And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:
Book of Devon 1
September 16, 1986
Massachusetts, somewhere south of Mohawk Trail State Forest.
Stands of white pine and northern hardwoods stretched into shadows over a twisting road. A copper-colored Porsche Carrera flashed like a spawning salmon as it darted through the broken sunlight.
A pair of gray-blue eyes followed the pavement through a winding descent. The driver maneuvered perfectly, yet he seemed vaguely disengaged, as if he was playing an arcade game that was too easy, or thinking about a speech that he needed to write. It was hard to tell. He was possessed of a strangely enigmatic quality.
The Porsche followed a bend where the road flattened out, feeding onto a two-lane highway. Sunshine hit the driver’s profile. His eyes were slightly bloodshot, and the stubble on his face had dots of white. A green river to his right meandered gently with tones of blue and sunlit patches of yellow.
Smooth hands held the wheel and worked the stick shift. The man’s thick brown hair was lightened with a hint of gray. His off-white shirt was a finely woven silk, and his only ornaments were a wedding band and a Rolex watch. He was inordinately handsome, but again it deferred to the enigmatic—he was neither pretty nor rugged. In the absence of wrinkles or the typical paunch of an aging male, most people would’ve been surprised to discover that he was the grand old age of fifty-two.
His appearance seemed to hint at a deeper element, always beyond the observer’s reach. With the power of suggestion, it could’ve been nobility … or sociopathy. Most of all, Devon Clarke was watchable. He was the kind of human that made other humans look.
Beyond the man himself, the other notable item inside the Porsche Carrera that day was on the passenger seat—a 9mm Glock handgun.
For three days Devon Clarke had been looking for a place to die. He had nowhere in mind—he just thought he would know the place when he saw it. He’d crisscrossed and zigzagged New England from Boston to Stockbridge, from Plattsburgh to Bridgeport. His only intake of food or drink had been orange juices, coffees, and mineral waters at service stations. In the deep of night he’d slept for an hour and twenty minutes on a grassy shoulder of I-91 south of Hartford, Vermont. A repeated rapping on his window broke into his slumber. After waking him up, a cheerful young state trooper had commended his decision to pull over rather than fall asleep at the wheel. The upbeat officer missed an item of commonality between them: a gun made by Glock.
The road was breathing in front of him. Leaves twinkled electrically in the afternoon sun. This was the special season, just after the Labor Day Weekend when the road was open and uncrowded, when he’d traveled with Olivia, taking trips up to the Hudson Valley, when trees were still green and time teetered between a fading summer and an impending fall. Memories struck deep chords of feeling in his sleep-and-calorie-deprived state.
A mountain of hay trembled in the rear of a truck; Devon blasted past. Reality frayed at the edges.
The river swirled south as it dropped into a dell. The Porsche diverged left, following an elevated plain with a vantage point of another highway below. Devon saw a white sedan crawling along the valley
floor, and a good distance in front of it was a herd of motorcycles. He lost the view for a moment as the highway curved again.
A subtle shift occurred in Devon’s face, as if the arcade game suddenly required a deeper level of focus, and the car picked up speed. A secondary road loomed to his right. Devon cranked the wheel, taking a wolf-like dive onto the artery that led to the lined road below.
A disintegration of the ordinary advanced on his mind. He hit the lower road with the sense that he was an alien being, riding within a strange shell that blasted him over his planet’s terrain. Devon gained fast on the white sedan he had seen from the other road, passing it easily. The motorcycles were dots in his future. Distance closed and the dots grew. A deep growl of Harley Davidsons rose as he approached. There were about twenty bikers in all, give or take. The men wore leathers with their colors, a red and blue insignia that proclaimed them to be Satans Glory.
It was the insignia, amid the noise and the power, indeed the Glory of the chopped steel, that entranced Devon like a religious epiphany. In working-class bars it was told that, to become a full-patch member of Satans Glory, a man had to have taken a human life. At another place in time, Devon may have found himself skeptical of such a rumor—but today he believed it. Today, Fate had placed the disciples of Satan in front of him. These men were the Chosen Ones.
The copper-colored Porsche Carrera edged up behind them. The riders looked hard. Like investment bankers and new-age artists, their attire told the world who they were. This tribe chose leathers and bandanas, and colors on their skin. They were aware of him now. At least the men at the rear were.
