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A goat's head staring back at Detective Cole Bryant from within the bowels of his latest victim sets forth a string of unnatural deaths among the teenagers that live in the shadow of the cursed North Mountain. Trying to solve the case only brings Cole closer to dark side where temptation, sex and sinful ways lure him into the world of a family whose backwoods morals aren't simply a symptom of a forgotten age in time but the consequence of a centuries old pact made with the devil himself.
I knew when I heard my name echo over the radio, the recent call to North Mountain had turned bad. Robert’s voice cracked as he tried to relay what they had found. I knew before he could finish his sentence a dead body was waiting – waiting for me.
At first I was almost excited, like a kid being picked to be on the team because it was seldom as a detective for the Alleghany Sheriff’s Department to be called to the scene of a dead body – let alone a murder. A murder, I was learning in bits and pieces, to be one of the worst this county had ever seen.
Jackson and Roberts were the first two officers to the scene, and I truly hoped they hadn’t botched anything up. They were good fellows, but not real keen on murders seeing as how they saw so few up here. It was evident when Jackson tried to relay the details; this one was a big one. Hell, he could barely talk.
Figuring the more assistance the better, I grabbed Samuels and we headed over to North Mountain. I couldn’t help but get a kick out of watching Samuels as I waited for him to get into the car. He was a short little fellow with a pudgy beer gut and walked with an awkward waddle. He kept his hair combed over like a little boy, even at the age of twenty-nine, and it was evident he hadn’t shaved his moustache since the first hair sprouted over his thin lips. He left much to be desired as a police officer, but I suppose with his father being on the force and his grandfather before him, they must have felt obligated to hire him.
By the time we arrived, every cop from Clifton and Alleghany were there on the scene. I suppose it was a good thing nothing was going on anywhere else, because not one cop would have been around to witness it. Most times only one or the other of the closest officers would have shown up, but with so few murders, I suppose curiosity got the best of them more than anything.
Alleghany was the county in which the town of Clifton Forge was snuggled in, a small town folks referred to in short as Clifton. The Alleghany Sheriff’s Department covered a great deal of territory and only called in Clifton officers in the event they needed assistance. With Clifton being a town of its own, they only really had jurisdiction within the town’s boundaries.
As I got out of the car, I shook my head and laughed while I made my way over, “Damn, y’all, what’s so interesting that all of Alleghany and Clifton are here on the scene?”
Jackson was the first to come over. He was about six feet two, 250 pounds, a thick boned man. He reminded me of a fellow who should have been a linebacker for the Washington Redskins in spite of his age. His hair was a bright silver color and his wide face still showed the scars of the acne he fought as a teen. His wide forehead overshadowed bushy black eyebrows that were always drawn making him appear as though the thoughts never ceased in his mind. It was apparent he had suffered a few too many knocks to the head over his lifetime as the bridge of his nose was crooked, and for the most part his face remained a bright hue of pink. I wasn’t sure if it was the effects of high blood pressure or too many years of drinking, but even with his towering size you could see the soft-hearted, gentle mountain boy he was. He always a kind smile, a warm twinkle in the eye and the joyful greeting with a handshake or a pat on the upper body.
“Hell Cole, it’s the damnedest thing you ever saw. It’s the Hicks girl. She was murdered and left here in the holler.”
Samuels remained beside me as we walked over toward the body and the other men who were already scoping out the perimeter. He was too queasy for his own good so I deemed it best for all of us that he remained back at the car for fear we would have two scenes to clean up. I motioned for him to stand back until I investigated further. His hands went straight into his pockets and he took on the appearance of an eight-year-old pouting, but I knew it was for the good of us all.
I walked over and shook Jackson’s, then Robert’s hands as they both came forward to meet me. Both were with the Clifton Forge Police Department, so it was sometimes weeks before we would bump into each other.
Wanting Jackson to get on with it, I asked him, “So how did they kill her?” I walked over toward where the body was with his voice continuing behind me.
“Don’t rightly know the cause of death. Seems like she was tortured pretty good. Damn goat’s head in her stomach - it was looking right at us when we found her.”
“A goat’s head?” I had to ask to make certain I heard him correctly.
He stood there leaning back on his heels with his hands in his pockets, his stout shoulders erect. I wasn’t sure if he was bull shitting me and having fun with it or if he was genuinely serious.
