A golem created to assassinate a criminal in 1856 is reawakened in the present … intent on targeting his victim’s innocent descendants.
When treasure hunters excavate the long-lost wreck of the steamship Arcadia from a Kansas cornfield, a buried creature awakens – a mindless assassin of accursed earth, shaped like a man though in no way mortal, created to kill a slave trader in 1856.
With the original target long dead, the monster sets its sight on the man’s closest surviving descendant . . . a burned-out IT technician named Ben Middleton. Nothing could have prepared Ben for the horror now aimed directly at his lackadaisical life. But he isn’t only being chased by the monster, and it’s not just his own life in danger.
Ben must pull himself together to not only save himself, but his estranged teenage son, Charley. Yet who are the mysterious people chasing him, and how do you stop a 150-year-old monster with no ‘Off’ switch?
|Publisher:||Severn House Publishers|
|Edition description:||First World Publication|
|Product dimensions:||5.55(w) x 8.74(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Sean Doolittle won the Barry Award in 2007 for The Cleanup and the ITW Thriller Award in 2013 for Lake Country, and has four other novels under his belt. He lives in western Iowa with his family Kill Monster is his first novel to be published with Severn House.
Read an Excerpt
Ben Middleton mistimed his post-lunch flatulence so that the odor had already begun to rise up around him well before the department printer had finished spitting out his pages. It was no place for a person to be standing. Naturally, the new girl from marketing chose that moment to pop around the corner and into the supply alcove.
'Oh, hey,' she said. She had a vaguely aquiline nose, the tiniest glint of a stud in one nostril, and the greatest crooked smile. Then her nose twitched. A slight frown crinkled her brow.
Ben leaped into his side of the conversation too quickly. 'Hey, how's it going? Settling in?' Stop talking, he thought. Run. 'Did Ajeet get all your graphics stuff installed?'
'He did, thanks. Thirty.'
'Ajeet told me you wondered how old I was. I figured you must be shy, so I'm telling you: I'm thirty.'
Note to self, Ben thought. Murder Ajeet Mallipudi with bare hands. Meanwhile, the way she was hanging around to chat confused him. And her expression now seemed at ease again. Maybe she really hadn't noticed anything unpleasant?
'Anabeth, right?' He'd set up all her new-hire accounts before she'd started. Anabeth Glass. 'Do you go by Ana, or Beth, or ...'
'I prefer Anabeth, actually. Or Abe.'
'People call you Abe?'
'People I like. Which I guess is most people.'
'I'll call you Anabeth until I know I'm safe, then.'
'Ha. You can call me Abe.'
'Middleton, yeah. Ajeet said you set up my network account.'
'Speaking of which, I think I forgot to lock my workstation when I left my desk. I'll come back. See you around, Ben.'
Another thing he liked about her smile: her eyes.
See ya, Abe, he started to say, but she was already half-gone. As she rounded the corner, Ben glimpsed her raising a hand. At first he thought she was waving goodbye to him. Then he realized that she was blocking her own nostrils with the back of her index finger. He was pretty sure he heard a light gasp.
Good God. It wasn't me! he wanted to call after her. Somebody else must have been here first!
Then he noticed that the printer had stopped whirring. All done.
Ben sighed, scooped his performance appraisal out of the paper tray, and continued on to his manager's office. What the hell, he thought. Might as well get it over with, as long as he was on a roll.
'Look, your work isn't the problem,' Corby McLaren said. 'We both know your ticket stats are rock solid, and people seem to like the way you carry yourself. You don't make them feel stupid like the others do.'
'Uh huh,' Ben said, only half-listening. He was thinking about Anabeth Glass and the fact that, at thirty years of age, she was fewer than ten years younger than him. That meant that he was still – at least for a little while longer – within the numeric decade of a person who struck him as cool and interesting. It was almost enough to cheer him up a little.
'Don't get me wrong. The other guys, they can fix a server.' McLaren, who was five years Ben's junior himself, seemed to wish that he didn't have to be the one explaining all this again. 'They could probably build their own space shuttle if they wanted to. The point is, they look down on everybody.'
'It's not completely their fault. Life hasn't kicked any of them in the balls yet, not really. That's why simple human manners are beyond them.'
'If you say so.'
