Sunday, February 21, 2010

Donovan Pike Podcast--Chapter 5

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Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 5

Gemma pressed a button and the screens went dark.

“I’ll call our hanger and have the jet fueled up. It will be ready as soon as we get to the airport,’ she said.

“Slow down a minute,” Pike said. “You left something out.”


“The guys in the chopper. The one you blew up. Remember?”

“I remember,” she said. She dropped the remote on the table and settled back into the chair. She rubbed the bridge of her nose.


“It’s going to sound crazy.”

“I’m back at Ravenscroft,” Pike said. “I expect crazy.”

Gemma smiled for a brief second before her expression grew serious.

“They call themselves ‘The Brotherhood of the First’.”

Pike chuckled. “No, really. Who are they?”

Gemma glared at him. “Those were my people who were killed out there. I’m not joking about this, Donovan.”

“Okay. Sorry. But what does that ‘First’ stuff mean.”

“Apparently the group was formed long ago – we’re talking centuries – by men who believed they were descended from advanced beings who came from the stars to found the world’s great civilizations.”

“O-o-okay,” Pike said. “A secret society full of whack jobs. Got it. Why did they try to kill me?”

“We think they want to keep us away from La Ciudad de los Dioses.”

“So they know where it is?”

“I don’t think so,” Gemma said. “They’ve been looking for it, just like our fathers. Their claim is a little more personal, though. The Brotherhood believes that whatever secrets are hidden within the city belong to them. It’s their birthright.”

“Gemma, how to you know so much about this secret society?”

She smiled again. “First, it’s not so secret. They have a web site. Their headquarters are in London.”

“Anything on that web site about snipers in choppers?”

“Not so much,” she said. “By the way, we both know one of their key people.”


“Felix Coptas.”

That was a name Pike hadn’t heard in many years.

When Pike’s father had joined forces with Gemma’s dad to start the Ravenscroft Foundation, Coptas had been part of the original staff. He was a young man then, tall and skeletal, already balding. He had a neatly-rimmed goatee and he always carried an expensive cane. Pike remembered Coptas accompanying his father on several expeditions. The man was brilliant. He was also devoid of social skills.

“When did he leave here?”

“Five years ago. Maybe six. He thought our fathers weren’t working hard enough to find The City of the Gods.”

“Someone even more obsessed than my old man? Whoa.”

“Hard to believe, I know.”

“Anybody else I know from the other team?”

“Coptas took a couple of our people with him. Simone Brazier, an archeologist, and Jimmy Swift.”

He didn’t know the woman. Swift was a guy about his own age. They’d been friends of a sort back in the day. Swift had worked in security.

Pike stood up. “What about the site in Belize?”

Gemma held up her hand. “Easy. I can handle a few things on my own. We have heavy security in place, thanks to a small donation to the local government. But you’ll see very soon. Ready to go?”

Pike shook his head. “I have to go to my place first.”

Gemma frowned. “The sooner we get there – ”

“I know. We can be wheels up in 90 minutes. But you have to loan me a car.”

She also stood. Pulling a key fob from her pocket, she tossed it to Pike.

“Take mine. It’s out front. We leave in an hour and a half.”

He caught the key. On his way to the door, Gemma spoke his name.

“Are you about to pull another disappearing act?”

“I’ll be there,” he said.

“Welcome back, Donovan.”

“I’m not back,” Pike said.


Gemma’s personal vehicle turned out to be a full-sized Hummer. He drove it with the windows down and the radio off.

It was nearly dusk when he left the island, and the darkness was complete by the time he reached his warehouse 30 miles away.

The structure looked abandoned from the outside. A long and low building, it took up an entire block of property on the harbor. The exterior walls were rusted metal and faded paint. Graffiti artists had tagged their signatures on every available space. The only indication that the facility was not completely forgotten were the numerous sodium vapor lights mounted around the roof of the warehouse.

Pike parked the Hummer at the southern side of the structure. He pressed his right palm against the wall near a steel door. There was a soft click and a panel opened beneath his fingers. Once his handprint was identified, Pike had access to a keypad. He punched in a series of numbers. A second later the door lock disengaged.

The automatic lighting activated as he stepped into a foyer. With one touch, a darkened screen came to life. A colorful display showed him the status of the warehouse – the temperature, feeds from the hidden security cameras and incoming phone and email messages. Other than an update from Pug on the Triton, he ignored everything else.

He passed through a large room containing his cars and collection of classic motorcycles, and headed for the living area.