“That’s right, a goat’s head, horns and all. I kid you not.”
“Jesus - what the hell?” I stopped there in my tracks, and sure enough, there was a damn goat’s head staring right at me from within the girl’s stomach. You would have sworn the damn thing was still alive.
Its eyes glared at you, following every step, every movement you made. I kept waiting for it to shock us all backward with a wretched-sounding bleat – hell, I believe it could have taken a breath and we all would have hauled ass. It wasn’t something fake; it was real, as real as the screaming face that stared back at us. The girl’s stomach had been sliced from her left to right side and there, protruding outward from her bowels, was the head of that goat.
Beyond the creature that stared back at us all that could be discerned was that the victim was female.
“Oh, damn, she’s been here awhile.” I had to walk away for a minute to catch a whiff of fresh air. Parts of her body were decomposing, even though it looked like portions of it had been lying there for centuries and had petrified like driftwood. I guessed the areas that weren’t petrified, which were few, were victims of the cool nights and warm days that were a common weather pattern up on the mountain in the spring.
Her wounds were still fresh and couldn’t have been but a few days old, still she lay there like a stone statue staring out into the face of eternity.
The blood still crusted around her open wounds and even the smell of rotting blood was fresh. She had been killed within days instead of hundreds of years ago as the rest of her body suggested. We could tell by the way her face was contorted she had gone out of this world in grave pain. Her eyes told a tale of torture and cruelty I hadn’t believed existed in real life until that very moment of seeing her body lying there staring back at us.
“Well, guys, she’s either been here a week or two or a century or two-you pick.” I said taking my hat off and scratching the top of my head with the edge of the brim.
From what we could tell, the youth that showed on her face indicated she had to be a teenager, but with her body being in such a state, one would believe she was as ancient as one of the great pharaohs of Egypt. Carved, rolling ripples of aging masked the skin below her face, and her joints were frozen in a time long since forgotten.
She lay there on a bed of unturned leaves beneath the twigs and branches of a fallen tree, and shoots of briers clung to what remained of a shredded white poet’s blouse now stained the burgundy brown of dried blood. She wore bell-bottomed jeans and a studded belt. It was apparent she would be considered a Goth or an Emo kid by today’s standards.
We all shook our head in disbelief, not even knowing where to begin our investigation. The only conclusion any of us could come to right off was it had to be some cult or demonic killing, but damn, here in this county, how could that be? Finding the occult in this part of the world was about as likely as finding gold here, but stranger things have come to be just in the short time I’ve lived here.
After I had caught my breath I asked, “How do you figure this is the Hicks girl Jackson? Hell, we can’t really tell who she is in this state, and there was no ID on her.”
Jackson stepped closer to the body, pushing the young girl’s choppily cut, blood-matted hair to the side with his nightstick. Her hair was long and black with dyed streaks of pink. Whatever or whoever did this to her left her hair entangled and knotted in the leaves and debris. At first glance I would have believed she had been drug down here, but the evidence surrounding her proved different. The ground around us hadn’t been stirred; no paths had been formed – hell, by the looks of the area she could have floated to the ravine’s floor as lightly as a leaf from the tops of the great trees that surrounded her.
My thoughts were racing; questions were forming at the speed of light, but all ready I was sensing a pattern – nothing was making sense.
Jackson interrupted my thoughts. “See that there?” he asked, his voice muffled behind his handkerchief as he pointed to the back of her neck.
“Yeah, what is it?” I bent over, trying to look at what he was pointing out.
“I believe it’s a tattoo. I saw the Hicks girl with old Jesse, her father, down at that tattoo parlor over in Covington the other day. See it there?”
Covington was the closest thing to a big town nearby and was my home away from home. The Alleghany Sheriff’s Department, and my office are located there. The town of Covington is the designated county seat for Alleghany, it had been this way since the early 1900s; however, Covington itself became its own city in the early 1950s.
Covington is where everyone goes to visit the great Wal-mart Store, gather their groceries and if they wished there were a few specialty shops they could enjoy. It was the main industrial area of the region as well, but even being considered that, the biggest industry was the paper mill.
“How can you tell if it’s a tattoo or not Jackson? Her body’s a mess,” I proclaimed. “And it’s not like she’s the only one around here who’s went to get a tattoo recently. There could be a bunch of kids running around with a tattoo on their neck.”