McLaren pointed with his pen. 'That's also why I need you to be more of a leader out there.'
'Because I've been kicked in the balls by life?'
'Because when you say things, they listen,' McLaren said. 'They look up to you.'
Ben laughed before he could stop himself. 'Corby, if you think any of those guys wants to be where I am when they're pushing forty, you're high.'
'I said they looked up to you. I didn't say they wanted to be you.'
'I guess you didn't.'
'Nobody in their right mind wants to be you.'
'Thanks, I get it.'
'I don't think you do,' McLaren said. 'That's my whole point. You keep on doing 1- or 2-level work, yet for the second quarter in a row, I've had to rate you as a 5. Why the heck is that? In your opinion.'
'Because you insist on ranking a five-person team 1 through 5?'
'It's not ranking, it's rating.'
'Not when you give us all a different number, it isn't.'
'Now, that comes straight from corporate.' Corby showed Ben his palms. 'Company mandate. My hands are tied. You know that.'
What did your boss rank you? Ben thought. But he only said, 'Sure, Corby. I know.'
'Because I'm not being a good leader.'
Now it was McLaren's turn to laugh. 'You're not even being a good follower. You never turn in your time sheets. Each and every week I have to remind you to submit your activity reports. You come in late, you take long lunches, and I don't think I've heard you speak up at a staff meeting in six weeks. You even missed your quarterly review.'
'What are you talking about? I'm right here.'
'This meeting was scheduled for yesterday!'
'Oh.' After an awkward beat, Ben added, 'Sorry about that.'
Corby McLaren took a long, slow breath through the nose. 'Listen. I'm not saying I'm in love with the way things are right now. But you've been to the town hall meetings. You understand the challenges we're facing as a company these days.'
'Sure,' Ben lied. 'I get it.' The truth was, he'd worked here nearly two years and still didn't completely understand what the company did or made. Mostly he just reset people's passwords and made sure their email worked. It was a paycheck, and one he sorely needed, but that didn't make it any easier to pay attention to what all went on here.
'Let me bottom-line this for you.' McLaren pushed a piece of paper across the desk. 'In case you haven't been doing the math, you're basically hosed at this point. But if you can find a way to finish Q4 with a 1-rating, that'll average you out to 3.75 for the year, and I'll be able to go to bat for you with corporate. Anything less than a 1?'
McLaren held up his hands again, as if to indicate that Ben's fate would officially be out of them.
Ben nodded at the paper in front of him. 'What's this?'
'That's your growth plan.'
'Consider it a good-faith agreement,' McLaren said. 'Read it over, then sign at the bottom to indicate your understanding that, as of today's review, you're officially on notice. The requirements are spelled out in the bullet points.'
Ben pretended to read the bullet points. 'I see.'
'Again, this doesn't come from me – this is directly from corporate. But I have to tell you straight up, face-to-face, one grown man to another: we're not talking about the difference between riding the bench and starting varsity, here.'
McLaren extended an imploring grimace. 'Are you taking my meaning, Ben, or do I have to say it out loud?'
'Nope, I got it. In order to keep paying my bills, all I have to do is sign this piece of paper, then climb over four other guys until I'm a 1 and somebody else is a 5. Then, next quarter, the five of us do it all over again, making it easier for you guys to identify who gets it in the neck the next time layoffs come around.'
McLaren sighed. 'I suppose that's one way of looking at it.'
'Can I take this with me?' Ben picked up the sheet. 'I'd like my legal team to review the bullet points.'
'Oh, be my guest.' Sitting there on his side of the desk, Corby McLaren looked so defeated that Ben almost felt sorry for him. On the other hand: what a crock of horseshit.
As Ben rose to leave, Corby tilted his head wearily and said, 'I'm trying to help, you know. You really do seem to be your own worst enemy.'
'My ex-wife would agree with you one hundred percent,' Ben said. 'But don't forget the bright side.'
'At least my work isn't the problem.'
'Ben,' a voice behind him called. 'Ben! Hey. Wait up.'
Ben looked over his shoulder to find Ajeet Mallipudi hustling toward him. He walked faster.
'Slow down. My legs are shorter than yours.'
'The answer is no.'
Ajeet pulled up alongside him. 'But I didn't even ask you anything.'
'It's still no. I don't want you nerds trampling all over my property all weekend.'