The room was sparsely furnished. There was a desk, a couch, a television mounted on the wall and a bed. From a closet, he removed a gym bag and tossed it on the bed. He quickly chose a change of clothes and a leather jacket. He stuffed those into the gym bag. Then from a safe in the back of the closet, he produced a M1911 automatic pistol, identical to the gun he had lost in Somalia. He added two full magazines and put it all in the bag.

On his way out Pike paused for a moment to observe the displays from the exterior cameras. He touched part of the screen to reactivate the warehouse’s sophisticated security system.

When he got outside, he put the gym bag in the Hummer. Before he could climb in the vehicle, he heard a sound from behind him.

Pike whirled and saw the shadowed form of a man. For a split second he regretted putting the .45 in the bag, then he launched himself at the man. Pike ducked his head and got his shoulder against his opponent’s chin. Both men went down. The other man swung a large fist into the side of Pike’s head. Pike managed to roll with it, but the impact still stunned him. He fell on his side and scrambled away. He got to his feet in time to see the other man was also standing. The guy was a little taller and heavier than Pike. And maybe a little slower. He rushed Pike and swung another fist. Pike dropped beneath the blow and used his left to jab the other man’s face. His opponent was staggered. With his weight on his back foot, Pike launched a powerful right that landed squarely on the other man’s nose. Pike felt the crush of cartilage collapsing under his knuckles. The mystery man crumpled to the parking lot.

Pike stepped back. His breathing was calm and even. The other man had fallen within a halo of illumination from the overhead lights.

Pike recognized him.

“Jimmy Swift?”

Swift rolled onto his stomach and got to his knees. It took several shaky seconds for him to stand. He leaned against the Hummer. Blood and mucus dripped from his nose. Otherwise, he looked like the guy Pike had known years ago.

“Jesus, Pike. Most people shake hands. Or do a fist bump.”

“I save my fists for assholes who sneak up on me,” Pike said. “How’s the nose?”

“Broken. Again.” Swift touched the flattened lump and flinched. “I wasn’t sneaking up on you. I was doing you a favor.”

“I’ve seen the favors you and your buddies hand out.”

“The sniper wasn’t my idea, man. And they don’t know I’m here.”

“Why are you here?”

“To give you a heads up. You were always a solid guy, even for the kid of one of the bosses. So I thought you deserved to know.”

“Know what?”

“There’s a traitor inside Ravenscroft. Everything they do, we know about.”

Pike took a menacing step forward.

“Who is it?”

Swift covered his broken nose.

“I don’t know. I’m just muscle. I came here to tell you to bail on this.”

Pike started to speak, but Swift raised a hand to stop him.

“I know you won’t. You were always hard-headed and I guess that hasn’t changed. So I’ll tell you this: watch your back.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Brotherhood has found something. Something bad. It’s too much for me, man. I’m getting out. I just came over with Coptas because of the money.”

“What did they find?”

Swift shook his head, thought better of it, and gingerly touched his nose again.

“I don’t know. The Brotherhood is big, you know, and they like their secrets.”

“So come back and help us, Jimmy,” Pike said.

“‘Us’? You and Germma back together again?” Swift laughed. “Aw, man, that’s too funny.”

“The offer still stands.”

“No thanks. I’m done. I’m going to find some pissant part of the world and do some soldiering. Or maybe I’ll re-up with Uncle Sam. It would be safer than the shit you’re about to get into. Be careful, Pike.”

Swift turned and walked away into the night.

To be Continued

© Mark Justice 2010

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Donovan Pike Podcast--Chapter 4

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Donovan Pike and The City of the Gods--Chapter 4

The heat of the Florida afternoon and the stench of burning fuel were instantly replaced by the cool air in the foyer of the building.

“Who were those guys, Gemma?” Pike said.

Walking beside him, Gemma smiled. “That is part of the story I’ll get to in a minute.”

“Should I set aside some time to talk to the cops?”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s being handled.”

Ravenscroft Island was officially part of one of the coastal counties. The county Sheriff was an old family friend, and the Ravenscrofts had been very generous to the department and to the Sheriff’s reelection campaigns. Pike knew it was likely he would never speak to anyone in law enforcement regarding the helicopter attack.

When you were with the Ravenscrofts, the rules went out the window And a whole new set of rules came into play.

Ravenscroft rules.

It was one of the reasons he had left. He had moved out years ago, and he hadn’t been back since his father had disappeared with Gemma’s dad in 2008.

Gemma pushed through a door and they entered a room that looked roughly the size of a football field.

“Didn’t this used to be an apartment building?”

“You know it did,” Gemma said. “And you haven’t forgotten the way we celebrated your 16th birthday in my room.”

Pike’s face grew hot. Damn her. Gemma was the only woman who could get to him like this, thanks to their shared history.