“Well, if it ain’t the tattoo I saw the Hicks girl eyeing while she was there, I’ll eat my hat.” He pointed toward the tattoo again as though I hadn’t paid close enough attention to what he was saying. “Look here – see it, its almost like its rising up out of the skin. And guess what, there’s a larger version of the same on the front of her.”
It took me a moment to figure out exactly what Jackson had just said. Once I did, my mouth dropped and I looked at the protruding goat that seemingly came forth from the center of a pentagram. Upon closer examination of the cuts around her stomach we found the sign of a pentagram formed in lesser cuts.
“Holy shit, you’re right. Well, maybe not all right but some of the way for sure. Really though, we can’t tell who she is for certain until the medical examiner looks at her or someone identifies her body.”
“Well I’ll bet my bottom dollar I’m right, Cole.” He was already walking back toward the car as he waived his hand in the air at me.
Robert’s spoke for the first time, which wasn’t abnormal for him as he was the quiet type, “Sam Jones found her, he was hunting rattlers and came across her.” He spoke methodically as he remained there, staring dumbfounded at the victim, with his hands on his hips. He was off in one of those trancelike stares.
Roberts, like many of the men on the Clifton force, was a short dumpy little guy; he probably topped out about five foot five inches and weighed about as much as Jackson. Where I’m from you wouldn’t be on the squad in that kind of shape, but I don’t need to keep repeating myself. It’s just different up here. You heard every breath he took on the way in and on the way out - it never ceased to screw up my own breathing pattern every time I was around him.
It wasn’t hard to fathom why he stood there dumbfounded as he did; this was the most horrible scene I had ever come across. Blood stained the girl’s face where white should have been. Her mouth was twisted into a scream that only a contortionist could achieve. Cuts and bruises were everywhere, but what was most despicable and unexplainable was that damn goat’s head. I’d swear the son of a bitch seemed to revel in our bewilderment as it seemingly watched every move we made, awaiting our next look of puzzlement or our next question.
No one in a million years would have believed one morning they would wake up and head out to a crime scene like this one, especially not anyone from around here.
Jackson, Robertson, Samuels and I started to poke around along with two other officers who had been plotting off what they believed to be the scene’s perimeter. Like blind men we wandered around the area, seeing nothing – nothing that would help us discern what horrible thing had taken place here. Nothing that would tell us how she had gotten here and possibly why.
When we couldn’t really make heads or tales of it, we called the county’s forensic technicians. I wasn’t sure how successful they would be as there were no signs of her being drug in and hell; there really wasn’t anything at all to go on. It was almost like the angels had laid her here, but what kind of angels was the question. I decided maybe I should go see Sam Jones.
Before going I asked Jackson, who is also a detective, if he would be willing to assist me on this case. One of our detectives was working on an embezzlement case and another was out on vacation. I felt two heads would be better than my one and would keep the case moving quickly. The first forty-eight hours were the most vital, and I didn’t want to be slowed down. Besides, Jackson knew just about everybody in the county by their first name and this would help me out tremendously as I had only been living up here for about eight months now.
Jackson agreed as though he had been asked to accompany me on some grand adventure. I’m certain it wasn’t often he had the opportunity to work murders. To my knowledge there had only been eight to ten in the last ten years in the entire region.
I left with Jackson, leaving the other four guys to scout the area more and meet the forensic techs. I could only hope Sam would be able to provide some help but instinctively I knew – this case wasn’t going to be that cut and dry. This was the worst case of murder I had ever seen and something told me the details of it were only going to get worse.
Blood Banquet Studios
Kristy Tallman is the next Clive Barker!
Kristy Tallman is the kind of author I have been waiting for as a fan of true horror. The All-Soul’s Faire is a high-impact, genuinely rare page-turner. Once I started reading, I absolutely COULD NOT put it down! I ended up reading the entire book in about six hours. The story is darkly mesmerizing, and twistedly enthralling, drawing the reader into the intimately pleasing, yet devilish plot. The characters are crisp and vivid, unlike other novels, which boast only two-dimensional, cardboard-standups. This is the best book I’ve read since Mark Frost’s The List of 7.
Following the discovery of a ritualistically murdered girl, into whose stomach has been carved a pentagram, with a severed goat’s head protruding from it, Detective Cole Bryant is taken on a journey into dark fantasy and sinful desire where he will learn more about himself and the underworld than he ever imagined possible.