'But we want you to trample around with us.'
'Are you kidding? That's my best time to be away from you people.' Ben glanced at him. 'And I know you sold me out to Anabeth, by the way. Thanks a lot, Jeeter.'
'The new girl. From marketing.'
'You mean Abe? You're quite welcome. She's awesome.'
'How do you know she's awesome?'
'She joined our Halo team. We finally smoked those goofs at Facebook.' Ajeet nodded rapidly. 'She's designing us tshirts.'
'I swear I'm living my life all wrong.'
'She's coming too, by the way.'
'What do you mean?'
Ben stopped walking. 'What. To your paintball thing?'
'She was totally and immediately down for it.'
'That is, if we had a place to do paintball.' Now puppy eyes.
It drove Ben crazy to find himself rethinking this all of a sudden. He had absolutely no business concerning himself with Anabeth Glass.
'All right, fine,' he said. 'You can do it at my place. One condition.'
Ajeet pumped his fist. 'Name it, bossman.'
'First thing Monday, all you guys have to email McLaren and tell him in writing what a super team-building exercise this was. And how the whole thing was my idea.'
By four o'clock, Ben had a headache that started at the base of his skull, vined up around his ears, burrowed in through his temples, and attached itself to his eyeballs. At four fifty-nine, he packed up his stuff and endured a hero's farewell from Ajeet and his other workmates in First Floor IT. At seven minutes past five, he turned around and went all the way back to lock his workstation – one of McLaren's numerous bullet points. Finally, at five thirteen, he said goodnight to Gary at the security desk.
'You have a good night, Benjamin,' Gary said, then snapped his fingers. 'Almost forgot. There was somebody here asking for you.'
'Me?' Ben didn't mind stepping out of the stream of quitting-time foot traffic. He liked Gary, a retired EMT and former barman who had continued to work part-time into his seventies. Gary told great stories and could greet every person in the building by name. From memory. He said he liked the exercise. 'When was this?'
'Around two this afternoon,' Gary said. 'I tried to leave you a message, but your voice mail was full. Email too.'
Crap. Two more of McLaren's bullet points. 'Was her name Christine?'
'It was a him, and he wouldn't give me his name. I sent him packin'.'
'What did he look like?'
'Come on around, I'll show you.'
Ben stepped through the hinged counter into the control area. He looked over Gary's shoulder at the monitor bank. Gary pecked out a time code on his keyboard, twiddled the cue knob on the deck, then pointed to the lobby feed, which now displayed a frame of frozen video.
On screen, a young man stood on the other side of the desk, gesticulating to a three-hours-younger version of Gary. The stranger – probably mid-twenties, somewhere around Jeeter's age – wore white canvas sneakers, cuffed jeans, and a messenger bag cross-slung on one shoulder. His dark curly hair poked out from beneath a White Sox cap.
'Hmm,' Ben said.
'Friend of yours?'
'Nope.' He didn't mention to Gary that he'd seen this guy exactly three times in his life: once this morning, at Caribou Coffee; again at the sandwich place where he'd picked up a meatball sub for lunch; and once on this monitor right now.
'Didn't think so,' Gary said. 'He tried to leave some kind of package for you. Fat chance, buddy, that's what I told him. Not without a name and some ID. Besides, he seemed a little off to me.'
'Off like how?'
'Like kind of an asshole. Pardon my French.'
'That sounds about right today, actually.'
'And kind of jittery.'
Whatever. Ben was too tired to think about it. 'Maybe I'll see him at coffee in the morning.'
'What's that now?'
'Nothing.' He clapped Gary on the shoulder and headed along his way. 'Thanks again, Gare. You're a hero.'
'Fly low, fella.'
Ben pushed out through the revolving doors and into the crisp October evening. The days were getting shorter, midtown leaves starting to change, and he could taste the faintest hint of wood smoke on the breeze. He took deep breaths through the nose as he walked to his car, letting the autumn air clear out the inside of his head. He pressed on through the bustling main lot, cutting a diagonal line toward the farthest corner, feeling lighter with each step he took away from the building. Soon he became a lone figure crossing the asphalt.
By the time he reached his new car – a used Chevy Corsica with 189,000 miles on the odometer and an 'I [??] My Granddogs' bumper sticker shaped like a chew bone on the trunk lid – Ben was thinking, See, life isn't so bad.
