Supernatural: Bone Key – Exclusive Book Preview

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Author Keith R.A. DeCandido manages to keep himself well-occupied. The self-described mad fedora’d writer lists musician, baseball fan, and all-around long-haired hippie weirdo freak in addition to ‘Author’ and ‘Editor’ in his usual biography. And his Live Journal, appropriately titled “Krad’s Inaccurate Guide to Life,” basically makes his life an open book and offers a highly voyeuristic peek into his daily activities and thoughts. In addition to the often personal postings that include karate lessons and efforts at his mental well-being, there are also fun excursions with polls, discussions, and even questions taken from “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” which tends to prove to the reader that most of the time they are not. And when Keith is working on a novel, readers can track his progress by how many words he completes on a daily basis. Voyeurism has never been so much fun – unless, of course, you’re peeking in on a nudist colony!

A closer look at Keith’s work might make one wonder if ‘Sci-Fi Geek’ should not also be included among the other descriptions. Keith has published over thirty novels, most of them in the realm of media tie-ins, with the majority of his work appearing in the worlds of Star Trek. He has written novels, novellas, comic books, short stories, eBooks, and also edited a number of anthologies. Several of his Trek novels have hit the USA Today best-seller list, and received critical acclaim, both online and in print. His most recent accomplishment Star Trek: A Singular Destiny is scheduled for a 2009 release. Currently he is working on a comic book mini-series — but shhh! he can’t talk about that yet.

Fans of The CW’s hit series Supernatural have enjoyed two books so far presented as tie-in novels. The show is an intelligent creation offering a mesmerizing mix of drama, humor and family issues while it chronicles the adventures of demon-hunting brothers Sam and Dean Winchester. The first novel, Nevermore, was penned (keyboarded?) by Mr. DeCandido and featured the brothers investigating two cases: a ghost haunting the home of an acquaintance and gruesome murders based on tales of Edgar Allen Poe. The second, Witch’s Canyon by Jeff Mariotte, had the Winchesters traveling to a small town near the Grand Canyon where a 40-year murder cycle had begun. There has been much debate online about the pros and cons of both novels so far. Common criticisms contend that Nevermore was more accurate with the personalities of the brothers but lacked in scares, whereas Witch’s Canyon was high in scares and suspense but missed the mark on the characterizations.

The third novel, Bone Key, promises to bring together the best of both worlds: an accurate characterization of the Winchesters, complete with their humorous quips and brotherly relationship which is the cornerstone of the series, combined with increased scares, suspense and horror as they travel to the Florida Keys to solve a case. The novels are stand-alone suspense, mystery, and horror adventures that can be enjoyed by both the casual reader and the most obsessed fan. In preparation for the anticipated release of this novel on August 26, 2008, ECLIPSE is happy to present an exclusive sneak peek of an early chapter — following all the pertinent info.

Keith’s website with information on all his work (including a link to his Live Journal): www.DeCandido.net

Supernatural: Bone Key will be available at all major booksellers and also through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0061435031/albeshilohinc

SUPERNATURAL begins its exciting and intriguing fourth season on Thursday, September 18 at 9pm on The CW network. www.cwtv.com Season 3 will be available on DVD, coincidentally the same day as the novel, Aug. 26.

And if anyone is near Atlanta during Labor Day weekend, you can mingle with Keith at Dragon Con 2008, the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the US. http://www.dragoncon.org/

Now, on to the preview … ENJOY!!

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

“Happy New Year, boys!”

Sam Winchester held up the whiskey glass full of champagne—Bobby Singer didn’t have any champagne flutes in his cupboard—and said, “Happy New Year, Bobby.”

His older brother, Dean Winchester, just held up his glass and gulped down the champagne.

Staring at the inappropriate glass, Sam said, “You never struck me as the champagne type, Bobby.”

Bobby smiled under his beard. “Yeah, I mostly stick to a shot and a beer, but it’s New Year’s. When I was growin’ up, we always had champagne on New Year’s while we watched the ball drop. I still make sure to have a bottle in time for the end of December.”

Sam looked over at the small television in the living room, which was showing the huge crowds of people in Times Square. Many were wearing silly red hats and glasses shaped like the numerals of the new year, with the middle zeros of 2008 as the eyepieces.

Dean was also staring at the screen, which had just switched to one of the hosts. “Who’s the genius who thought replacing Dick Clark with Ryan Seacrest was a *good* idea?”

Swallowing the last of his champagne, Bobby said, “The man had a stroke, Dean.”

“I get that—but why replace him with *this* guy? I mean, Dick Clark did American Bandstand. All this guy’s done is deny that he’s gay.”

“Well, he *was* on American Idol,” Sam said.

Fixing his younger brother with a glower that meant that Sam had trod on some beloved piece of pop culture that Dean held dear and Sam didn’t care about, Dean said, “Dude, you are =not= equating being on that lame-ass ‘Star Search’ wannabe show with hosting ‘American Bandstand’, are you?”

Rather than subject himself to one of Dean’s rants, Sam didn’t answer. “I have a theory, actually.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “Oh, *this* oughtta be good.”

“Eventually, the long-term plan is to remove Dick Clark’s brain from his own body and place it inside Seacrest’s head.” He gestured at the screen. “I mean, c’mon, there’s plenty of room in there.” Sam was quite proud of the straight face he managed to keep throughout.

Bobby added, in a serious tone, “Y’know, I think I know the spell for that.”

Dean finally broke into a laugh.

“Well, it’s about time,” Sam said. “We’re supposed to be celebrating, and you’ve been a Gloomy Gus.”