The All-Soul’s Faire is extremely creative, wickedly original, and is definitely not predictable. It would appear as if I have found a new favorite author. The All-Soul’s Faire is a force to be reckoned with! I recommend it as highly as I can possibly recommend anything!
-J. Pinkerton, Blood Banquet Studios
Rowan Lore - Author of Fall On Me
The All-Soul's Faire by Kristy Tallman, reads like a wickedly wonderful ghost story that keeps you enthralled to the very end. I found the story delightfully disturbing, yet I also found myself moved by the actions of the intriguing well-written characters.
Detective Cole is a seemingly innocent bystander in the sinful happenings on North Mountain. After meeting the strange backwoods Hicks Family, he finds himself with more questions than answers about the murders on the mountain.
The ever sweet Ms. Ryder reminds me of my own grandmother. When she states, We all have some inner sins we contend with. I read a bit deeper into this tale of horror and wondered if all humans didnt suppress some inner sins that only pure evil could bring out. Were we faced with our sinful secrets could we still suppress them even if they were served to us on a silver platter? Would Detective Coles own sinful desires cause him to forget everything and succumb to the mountains spell?
Tallmans talent in writing shows in her ability to captivate the reader to the very end. I loved that the ending wasnt what I expected. It left me wanting more and hopeful of a sequel.
First, before you read any further, allow me to divert you towards my first review of Kristy Tallman’s works, aka Rainey Moon, by clicking here. (See below for which he refers to)
Now we can proceed…….
And what have we here, but a novel-length version of her short novella I enjoyed so much! Tallman’s Detective Cole is like a fish out of water in a backwoods mountain town immersed in what on the surface seems to be an unnaturally mysterious CSI-type investigation…….though with a swig or two of specially-concocted North Mountain moonshine given to him by a surreal hillbilly-man with seductive young daughters and all hell to hand out, Cole finds himself digging deeper into the murders surrounding a rural area where the supernatural dwells and death itself hosts an otherwise very festive ghostly event called The All Soul’s Faire.
Very respectfully, I’d like to coin Kristy’s first official novel as a Tall-tale, if you will, (Tallman----get it?) because essentially that’s what it is, though its focus is not on a hero like you’d think at first (Cole) but on Cecil Hicks, a despicably dark villain whose moonshine and inevitable invitation to the Faire forces Cole to face his innermost dark desires. If not for the help of a kindly old lady intimately involved with it all, will Cole face eternal damnation?
I was right when I determined early on that Kristy had enough literary talent to eventually become great by my assessment of her poetry books alone. She’s advancing, and her storytelling skills combined with her drive to succeed in this field astonishes me.
The All-Soul’s Fair is thoroughly and ultimately a read worth a weekend’s devotion, and you’ll find that although the tale’s simplistic at the start, it takes you into darker and more complicated places like digging into the caverns of a deep dark cave and finding riches that become more abundant the deeper you go, like in Cole’s journey, both outward and inward, and like Kristy’s mind itself……
………like the mind of a storyteller who will one day soon have us all swimming in a moonshine sea concocted by a talented bestselling name.
Reference from Above
I was first introduced to Rainey Moon and her works during one of those nights when I have enough time on my hands to randomly browse the web to see who else out there is worth paying attention to that I haven't heard of yet in this great big writing world of ours.
I'm not talking about eyeballing bestseller lists to tune
into what the rest of the nation is reading; I like coming across those jewels the rest of the nation should be reading. But my magnitude of praise for Rainey is bias in that I'm thoroughly enamored by the style and charisma of her web presence, her artwork, the promotional image she presents herself as and the remarkable literary talent to back it up. Rainey Moon packs a good jaw-breaking wallop to much of what American literature has come to be known today. She makes the state of Virginia sexy just because she lives there, as I told a friend the other day. A good talent like that is worth paying attention to.
Now, true poetry ain't easy, the sort of poetry that ascends the clichés of love and loss and not the woe-is-me or the lovestruck kind of free verse anybody can write. Essentially, with Rainey's poetry, the themes are of this nature, but passion and literary prowess gives each line in both of these books that satisfying Rainey Moon feel.
