That’s how it’s done, pops! I ain’t lettin’ you see my main man. You’d cut me out.

He foolishly reaches over to grip Thornton’s arm.

JADE: Hey man, we’ll all be poppin’ like popcorn on this deal.

Thornton’s thin smile vanishes. Not a nice thing to see. Jade pulls away, tries to placate him.

JADE: Hey whoa! Don’t worry! You can trust me!

THORNTON (very drily): Sure, Jade. I trust any fool wearin’ sunglasses at night.

JADE: Two mil, dude. You need it, I can see that fine nose twitchin’.

THORNTON: That’s because I smell shit. But it’s not my deal. I’m only a consultant. We’re going ahead.

JADE: Great!

THORNTON: But you know what’ll happen if you screw up?

Jade frowns, waiting for the answer.

Thornton calmly reaches over and snaps one of Jade’s fingers like a stick.

Jade leaps up, cries out, shakes his hand, tucks it into his armpit, collapses back in his seat.

JADE: Man, you a cold motherfucker . . . .

THORNTON: Cold? (He thinks it over, shakes his head.) Not really. (His smile returns.) I like my work. (He leans in with a cruel glare.) When?

JADE: Monday night. Around nine. Where I find you?

THORNTON: Cecil Hotel. Seven o’clock. Ask for . . . Luke Oliver.

Jade nods, removes his sunglasses, rubs his eyes with exhaustion. When he opens them, Thornton has vanished. Jade looks around confused, then takes a napkin, pulls out a pen and painfully writes down the appointment.


A birthday party on a sunny day in the backyard of a small middle-class house in a hilly and safe middle-class neighborhood. Adults are soundly in the minority here. It’s the CHILDREN who rule as they noisily swirl and dance around picnic tables, a swing set, a sand box. a gym set and a makeshift stage.

At the center of all this hub-bub stands CHIP ADAMS: late-thirties in body, still a boy in mind and soul. Sporting the top hat and tails of an old-time magician, he holds up a pair of sparklers for an audience of KIDS. The sparklers sputter out. Then pink carnations pop out of both of them. The Children cheer and applaud.

Chip’s FAMILY stands watching nearby:

RUTH, his lovely and gentle wife.

BUD, their six-year-old boy, a little pale and thin.

MARY, their thirteen-year-old daughter, spunky, athletic, smart.

Alongside them stands the REVEREND JOSEPH JAMES AKA DR. JOE, charismatic, confident, and more than a little pompous.

Chip now pulls out a Magic Money roll, a magic trick resembling a cigarette roller. He holds up a play ten-dollar bill for everyone to see.

CHIP: Watch this!

He feeds it into the roller and out comes a real ten-dollar bill.

Again, the Kids laugh and applaud. Chip hands the ten bucks to a LITTLE BOY.

CHIP: That’s all for you.

Ruth winces. Mary sighs. Dr. Joe rolls his eyes at heaven. It seems Chip is not very good with money.


Mary, now dressed in spangly tights, cartwheels across the lawn. Her cartwheels turn to handsprings, as she springs up onto a small stage where Chip stands in his top hat and tails. At the back of the stage stands a small closet.

CHIP: Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and girls! Magic Jack, the Magic Master, will cause this lovely young lady to be transformed before your very eyes!

Mary curtsies, enters the closet, closes the red curtain behind her. Chip taps the closet with his wand and chants.

CHIP: Magic Jack who has no peer, will make this girl dis . . . appear!

He yanks open the curtain. Mary has vanished. Cheers and applause. Chip bows, closes the curtain and taps the closet.

CHIP: Hurry! Hurry Magic Jack! Find that girl and bring her back!

He pulls the curtain open. Mary reappears now wearing a cheerleader’s outfit. More cheers and applause as Chip and Mary bow, hand-in-hand, smiling and waving.


Chip, wearing a party hat, stands grinning over a candle-studded birthday cake, with Bud in his arms and Ruth and Mary either side of him. Everyone sings “Happy Birthday.”

PARTY GUESTS (singing): Happy Birthday, dear Chiii-ip! Happy Birthday to you!

Chip and Bud take deep breaths and blow out the candles.

BUD: Happy birthday, Daddy!

RUTH: Happy birthday, Chip!

[If you enjoyed this excerpt, Now Speaks the Devil can be purchased in its entirety on Amazon, Kobo, B&N and all e-books retailers. Thanks!

Thomas Burchfield’s latest (yet to be published) novel is Butchertown, a ripping, 1920s gangster shoot-‘em-up. He is also the author of the contemporary Dracula novel Dragon's Ark, winner of the IPPY, NIEA, and Halloween Book festival awards for horror in 2012. He’s also author of the original screenplays Whackers, The Uglies, Now Speaks the Devil and Dracula: A Tale of Power. (e-book editions only). Published by Ambler House Publishing, all are available at Amazon in various editions. You can also find his work online at Barnes and Noble,  Powell's Books, and Scribed. He also “friends” on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, reads at Goodreads and drinks at various bars around the East Bay. You can also join his e-mail list via tbdeluxe [at] sbcglobal [dot] net. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Elizabeth.]

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