Then he noticed the note tucked under the driver's side windshield wiper:
YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER.
Ben snatched the paper, which had been torn sloppily from a narrow-ruled legal pad. The handwriting was a hurried scrawl from a pen clearly running out of ink. He flipped the page over and read the second message on the back:
NOT A JOKE! CALL 708-555-5108
Ben looked up and scanned the parking lot. He looked at the page again, front and back. To nobody in particular, he called out, 'You couldn't have fit all that on the same side?'
This time last season, Lance Baxter and Arnie Dillon had gone in together on a deluxe tree stand from Cabela's for the purpose of bow-hunting whitetail deer. The unit featured fold-out seating, a full 360-degree canopy in forest camo, integrated heating coils powered by a deep-cycle marine battery, and whisper-quiet cooling fans powered by the sun. They'd installed the whole magnificent shebang in a grove of old oak timber along a brushy creek bottom on Arnie's neighbor's land. It was a secluded, peaceful, off-the-track spot, which could be accessed any time of day simply by calling in sick to the nuclear power plant in Brownville, where Lance and Arnie had worked together for years.
Which was exactly what Lance and Arnie had done today – the kind of clear, glowing fall day made in God's own workshop for taking an October buck or, short of that, spending a weekday afternoon getting shitfaced up a tree.
For the latter task, they were well-provisioned. Lance had personally retrofitted the tree stand with a hinged floor panel that opened on a collapsible beer cooler. This year, Arnie had done him one better, inventing his own two-liter gravity system that dispensed rye whiskey with the turn of a thumbscrew.
So they weren't exactly at their sharpest when Lance almost shot the stranger.
'Hold hold hold!' Arnie hissed, gripping Lance's string hand a split second before Lance let fly.
At that same moment, what had sounded like a real bruiser of a buck crashing through the underbrush – a twelve-pointer easy, maybe better – turned out to be a man.
A large man.
A large man built like a Chiefs middle linebacker. Covered head to toe in mud. Flecked all over with leaves and twigs.
'Holy shit,' Lance breathed. Fingers trembling, heart pounding in his throat, he took a deep breath and lowered his brand-new compound bow. 'Holy shit, holy shit.'
Arnie gave a nervous chuckle, patting him on the arm. 'You're OK.'
'Holy shit, that was close.'
'Sure as hell sobered me up.'
From above, they watched the guy trudge out of the brush and plod into the small clearing beneath their tree. Right into their kill zone.
'That's some camo,' Arnie said.
Lance was still shaking all over. 'Boy, that was goddamned close.'
Arnie cupped his hands around his mouth and called to the ground. 'Hey, idiot! Private property! Wanna know how close you just came to getting your dumb ass killed?'
When the guy looked up at them, Lance's heart skipped a thud.
The mud-covered man had no face. Only a pair of bright, eerie, green eyes.
Arnie recoiled beside him, saying, 'What the sh —'
Before he could finish the thought, the mud-covered man lumbered over, hugged the ladder attached to their stand, and reared back with an almighty powerful heave. There came a bright, wrenching sound of metal on wood.
The next thing Lance knew, he and Arnie were falling. They hollered and grabbed each other all the way down, crashing to the forest floor in a splintering, tumbling, bone-rattling jumble.
The next few moments after that flickered past in a blur.
First, Lance regained consciousness in a rubble of planks, braces, and camouflage netting. He could smell the sharp tang of spilled whiskey. He could hear ruptured beer cans foaming into the leaf bed beneath him.
Next, he became aware of somebody screaming. He recognized that the somebody was Arnie Dillon, twenty feet away.
While Lance struggled to disentangle himself from the wreckage of their mangled hunting stand, he stared at his best bud, who was down on one knee, bow at the ready, an arrow nocked and drawn.
Over him loomed the mud man.
The mud man lurched forward. Arnie screamed again and let loose.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Kill Monster"
Copyright © 2019 Sean Doolittle.
Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Recent Titles by Sean Doolittle,
i. Beecher and ...,
Rattled Bones And Rubber Bands,
The Water Carrier's Wife,
iv. Cow Town ...,
Gilded Loam And Painted Clay,
vii. Farewell to ...,