Death CrownedChapter 2: Intervention

Rohan slowed the car, eyes searching for a way through the pileup ahead.

“We have to go back,” he said. He slowed to make a U-turn when—BAM! A van slammed into them, spinning the truck. By the time Rohan regained control, it was too late and the rear of his vehicle slammed into the back of another pickup truck. The impact jolted him and he slammed his head into the side window as a thump came from the backseat, followed by swearing.

His ears were ringing.

He had to check on the others. Everything was spinning as if the truck hadn’t stopped.

“Nora,” he asked in a daze. “Are you… okay?”

There was a distant response that sounded like a yes.

Managing to lift his head, he did a visual sweep of the backseat and saw that Tess’s nose was bleeding. She must have banged it on the seat in front of her, but she otherwise looked okay.

Beverly, meanwhile, climbed out of the back of the pickup truck and was holding her wrist, shouting and cursing.

“Hey, hey!” Rohan stumbled out of the truck after her. “What is it?”

“My wrist,” she said, holding it up for him to see. “I braced myself for the impact. I think it’s broken.”

Rohan assessed the wrist—the swelling had already started.

“Getting to a hospital’s not an option right now,” he said.

A loud thud came from the van that had hit them, and a moment later a side door slid open and Rohan recognized the shadow of a man jumping out.

“Hey, why don’t you watch where you’re going?” Rohan shouted, but then he pulled back at the wild look in the man’s eyes.

The man leaped out, eyes darting left and then right, before focusing on Rohan. The guy was humongous. His long hair flowed around his head like a lion’s mane.

“Step away, slowly,” Nora whispered. She and Tess had exited the vehicle and went to stand behind Rohan.

“He’s not an animal,” Beverly said, hopeful. By the look in his eyes, he didn’t seem to know that.

And then he charged.

The bridge seemed to thud with each of his steps, as if a rhino were barreling toward them.

“Run,” Rohan shouted and looked for any sort of weapon he could find. The closest was a busted off side mirror that was hanging from a nearby sedan. He threw it and cringed as it thumped against the man’s head. But the blow only caused the man to stagger momentarily.

Luckily, it was enough to give Beverly the time she needed to get out of harm’s way.

Rohan turned to run, but the large man tackled his legs and Rohan wanted to scream as his knees slammed into the asphalt.

Nora dashed forward and tried to kick the man off Rohan, but each kick just seemed to make him angrier.

Then Rohan saw it—the flash of red in the man’s eyes.

“We’re coming for you, Rohan,” a voice said, deep and guttural, as if from another dimension, even though it was coming from the man’s mouth. “The Six don’t let souls escape so easily.”

“Ain’t gonna happen,” Rohan said as he brought down both elbows on the possessed man’s head.

The blow didn’t faze the man, but it gave Rohan the distraction he’d needed. Nora came at the man with a tire iron and whacked him on the head, putting the man into a daze. Rohan wriggled out from beneath him. Tess brought a pair of jumper cables and the women tied the man’s hands and left him in a slump on the road.

Rohan took the tire iron from where Nora had dropped it, then gave one more good swing.


The man slumped over, out cold.

“That should do it,” Nora said, a bit of sarcasm in her voice.

“Guys,” Tess said, pointing behind them. “Time to go.”

Dozens of people were running in their direction, piling over the wall of cars that led to the freeway. Some staggered as they ran, but others moved fast, some on all fours. Beastly screams filled the night as they came directly toward Rohan and the group, baring their teeth.

Nothing about them looked right.

Rohan staggered back at the realization. “They’re all possessed,” he said, gripping the tire iron tightly.

“What do we do?” Beverly said.

With a quick glance around, Rohan could tell they were screwed. The pickup truck was totaled, and the van was done for. The other cars were piled in one, big, chaotic mess.

“We have to fight.”

“You want us to fight?” Beverly said, with a scoff. She massaged her swollen wrist and looked at the other two. “With what?”

They didn’t have time for bickering, so Rohan just shrugged and took a defensive stance.

A shriek rose from the would-be attackers, but it was followed by another noise. From behind and to their right, just past the wreckage.

“Over here,” someone whispered.

They turned to see a woman with a red bandana around her head, a jacket around her waist, and a pistol in her hands. She looked to be in her late thirties, maybe early forties.