Hogs and choppers filled the road in front of the Porsche, taking up a little of the left lane as well. The posted limit was 55—they were traveling just over 70. Passing these boys was a touch obnoxious but there was no oncoming traffic; the Carrera’s 375 horsepower could’ve easily rocketed by them. Instead, Devon eased into the great roar of Harleys. Several riders noticed him in their rear-view mirrors. One of the bikers glanced back—the Porsche showed no inclination to pass. Anger flashed through the rear of the pack. One or two tried to shout over the din of the motorcycles.
A rider dropped back, running his muscled chopper parallel to the driver’s window. Devon saw a man with a bandana and tattooed hands shouting, and though he couldn’t hear the words, he didn’t need to be Helen Keller to get the gist. Clearer yet, the biker raised his middle finger.
Every man in the brotherhood now knew that some dumbass was way out of line. Other soldiers of Satans Glory moved into the left lane, to intimidate and box him in. Two of the tough guys near the front of the pack were withdrawing weapons as they rode. The finger was now a fist as the first soldier moved boldly close enough to pound on Devon’s window. Devon smiled at him—it was neither warm nor malicious. Rage flared in the man’s face. Devon veered easily to his left, smashing him to the pavement.
It happened so fast, none of the Satans Glory were expecting this. Adrenalin infected the herd. The accelerator pressed down and Devon surged, sending two more big bikes careening out of control. A deep screech of metal carved into his door as one machine twisted awkwardly—
Panicked riders shouted to each other as the Porsche blasted through the thundering Harleys, sending tattooed bodies helter-skelter across the pavement. Devon was now fully engaged.
Some tried to pull over to the shoulder, but Devon chased them down, inflicting carnage in every direction. Worse for the bikers, vehicles were now in the oncoming lane, forcing them into a narrower channel, which Devon exploited with violent, forceful speed. Cars began to pull over in anticipation of the madness in front of them, but Devon still banged a few more bikes, littering the highway with broken bones and bloody streaks of road-rash.
A canny rider near the front of the pack had managed to withdraw a handgun from some niche or saddlebag while moving at about 115 miles per hour—a respectable feat. But the would-be shooter had a problem: he couldn’t turn around at this insane speed; it would be suicide to twist his body. There were still a few bikers between the malevolent Carrera and the gunman. The men in front of Devon were now riding for their lives.
Most of the Satans Glory behind Devon were strewn over the road; some of their unscathed comrades had stopped to help the wounded—but four focused soldiers followed Devon with wide open throttles.
Blind rage filled the air. Didn’t this motherfucker know who Satans Glory were?
Devon blasted into the frontrunners, side-swiping two of the three bikers between himself and the man with the gun. The gunman’s face floated like a white ball atop his large, inked body. His throttle was on the right hand side; letting go would’ve led to deadly assault from the violent Porsche behind him. Absolutely desperate, the rider began firing blindly over his shoulder with the gun in his left hand, inadvertently terrorizing his own pursuing brothers.
Devon drilled the Porsche into the man’s s rear tire and the big hog jackknifed, smashing across the passenger-side windshield and tearing off the side-view mirror. A man’s high scream ripped through the howl of engines as a large body flew through the air—
The carnage landed in front of Devon’s pursuers—one bike couldn’t avoid it, wiping out at a brutal speed.
Devon and the remaining posse blurred past an oncoming station wagon, leaving the driver agape. A fast-approaching sign indicated a turnoff to Rainbow Lake, left off the valley floor. A small service station with a convenience store was clearly visible about 100 yards off the junction. Devon cranked a hard left off the highway, his tire scraping against the metal of his freshly dented frame.
A kid in a ball-cap was pumping gas just as a man opening a bag of potato chips stepped out of the store. Their heads turned in unison as three raging soldiers of the Satans Glory Motorcycle Club chased a banged-up sports car. In the conversation that followed, both agreed that they wouldn’t want to be the guy in the orange Porsche.
The bikers blasted up a twisting road, leaning hard into corners, knowing that they now had an advantage over the Carrera, no matter how skillfully it was driven. Two leathered soldiers, neck and neck in the forefront, and another two hundred yards to their rear, rose over the crest of a bend…
…the road dropped into a slight depression, where the pavement gave way to gravel, and to their enraged delight, they could see that the Porsche had spun out of control and sat sideways, partially blocking the road. The driver was standing outside of his car. He must’ve known he was fucked.
