So, figuring out a release date for The Walker on the Hills has been difficult, largely thanks to real life slowing down my productivity, but since I’ve been able to adjust and get back in the swing of things, I can now announce that it will be out on December 15th. Not only that, but in the last 24 hours, we’ve gotten the cover design nailed down, and so I’ve been able to get the pre-order set up. You can find the Kindle pre-order here. And here’s the cover:
They didn’t lead us to the sheriff’s department, as I’d halfway been expecting. Instead, we headed back toward the interstate, and pulled off in the truck stop at the exit. Craig parked the cruiser back by the semis, then got out and waited. I looked over at Eryn, shrugged, and got out to go join him. He was leaning against the hood of the cruiser, his arms crossed in front of him. “What do you know about Chrystal Meek?” he asked as I walked up to him. I shook my head. “Bupkis,” I told him. “She’s a name that Blake gave us to find if we couldn’t meet up with him. That’s all we know.” Craig frowned, looking down at the asphalt as if to gather his thoughts. “Chrystal’s…well, she’s been through a lot. I’d almost say she’s the one decent person in that blight of a town. A lot of people have tried to get her to leave, but she’s always been the type to say that it’s her home, that she can’t leave, you know? She’s stayed for her mom. Lord knows why. Her mom’s an abusive addict, nobody knows who her dad was, and she’s had a
It was a long drive to Coldwell, and we didn’t get started until late, so it was getting dark as we drove into town. Perhaps not the most auspicious beginning.
The town itself was set well back from the interstate, a good five miles down a winding county road. It had apparently been on the old highway, before the interstate, and was still hanging on, even though there wasn’t much to keep it alive. There weren’t even many farms in the vicinity, though a sign just as we turned off the interstate, lit up by our headlights, announced the presence of the Bar-13 ranch, about ten miles in the other direction.
Mostly it was five miles of rolling hills, sagebrush, bunchgrass, and the occasional stand of trees in the low ground where there was more water. The trees were already clumps of darkness against the grasslands that were already going gray in the growing twilight.
There weren’t a lot of lights on in Coldwell. There was a gas station on the edge of town. As I got a good look at it, I thought Ray had been rather overly charitable in calling it a “truck stop.” The pumps were ancient and rusty, and the building behind them was dingy, the paint peeling where it wasn’t dirty enough to turn from white to gray. It looked like the windows hadn’t been cleaned in a quarter century at least. At least the lights over the pumps were on, though the building itself was dark.
Only about three streetlights were lit down the main drag. They didn’t help. All they seemed to do was show the decay. Sidewalks were overgrown with weeds, and more were growing out of cracks in the street. Several of the old storefronts were boarded up, and one was visibly sagging toward the street. Another was burned out, black sweeps of soot staining the dingy paint as well as the buildings closest to it.
It wasn’t that late, so there were still a few people out and about, but most towns I’d been in still showed more activity. The place almost looked like a ghost town, with a few scavengers still going through the detritus. But it was still, as far as we knew, a living town, albeit for certain values of “living.”
Gravel crunched under my truck’s tires as we rolled up Ray’s long driveway in the dying light of the next day. Eryn was half asleep in the passenger seat, her head lolling against the window. It had been a long day. There had been a lot of questions in the Forth Police Department. A lot. And no surprise, really. They had a missing kid, bleached human bones, a weird pile of ash and greasy rags, three very traumatized teenagers, gunshots, and two people from out of town who weren’t terribly forthcoming as to what they were doing there with the kids or what they’d been shooting at. Any cop worth his or her salt would be inclined to throw everybody in jail until they had answers. Fortunately, we were saved a lot of time and heartburn by a curious side-effect of the hag’s spell. While the kids had appeared comatose, they were in fact completely aware of their surroundings the entire time. Hags are cruel creatures.
Eryn sniffed the air as we stepped inside the entryway. “Do you smell that?” she asked. I couldn’t very well have missed it. The stench, like a mix of mold, formaldehyde, and rotten eggs, had slapped me in the face as soon as we’d opened the door. “Oh, yeah,” I said. “Hag. Crap.” I took a deep breath, redolent of the stink, and steeled myself as I closed the creaky door behind us. “I just hope it hasn’t fed yet.” The house could have been on a “Haunted Houses R Us” poster. Three stories, abandoned, with the porch sagging off the front of the house, all the paint peeling off, and not an unbroken window in sight, it was, of course, a prime attraction for the teenagers in Forth. The locals had stopped even bothering to try to lock the place up, since every padlock they put on the door ended up getting cut off with bolt cutters. Even if it hadn’t, the ground floor windows didn’t have any glass in them, so there really wasn’t any keeping people out, without putting a 24/7 guard on the place. Eryn and I had gotten the call about this one because there
Nightmares is almost out. I approved the paperback proof just now, and the pre-orders for the ebooks are up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. Signed paperbacks are available for pre-order as well, and will ship by January 26.