But Agnes Torres knew there would be no answer. Mr. Jeremy wasn't sleeping, not with his charred eyes burned permanently open, the ashy cone of his mouth frozen in a scream and his blackened tongueswelled to the size of a chorizo sausagesticking straight up from it like a flagpole. A sleeping man wouldn't be lying with his elbows raised above the bed, fists clenched so hard that blood had leaked between the fingers. A sleeping man wouldn't have his torso scorched and caved in upon itself like a burned log. She had seen many dead people during her childhood in Colombia, and Mr. Jeremy looked deader than any of them. He was as dead as they come.
She heard someone speaking and realized it was herself, murmuring En el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo . . . She crossed herself yet again, fumbling out her rosary, unable to move her feet or take her eyes from the scene in the room. There was a scorched mark on the floor, right at the foot of the bed: a mark which Agnes recognized.
In that moment, she understood exactly what had happened to Mr. Jeremy Grove.
A muffled cry escaped her throat and she suddenly had the energy to back out of the room and shut the door. She fumbled with the keys and relocked it, all the while murmuring Creo en Dios, Padre todopoderoso, creador del cielo y de la tierra. She crossed herself again and again and again, clutching the rosary and holding it up to her chest as she backed down the hall, step by step, sobs mingling with her mumbled prayers.
The cloven hoofprint burned into the floor told her everything she needed to know. The devil had finally come for Jeremy Grove.
From Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child; chapter 1 (pages 1-5 of the hardcover edition). Copyright © 2004 by Lincoln Child and Splendide Mendax, Inc.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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