Devon felt their fury washing over him like a wave. First off his machine, about forty yards away, was a man with long black hair. He was quick, the thick leather jacket with the blue and red logo of Satans Glory dropped from his shoulders, revealing arms that were tattooed and muscular. He efficiently withdrew a metal bar from a slot on his machine. The second rider had a scraggly beard and a mouthful of teeth that hadn’t known the benefits of a dental plan. He too was fast off the hog, but he neatly folded his sunglasses and squatted to detach a hidden weapon.
Last to arrive, a large man skidded past his buddies, coming to a halt not fifteen yards from Devon. Mid-thirties, he was clean-cut with a full head of light brown hair, and his big hands were decorated with big rings. He might have been handsome if it weren’t for his early gut and the tough history that life and prison had carved onto his face. He yanked his heavy bike onto its stand and shed his glasses by knocking them off his face. He stood at least 6 foot 5, and his demeanor was clear: he meant nasty business.
He went for Devon immediately, in front of the biker with the metal bar. Then stopped dead.
“Tiny…” was the single word of warning from the black-haired biker. But Tiny had stopped even before he saw the Glock sitting on the roof of the Porsche. Something was wrong—this piece of shit looked pleased—and not the kind of smug pleased that a cunning hit-man might be expected to show when his victim was getting taunted. No, he looked genuine, this guy—which was damn strange and just not right. Tiny felt the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.
Fury had made them morons. The black-haired soldier had a pronounced Adam’s apple that bobbed as he swallowed. This motherfucker was waiting for them.
Devon spoke calmly. “Tiny—that’s very clever.” The hulk knew instinctually that Devon didn’t think so. He flushed—how could they have been so fucking stupid?
The man with bad teeth rose with a machete that he’d finally extricated from his hog. Oblivious to the handgun, he said without joy, “Save me some cunt, Tiny Joe. I do sloppy seconds but not thirds.”
Devon Clarke burst into laughter. “Your friend’s got a real wit.” It could not have been more brutal if he’d produced a semi-automatic machine gun. All three men were frozen.
The big man was good and scared but none of it showed. Tiny Joe wasn’t born the day before yesterday and this wasn’t his first ever confrontation with a shitbag. Even when he spoke lightly, there was something of a growl to his voice. “I’m figurin’ you went and made friends with someone who just don’t like us…”
“You’re figuring incorrectly.” Devon casually reached for the gun on the roof, and three hearts jumped. Tiny Joe lifted his hands as if to say, Take it easy, pal…
But Devon’s demeanor wasn’t threatening. Even with an unshaven face and fatigue coloring his eyes, he appeared ennobled. He addressed them with a certain formality, as if he were standing in an amphitheater.
“You’ve been chosen for a great honor. You wear my father’s name on your persons … and the time has come for you to honor that name.” Devon paused, and then said, “My father awaits me. You will send me into his arms.”
The man in the silk shirt was eerily calm. His way of speech had a tone like he was a fuckin’ senator or something. Tiny never moved a muscle as the gray-blue eyes floated toward him—but Devon sensed his terror and committed the worst sacrilege of all: he began to speak gently … reassuringly. “Don’t be frightened, Tiny Joe … I’m not going to kill you…” Devon held out the gun for him. “You’re going to kill me.”
Devon looked into the eyes of Tiny Joe, but they all heard his words. “My blood is your sacrament … ‘Satans Glory’ will be manifest in the moment of my death. Send me home … you will live in my father’s blessing and bounty for the remainder of your natural life.”
The big man could see the red capillaries in the whites of the pale eyes. The handle of the Glock was held up gently, offered—
Tiny Joe didn’t blink—but neither did he take the gun. Dread ran through him like electricity. These guys had stood up to other men in barrooms, parking lots and prison yards, but this was not something that they could digest.
Devon’s voice soothed, “Take the gun, Joe … squeeze the trigger … my father will reward you with heaven on earth … he wants me home … he wants you to honor his name.” Tiny Joe was caught in the perfect madness of the gray-blue eyes in front of him. His stomach was queasy, and he felt his knees weakening. He couldn’t move.