“Wait,” Rohan said, holding up a hand as he glanced between her and the wackos charging them.

“I say we take our chances with her,” Nora said, and then ran over to the woman. The other two followed, with a shrug from Beverly.

One glance back at the wackos showed him that yeah, he’d better go too, so Rohan sprinted after them. When he reached them, the woman was ushering them down a steep bank that led to a forest. They had just reached the tree line when the first of the wackos came vaulting over the side of the road—he was met with a blast from the woman’s pistol that sent him to the ground, writhing.

“Run!” the woman shouted. She took off into the trees with the others close behind.

Everything in Rohan screamed to not run into the woods with a pistol-wielding stranger, but the alternative seemed worse, so he pushed on.

“Your car got smashed up back there too?” he asked between breaths.

“I was on my way back,” the woman said, casting him an annoyed glance. “Don’t worry, we’re close.”

A shriek sounded and they spun to see one of the wackos had Beverly by the leg.

Out of nowhere, more possessed people appeared in the forest. They ran in a mad dash out of the shadows from all directions.

WHACK! Tess knocked a man out with a large stick, then spun and slammed the stick across the face of a woman attacker. The possessed people, seeing her sudden burst of strength, backed away momentarily.

“Women’s softball,” Tess said.

“Very impressive,” the stranger said. “But let’s keep moving.”

As they ran, Rohan could tell his sister was shaken up, but he figured they’d have time to talk about it when they reached a safe spot. He had to focus on protecting her for now, considering the condition of her wrist.

“There!” the woman said, as they came out of the trees and found a road. To the right, a few yards down the road was a church that looked like a log cabin. It had a steeple with a large golden cross, and in the moonlight it looked like something from a Halloween film. A shiver went down Rohan’s back, but he forced himself to keep running.

“A church?” Beverly asked.

“This is the only place people felt safe after everything went to Hell,” the woman said. “A dozen or so of us have set up in there, and I was trying to check on Sammie’s wife at the local hospital, but….”

“You didn’t make it,” Rohan guessed. “You can’t blame yourself for that. We all saw what’s out there.”

“We saw. Doesn’t help Sammie’s wife none though. Come on.” She led them onto the road, this time walking fast but not sprinting. The pistol never left her side. “Name’s Petra, by the way.”

Rohan and the other three introduced themselves, and he told her about the more recent part of their journey—the downed plane. But he left out the part about the spirits looking for him.

A rustling came from their left and Petra spun, pistol raised. Tess stepped forward with her stick like a baseball bat.

“Whoa, whoa!” a man said as he appeared with a woman and young boy at his side. “It’s us, just us!”

Petra lowered the gun and motioned for them to join. “This is little Jacob, then?”

“We found him,” the dad said, an arm wrapped around the boy.

“It was a miracle,” the woman said.

“I told you to stay put,” Petra said, shaking her head. “But I gotta give it to you. Come on. Tell us inside. This is Rohan, Tess, Beverly, and Norma.”

“Nora,” Nora said with a slight irritation.

“Yeah, Nora, like I said.” Petra didn’t even glance back.

“She did say ‘Norma,’ right?” Nora whispered to Rohan.

He nodded, but added, “Does it really matter, given everything else going on?”

Her eyes narrowed and she looked away, but didn’t make anything of it. Rohan realized that might not have been the right response, but it was true—all of this romance stuff that had been going through his head seemed kind of stupid considering the gravity of the situation. Things like whether someone got your name right? Not high on the big deal scale.

They reached the church and Petra opened the door. Instead of entering, she froze there. Her breathing came loud and strained. Rohan was about to ask what was wrong, when she turned back and slammed the door behind her.

“Run,” she said, the color leaving her cheeks.

“What?” Tess was the first to step forward and reach for the door.

But Petra pushed her back and yelled, “Run!” before grabbing Tess by the wrist and pulling her from the doorway.

The door exploded a moment later, splintering out across the parking lot. Rohan covered his face to avoid getting hit, and when he looked up again, he saw a priest in the doorway—or what had once been a priest. The man’s robes hung from bloodied limbs, and half of his face looked like it had been eaten off. His remaining eye glowed a fierce red and locked on Rohan.

“You,” the priest said as he charged.

FROM JUSTIN >>> There we go, a second snippet! The book’s coming in less than 2 weeks, so be prepared for some excitement.