Synopsis: A frightening new case. A mysterious
journal. The beginning of the end. Lauren Westlake has left behind the horrors
of northern Minnesota to investigate a strange package with a cryptic return
address. Crossing the country to the city by the bay, Lauren discovers that
Locke was only the beginning. Crossing paths with a stoic SFPD detective and a
surprise from her past, she must figure out what hunts the foggy streets of San
Francisco in this new novella. Is it vampires? Is it something more?
THE OVERPASS that separated the yuppie, hipster youth of the
city from its poorer denizens was indistinguishable from any other place in the
Benny squatted under the comfort of his concrete shelter to
avoid the light drizzle that replaced the evening fog. His grizzled features
and unkempt salt-and-pepper hair might be charming if he weren’t several shades
of crazy and hungrier than a feral cat. He remembered when he could wink and
say a few smooth words and a beaming waitress might swoon––regaling her with
stories about his gigs around the city and the promise of a little danger.
In the late 70s Benny fancied himself a musician, playing the
tall bass with a few friends; it was tough for Benny to think of them as
friends now. What passed for a friend on the streets was someone who wouldn’t
steal your blankets or chase you out of a rat-infested hole with a
taped-together shiv made from broken bottles and pieces of fenders from stalled-out
The 70s hadn’t been kind to Benny. Cocaine went from
recreation to lifestyle, and then to death-style. As his other bandmates
started lives, Benny spiraled deeper into despair.
His friends lost his number.
It wasn’t long before he didn’t have the money for
electricity, and then he lived his life in darkness. From there, it was a short
hop to not being able to pay rent; soon thereafter, the streets became his
home. After enough time wandering the cold pavement, he became too volatile to
bunk in the homeless shelters.
He was a creature of the streets.
Benny made a strange sort of existence for himself under the
overpass. Newspapers were arranged like a well-manicured lawn. Boxes, crushed
and water-damaged, were the wings of his great destitute estate. The barrel at
the center of it all, burning brightly like a lighthouse upon rocky shores, was
full of the wisdom of Western society: newspapers, magazines, and various
Grumbling angrily and unintelligibly to himself, Benny dug
through one of his grocery carts filled to the brim with postmodern junk; he
was looking for a broken umbrella amidst the sea of garbage and treasure within
his cart. As Benny extricated the battered object of his desire, he was
startled by a voice. “I do enjoy these brief moments of gentle rain. Do you
find them as soothing as I do?”
Turning, Benny was immediately irritated by the man’s
presence. Dressed to the nines––with angular, symmetrical features––there was
something unreal about his figure.
“I don’t want no trouble.”
The man smiled. “Nor do I. But I wonder, Benny, what is it
that you’re looking for?”
Benny looked at the streets and saw cars zip past between the
concrete dividers that obscured his shelter from view. It was the main reason
why he stayed there: it was his island, his cabin in the woods.
“Mister, I’m hungry. Do you have any food?”
The man smiled again, disarmingly. “I must admit I’m a bit
peckish myself. Though I have no food, at least nothing that you’d find
Benny was struck by the disconnected nature of their
conversation, as if the man weren’t talking to him at all and instead reading
from a script. This feeling became more surreal as the man stepped past him
into the darkness of the overpass. His features were adulterated by the shadows
there: his dark hair made darker, his gray eyes disappearing.
There, in the darkness, Benny heard something move.
“Watch out, mister, there are rats back there. I catch them
sometimes and cook them up.”
The man chuckled but didn’t respond, turning his back to
Benny. When he spoke again, his voice had changed; it seemed bloated and
distant. “They never look for the wretches, Benny. Give me your poor. Give me
your hungry. Those are just words. I’m hungry as well….”
There was no mistaking it for a rat this time.
Hollow, deliberate steps haunted the shadows.
A tremor crept across Benny, rising from his toes like acid
reflux after he ate from the dumpster behind the Korean restaurant a few blocks
away. “I don’t want no trouble,” repeated Benny, his voice quaking as he took a
few steps back.
“You won’t have to worry about trouble any longer. I will
take your fear. Feed on your fear….”
Panic gripped him, but his muscles wouldn’t respond. He
wondered if the lady doctor at the center was right: Was he crazy? Was he
chasing shadows in the dark?
Looking at his bin of junk, he saw the broken pipe he’d taken
from a rundown building in the Tenderloin. He thought it was copper, but it
turned out to be rusted and useless like him. Gripping it like he was Babe Ruth
waiting at the plate, he watched the darkness. The well-dressed man had
disappeared, but his voice drifted on the air like a spirit.
“Why fight it, Benny? Is this really worth living for, this
sad little life?”
Benny’s fear turned to anger.
Gesturing with the pipe, he shouted into the dark.
“How do you know my name?”
The laugh sent shivers down his spine.
Something in the darkness tripped and fell, collapsing the
third and fourth cardboard bedrooms of his sprawling street estate. A figure
emerged in the darkness: something frightening beyond words.
“We know all about you, Benny.”
As it took shape in the half-light of the passing cars, Benny
held his breath and swung the pipe as hard as he could, lurching forward as it
connected with thin air. With a gnashing maw, it blotted Benny from view and
pulled him back into the darkness.
If you loved Bitten (or supernatural fiction, a good mystery,
and a fun story), then you’ll want to give Drained
a look. The third novella in the series, Frighten,
will be released in early 2019.
Dan O’Brien has over 50 publications to his name––including
the bestselling Bitten
, which was featured on
Conversations Book Club’s Top 100 novels of 2012. Before starting Amalgam
Consulting, he was the senior editor and marketing director for an
international magazine. You can learn more about his literary and publishing
consulting business by visiting his website at: www.amalgamconsulting.com
him on Twitter at @AuthorDanOBrien