Then the man with the machete began quietly moving away toward his bike. Tiny Joe and the black-haired biker began backing up.
Devon’s mood began to change. The world was falling out from under him. “What is this? You wear my father’s name and you’re going to disappoint him?”
The scraggly-bearded man with bad teeth had straddled his bike and was trying to kick it over. Something deeper and more painful flashed out of Devon, “Don’t … don’t … you disappoint my father! You wear his name! Don’t you fucking disappoint him!”
A motorcycle fired up, leaving a machete lying on the road as it roared off in the direction from which it came.
Tiny Joe was fighting to keep his hands steady as he pushed his machine off the kickstand. The devil in the silk shirt was at his side, and now more desperate. “Okay Joe…” Devon’s tone dropped, “we did this the wrong way … are you Catholic?”
The black-haired man lifted his leather from the ground, putting it back on with all the quiet dignity he could muster.
“Why do you fear killing me? It’s not a sin,” cooed Devon, fighting for his destiny. Tiny Joe was having none of it. Machines rumbled into life. The bloodshot eyes fought to be heard. “It’s not a sin!” The heavy motorcycles began to go.
“For the sake of God, it’s not a sin!”
Despondent, Devon wandered in circles, a pair of abandoned eye-glasses crunching under his foot. The gun was now a weapon, pressed to his head, his temple. Why hadn’t they killed him? The defeat was agony.
A Winnebago appeared, cautiously circling around the Porsche. Devon lowered the gun. The occupants saw him and stared straight ahead, creeping by slowly as though it would make them less conspicuous.
Devon suddenly felt the depth of his exhaustion. The sun was dropping into the trees. He looked off into the forest and listened to it. He used to love this time of year.
Daylight was all but gone. Devon Clarke was doing something that, only a few hours earlier, he believed that he would never be doing again: showing his commuter card at Exit 14 off the Mass Pike. As he pulled his battered car away from the booth, a resonance of Septembers past stirred again; lying in the warm grass with Olivia … the smell of schoolbooks and academia, of passion and ambition. How strange that those dead Septembers came back to him now.
Minutes later, Devon Clarke’s drained body wandered out into a large, cultured garden. The air was still warm and sweetened by his neighbor’s roses. Beyond the gentle hill of his home, a black mass of trees was cracked and Boston’s skyline bled through.
A scientist may suggest, that what happened to Devon next could have resulted from a massive pituitary release of endogenous opioid peptides into his tired brain. A priest or a rabbi may have been inclined to see it differently. Whatever it was, Devon Clarke was suddenly in another world.
He was running along a riverbank with a boy called Magic. They each carried a small handgun; they were hunting. What a light, happy, beautiful place it was. The boy was eleven or twelve years old, and he had a rough shock of golden hair and a cherubic face. Devon loved him. The air smelled like soft, wet alders in autumn. Sunlight broke through light green leaves and the river shimmered silver.
Magic called to Devon as they frolicked along the river’s bank, hunting God-knows-what creature with their handguns, but it didn’t matter—this was a dream. And oh what beauty there was in the boy’s face and what pleasure in Devon’s heart as they joked and smiled. Then they came upon a clearing. Magic looked up at Devon and said, “It’s time.”
A sudden surge of panic constricted Devon’s chest. He looked down at the boy he loved and said, “No … no, it’s not time.”
The boy with the light hair and sweet face looked at him ever so lovingly and said it again, “It’s time.”
Devon’s panic spread and turned to sadness. He knew the boy was right. His own gun fell from his hand. He dropped to his knees. Water from his heavy heart rolled down his cheeks.
And there in the enchanted forest by the river, Magic looked at him with love and compassion … and raised his gun to Devon’s head.
Olivia Clarke was frozen at the entrance of her grand home, staring with horror at the sight on her lawn. Her husband was on his knees, in the grip of some … Olivia couldn’t think of an explanation; it had to be insanity. At least he was alive. Thank God for that. She swallowed her own terrors and marched out.
“Devon…” Olivia couldn’t have articulated what she saw in his eyes, and there were tears on his face. As they walked back toward the house, their housekeeper stood in the doorway. “You’d better say you were praying,” Olivia said. Devon laughed, and it stabbed at the knot in her stomach.