“Anyway,” she said with a smile, “we built a new residential building a couple of years back. This is now the headquarters of Special Projects.”

“Special Projects? What’s that mean?”

“Whatever the Director of Special Projects says it does.”

“And the director is....?”

Gemma bowed. “At your service, Mr. Pike.”

She tossed the RPG tube onto a ceramic counter.

At the far end of the room, a small group was seated around a computer workstation.

“People, we need the room for a bit. Head down to the coffee shop and have a latte on me.

The group didn’t seem to find the request to be an imposition. They exited the room smiling and laughing.

“Coffee shop?” Pike said.

“Happy workers are productive workers. By the way, I could use a cup. You?”

The adrenaline rush was wearing off, and Pike realized he was tired from the hours spent traveling.

“Okay. But none of that fancy stuff. I want a cup of coffee. Black.”

Gemma simply stared at him.

“What?” he said.

“You always were the oddest mix of a kid and a grumpy old man.” She picked up a phone and spoke softly into it. “Okay, it’s on the way. Now grab a seat.” She pointed at a number of comfortable-looking leather chairs in the center of the room.

Pike sat down, sinking into the soft material. If the coffee didn’t arrive soon he would probably be asleep before Gemma could tell him what this whole thing was about. He sat up straight and studied the vast room. Computer workstations were prominent at both ends of the room. A number of cubicles were set up against one wall. Another wall held the largest television screen he had ever seen outside of a sports stadium.

A much smaller screen sat on the coffee table in front of him. Gemma plopped down in an adjacent chair.

“Comfy, right? I tried to have a staff meeting right here once, and three of my people dozed off.”

“I didn’t come all this way to talk about your furniture.”

A young man entered the room carrying a tray. He sat two thick white mugs in front of them and departed.

Pike took a sip of the hot coffee. It was strong and black. Perfect. Apparently explosives wasn’t the only thing they could get right.

Gemma ignored her beverage. She produced a small device that looked like a combination of a cell phone and a TV remote control.

“Okay, it’s time to pay attention. What do you remember about La Ciudad de los Dioses?”

Pike shrugged. “What’s to know? It’s a myth. A fairy tale. And the people who do believe in it need a check up from the neck up.”

‘Same old Donovan,” Gemma said. ‘Those people, of course, include your father and my father.”

Pike nodded.

“The story goes that long ago, say a couple of thousand years, strange visitors from the sky appeared to a tribe of Mesoamericans. The visitors built an amazing city filed with magical devices. The visitors and the natives lived in harmony for a hundred years, until they were attacked, either by a larger tribe or another group of sky people. Or both. It’s not clear. The original visitors eventually triumphed, but they knew they could never find let down their guard here. So they hid the city and left, promising to return one day when peace had been achieved. We don’t know if they meant peace among the natives or peace among the sky people.”

Pike snorted. “Isn’t that the plot of George Lucas’s next movie?”

Gemma continued. “We find references to the city from many Mesoamerican civilizations.”

She pushed a button on her remote. On the table, the screen lit up with a series of images, all carvings from Mesoamerican artifacts.

‘Okay,” Pike said, “so the Olemc, the Maya, the Aztecs and the other bloodthirsty pyramid builders share a common mythology. Why is that news?”

“Because of this.”

Another image appeared on the screen.

The scene was the interior of an ancient chamber. The carvings on the wall were definitely Mayan.

“Do you know El Castillo in Belize?” Gemma said.

“Yeah. I was there once. In my college days.” He remembered the large pyramid in the center of the archeological site, and how amazingly precise the workmanship had been.

“You may not have heard about the new find. A temple hidden beneath the pyramid. That’s what you’re looking at.”


“So let me give you a closer view of it.”

She tapped the small device. The picture on the table top screen changed, and the large monitor on the wall also came to life.

“Check out the wall screen.”

The display showed Mayan carvings of a half dozen tubular shapes above a pyramid.

“It’s more Chariots of the Gods stuff,” Pike said.

“This is the southwest corner of the chamber. Now look at the bottom right quadrant of the photograph.”

Pike did. There was something different. It was a drawing, not a carving.

“Do you have a closer view?”

Gemma tapped the remote again, and the massive screen was filled with the drawing.

It looked like black paint or a grease pencil. Maybe even a Sharpie.

The image was a circle. In the center of it was an arrow or clock hand in the twelve o’clock position.

But that wasn’t what amazed Pike.

Beneath the circle were a few letters and numbers.

BR JP 2009.

Pike couldn’t speak.

“That shut you up,” Gemma said. Her voice was tight.

BR. Bela Ravenscroft.