Whispered Words presents two short horror stories, Festival of the Dead and the novelette The All Souls Fair. Rainey's horror writing is what first prompted me to check her out, and the images of a helpless girl at a Goth concert gone to hell in Festival is vivid......the bonfire party of the dead near a cliff where distressed souls take a plunge into dark eternity exhibits the talents of a young writer with a heart driven to make you afraid.
Kristy Tallman is Rainey's real name and day job while she raises three children. She won Suggested Artist for Songwriter of the Year in 2004 by VH1's Save the Music Foundation, and song lyrics can be found in Whispered Words, though Timeless Souls inspired Australian band Honey Palace to produce the song "Love Never Stays."
I hear she's working on entire novels, and I can't wait for that to happen. I'm in love.
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Reader Reviews for "The All-Soul's Faire Trade Paperback"
|Reviewed by Kevin Ward
|Excellent writing! You are a gifted storyteller. This looks like a great, spooky read; something I won't be able to even touch at night.
I think I will buy it anyway.
|Reviewed by Kristy Tallman
|I received my copy of Kristy Tallman’s, The All – Souls Faire, a few days ago. Unfortunately ~ just at the time my life gets hectic for a few days. Thankfully that time has now passed and I had the fortunate chance to sit back for a few hours and delve into this book. I couldn’t be happier that I had the time to finish this in a sitting!! Welcome to a small town where the locals don’t take kindly to strangers peering into their town business. To be a local in a small town it takes something that goes way beyond just residing there – something of which Detective Cole Bryant is about to learn the hard way. Investigating murder takes a bit of puzzle solving and more than that when all the people in town don’t want the towns dirty laundry aired and leave you with only partial whisperings of town legends. Toss in a cursed mountain, cops that go by their own code, an eccentrically sadistic family, a goats head in a corpse, and an intriguing medical examiner (just to throw a couple of kinks in Cole’s way of course) and you have one hell (just about literally) of a tale. So my suggestion would be to pick up your copy during this wonderful autumn time, curl up in your favorite reading chair and sit back for a tale you may chose to use in the future to scare your children with details of the Hick’s family. Enjoy this horror tale that will keep you thinking about it, especially late at night…Sherri Kirbis - Reader in Lititz, PA|
|Reviewed by Apex Reviews
|What small town doesn't have homespun rumors and superstitions about its own dark, seedy underbelly? Uncovered layers of secrets masking sinister acts the likes of which would lead one to question the very existence of God - for how could He truly exist if such vile, pure evil is allowed to run wild and unchecked? Staring at the severed head of a goat placed snugly within the bowels of a petrified teenage corpse, Detective Cole Bryant begins to wonder the exact same thing...
And that's just the beginning.
The seemingly ritualistic murder of young Lisa Hicks sets off a series of increasingly bizarre events in the small town of Clifton Forge, each one threatening to unravel the web of lies and deceit within which the town's legacy rests. As more and more corpses are found, their deaths make less and less sense to Cole, who's left to wonder why, for some strange reason, everyone seems to know more than they're willing to say. Ultimately, his unflinching determination to know more leads him to the fabled North Mountain, source of the town's diabolical mystique, where the fate of countless lives hang in the balance - including that of Cole himself.
The All-Soul's Faire is a disturbingly compelling tale that reads much like a snuff film: despite how guilty it makes you feel to watch it, each new turn of the page fills you with a strangely satisfying curiosity. A master at framing the visual with words, Tallman's jarring depictions of ghouls and apparitions are so vivid that - despite your wishes to the contrary - you'll find them lingering with you long after you've put the book down. In fact, they'll haunt you to the point where, when you're all alone late at night, you'll remember all those old ghost stories told over S'mores on campfire-lit nights and wish you had never heard them.
No matter how searing the imagery she employs, though, the true power of Tallman's mind-bending tale lies in leaving you to wonder about the very nature of sin itself: when confronted with unmitigated temptation, do our base desires force us to act - or do they simply free us to do so? In keeping with that theme, Cole's quest for truth is actually a metaphor for the "missions" that fill our own everyday lives: despite our burning desire to know more, that very desire often leaves us unprepared to handle the truth about the very things we seek to find.
As thrilling as Koontz or Barker, and as suspenseful as Hitchcock at his best, The All-Soul's Faire is a delicious soliloquy to the world of horror that begs an encore.