A minute later, Devon was leaning over a kitchen counter, eating from a serving dish with the plastic wrap not fully removed. Filled with thoughts of the amazing vision, he consumed not with lust but automation. His body screamed for food—but he saw Magic, the boy with the angel’s face.
He heard a melodic Mexican accent. “You can get a plate. I’ll warm you chicken.”
“This is fine, thanks.” The world beyond himself was just noise.
Olivia said, “We’re alright here … thank you.”
“Goodnight, Mrs. Clarke … goodnight, Devon.”
“Goodnight, Monica,” was the mechanized response. The low voices of a delicate conspiracy crossed an unseen divide before a door closed.
There was a brief silence as Devon kept eating. Olivia was controlled. A handful of years younger than her husband, she looked the older, with large, intelligent eyes that contrasted the depth of her exhaustion. The monster inside of her was not to be detonated.
“What happened to the Porsche?”
Devon used his full mouth to delay an answer. “I hit a deer.”
Olivia’s tone dropped to something deeper.
“We don’t do that.”
Devon stopped eating. The words hung in silence. She hissed it again, “We don’t do that.” He wouldn’t look at her. Olivia couldn’t contain all of her fragility. “We’re Catholics.”
“Are we,” Devon said. There was another silence.
Olivia swallowed the monster. “I don’t expect you to care that I’ve been out my mind—but understand—we have options. You have options, if that’s what you prefer. I spoke with Father Ryan, he recommended an excellent counselor … Father del Gado…”
Devon opened the refrigerator and searched.
“People come from New York to talk to this man—he works miracles.”
Devon chose not to look at Olivia. He chose not to see her full brown eyes. He chose not to understand the lines that had come to her face, and he chose not to feel her pain. He poured a glass of juice.
Olivia whispered, “Or a psychiatrist … if that’s easier.”
She watched the stranger swallow food and drink robotically, his thoughts God-knows-where. They both knew that Devon Clarke wasn’t going to be going for any counseling.
He was consumed with Magic, the boy in his vision. The boy with the gun.
September 17, 1986 (a footnote)
At 10:15 a.m., an ambulance moved east along the Massachusetts Turnpike. Two paramedics and a nurse carefully monitored the patient in the rear of the vehicle. Robert Lechenier was connected to an IV drip and his body was locked into place by an extensive steel brace that held his torso slightly and awkwardly upward from a completely prone position. One of his ribs projected for several inches beyond a large, mostly purple tableau that was tattooed onto his chest. His right arm was twisted grotesquely behind his back.
The ambulance leaned into an exit that indicated Boston Liberty Hospital. Despite being pumped full of Demerol, Lechenier moaned at the slightest movement of the vehicle. “Almost there…” one of the paramedics reassured. Though the wound area was bandaged, the attendant could see that the rib had poked not only through Lechenier’s chest but had also disfigured the bosom of a nude woman that had been inked onto his skin.
Lechenier was a member of the Satans Glory Motorcycle Club and was more commonly known as Purple Bob. He’d been involved in the largest mass motorcycle accident in Massachusetts State history. State troopers and insurance investigators were combing a stretch of rural highway northwest of Chicopee to figure out what the hell had gone on. The bizarre thing about the accident was that it wasn’t one big pile-up; instead, the crash victims had been scattered over a two-mile stretch of road. Not surprisingly, the Satans Glory was a tight lipped pack. Other motorists who’d passed through the carnage were not volunteering to come forward. The only snippet of information that investigators could glean from an eyewitness was that the entire gang of bikers was harassing someone in a sports car.
Shortly thereafter, Purple Bob was attached to a gurney in a hospital room with overhead lighting and a cloth curtain for one wall. Nearby, he could hear a doctor who sounded like JFK saying something about consent forms. The Demerol clouded his head. His body hurt. Footsteps approached the gurney.
“Mr. Lechenier…” The doctor with the Ivy League accent appeared above him, filling his field of vision. “It turns out that you are one lucky son of a bitch…”
Purple Bob didn’t feel like one lucky son of a bitch.
The upbeat doctor continued, “Devon Clarke has just agreed to head your surgical team. Dr. Clarke is the best orthopedic surgeon in the state … maybe even the whole country. And he just got back from his holiday this morning.”
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