JP. Jonathan Pike.

And 2009...

“They were alive,” he finally managed to say. “A year ago, they were still alive.”

“I know you’ve been traveling all day,” Gemma said. “But do you feel like a trip to Belize?”

To be Continued

© Mark Justice 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Dead Sheriff

Western Dime Novel Tradition Resurrected with New Supernatural Series, 'The Dead Sheriff'

Evileye Books signs horror writer, Mark Justice, to multi-book deal, who will produce both prose fiction and graphic novels. The first comics series will debut in April, followed by book one of the prose line in fall 2010.

Western Dime Novel Tradition Resurrected with New Supernatural   Series, 'TheDead Sheriff' Chicago, IL, February 03, 2010 --( As the saying goes, there's a new sheriff in town.

A walking dead one.

According to legend, The Dead Sheriff was a lawman forced to watch the murders of his family before he was killed. His need for vengeance would not allow him to rest, and he rose from the grave to avenge himself upon his killers. Now he travels across the west, dispensing justice for those in need and sending the wicked to their graves.

He can never return to the grave until the western frontier is free of evil and tyranny.

The reality, however, is a little different….

So goes the premise of horror writer Mark Justice's new supernatural western tales of The Dead Sheriff, a multi-book series of fiction stories with echoes of the pulp and dime adventure novels of the old west.

"The Dead Sheriff stories bring together a few of my interests," said Mark Justice. "I love old pulp western novels and comics, and as a horror writer, it was only a matter of time before I came around to writing a story that blends cowboys and monsters."

Mr. Justice continues, "but I also wanted to explore the stereotypes and metaphors that are tried and true in the classic western tale. Take the hero figure of almost every western since the fifties. The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood—all cut the brave, stoic loner against the world. What if the hero wasn't so pretty? What if he was not so lovable? And what of the sidekick: always silent, loyal, not much more than a talking door stop. What if there was more to Tonto, for example, than he ever let on? What? Tonto with an agenda? Most people would say that's absurd and it goes against the literary figure we have come to love. But that's exactly the kind of default characters and symbolism I want to challenge and explore in the series."

The Dead Sheriff combines elements of the supernatural, humor and adventure in a framework that models the adventure dime novels popularized as early as 1860: taking real events or people of the western frontier and embellishing them for the entertainment of the masses. The pioneer, and perhaps most famous dime novels depicting high adventures of the Frontier, were the Beadle's Dime Novels, a series which ran an astounding 321 issues before the dime novel format gave way to an emerging format in the 1920s, the magazine.

"The wonderful thing about The Dead Sheriff," said Evileye Books Editorial Director, A.N. Ommus, "is that at first you're just delighted it's a fun mash-up of popular genres. But then, as you dig into the tradition of the western dime novels, you realize the outlandish potboiler stories—even the format—are the precursors to the modern magazine and comics formats. With The Dead Sheriff, we want to resurrect, as it were, the dime novel tradition and honor its contribution to both fiction and comics."

Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Justice will write a series of graphic novels in the style of the Sunday comics of the thirties and forties, the first of which will debut this April as a series of weekly webcomics on the upcoming Evileye Books Online Reader.

Debuting later this year, the first prose book, The Dead Sheriff: Zombie Damnation, will be published in a similar format to the original dime novels of the nineteenth century.

About Mark Justice

Mark Justice is the author of Deadneck Hootenanny and Dead Earth: The Green Dawn (with David T. Wilbanks). His short fiction has appeared in Damned Nation, In Laymon's Terms, Legends of the Mountain State 1,2 & 3, The Horror Library Vol. 2 & 3, The Avenger Chronicles, Dark Discoveries and many other anthologies and magazines. Mr. Justice edits Story Station, an online Young Adult fiction magazine. He also produces and hosts the popular genre podcast Pod of Horror. His next novel, Dead Earth: The Vengeance Road (with David T. Wilbanks) will be published in 2010 by Permuted Press and his first story collection Looking at the World with Broken Glass in My Eye will appear from Graveside Tales in 2010, as well. He also hosts a morning radio show in Kentucky, where he lives with his wife and cats.

About Evileye Books

Evileye Books, an imprint of Pul+Pixel Entertainment Co., publishes crime, horror, dark fantasy, science fiction and other speculative genres in the spaces of prose and graphic novels.

They are publishers of Bram Stoker Award Winner Mike Oliveri's new supernatural thriller series, "The Pack"; Cullen Bunn and Shawn Lee's dark fantasy series, "Raze"; John Urbancik's supernatural noir series, "DarkWalker"; among others.

Pulp+Pixel Entertainment Co. is an intellectual property rights management company.