“‘Gloomy Gus’?” Dean shook his head. “Well, thanks for that, Gomer Pyle, but—well, I guess I’ve just been thinking.”

” *That’s* always dangerous,” Sam said dryly.

“Bite me.”

Bobby, now truly serious, asked, “What about, Dean?”

“About 2008, mostly.”

Beyond that, Dean didn’t elaborate. Sam knew he wouldn’t.

This would be Dean’s last year on Earth. Unless, of course, Sam could stop it.

Dean had made a deal with a crossroads demon to give up his own life and go to hell after one year, in exchange for said demon bringing Sam back to life. Sam himself had been fatally stabbed by Jake, one of the other kids that the Yellow-Eyed Demon—whose real name was apparently Azazel—had given psychic powers to. All the kids had been gathered into a death-cage match to see who would be worthy of the honor of leading the hordes of hell as they descended upon Earth. Jake and Sam had been the last two.

Thanks to Dean’s deal, Sam was able to kill Jake and take the Colt—a pistol that could permanently kill a demon—from him. Dean then used the Colt on Azazel. The price was that Dean only had a year to live.

Sam was bound and determined to find a way to get Dean out of it. He’d shot the crossroads demon with the Colt after she’d told him that she answered to a higher (lower?) demon. He’d even cooperated with Ruby, a demon who seemed to be on the side of good—or at least, was willing to kill her fellow demons and save Sam and Dean’s asses on several occasions.

But both brothers knew the odds were against Sam being successful in his quest, and that in all likelihood, come summer, Dean would be sunbathing in hell. And Dean was still treating this as if it were the last year of his life. Sometimes that resulted in behavior that was reckless even by Dean’s high standards—Sam tried very hard not to think about some of the things he’d accidentally walked in on Dean doing over the past few months. Sometimes it resulted in melancholy like what he was displaying now in Bobby’s living room.

Turning to Bobby, Sam said, “Thanks for having us, Bobby.”

Bobby snorted. “Please. You two are always welcome, you know that.”

“It’s been quiet for the last week,” Sam said. “Ever since we killed those two gods.”

“Say that again,” Dean said.

Sam frowned. “Say what again?”

“‘Ever since we killed those two gods.'” Dean shrugged. “Just gives me a happy, is all. I mean, how often do you get to kill a god, much less two?”

“Two very old, very weak gods,” Bobby said. “Only reason the stake worked was ’cause nobody’d worshipped those two for centuries. Gods’re only powerful when people believe in ’em. You meet Zeus in a dark alley, he probably couldn’t muster up a lightning bolt, but a couple thousand years ago? He’d fry you soon as look atcha.”

“Dude,” Dean said, “you’re harshing my mellow, here.”

Sam chuckled. “Wouldn’t want that.”

“You’re right, though, Sammy,” Dean said, “good to have a quiet week. Surprised, really—I mean, you’d think there’d be *something* attached to the new year that would get the spirits’ panties in a bunch.”

“Calendar’s arbitrary,” Sam said. “It’s a human construct. Spirits tend toward more natural things—phases of the moon, solstice, equinox, alignment of the stars, that kind of thing.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Dean shrugged. “Well, I’ll certainly take the time off to drink champagne out of a whiskey glass and watch Ryan Seacrest be boring.”

“Hear hear,” Sam said, raising his glass.

All three of them downed the last of their champagne.

Dean set the glass down, let out an “Ahh” of satisfaction, then looked at Bobby. “Time to move on to the hard stuff, wouldn’t you say?”

Bobby grinned and got to his feet. “Got a bottle of Johnny Walker Black that Ellen got me a good deal on.”

Before Bobby could approach the sideboard where he kept the good stuff, the chirp of a cell phone echoed throughout the house.

Immediately, both brothers checked their pockets, but neither Sam’s Treo nor Dean’s flip-top were the ones ringing.

“Hell,” Bobby said, “that’s your Dad’s phone.”

After John Winchester’s death in 2006, Dean had held onto their father’s cell phone and kept it charged in case anybody tried to call Dad. Over the months, they’d gotten a case or two that way, but as time went on, the calls tapered off, as word of their father’s demise worked its way through the hunters’ grapevine. After a while (and when the account was about to expire), they left the phone in Bobby’s care. He’d renewed the account and passed on what messages there were.

Bobby went into the back room where he kept the phone and picked it up. A moment later, he came back into the living room, holding the phone open. “It’s for you,” Bobby said, handing the phone to Dean.

Frowning, Dean took it. “Hello?” His hazel eyes widened and a grin broke out on his face. “Yaphet! How’s it hangin’, bro?”

Sam stared at Bobby? “Yaphet?”

“A nut job,” Bobby said dismissively.

“Really?” Dean was saying. “Okay. Yeah, sure, we’ll check it out. It’ll be me and my brother this time. Yeah, I got a brother. Sam. You’ll love Sammy, trust me. Cool. Seeya.” Dean closed the phone, still grinning and shaking his head. “Man—that was a blast from the past.”

Bobby was staring incredulously at Dean. Sam had to admit that he got that look on his face a lot lately. “You’re not actually takin’ that hippie burnout seriously, are you?”

Dean shrugged. “Why shouldn’t I?”

“Which part of ‘hippie burnout’ wasn’t I clear about?”

“Cah-MON, Bobby, I admit, he’s a little freaky-deaky, but the guy knows his stuff.”

“‘The guy’ can’t even *remember* his stuff.”

Having grown tired of needing subtitles for the conversation, Sam raised a hand. “Uh, hello? Can anyone join this discussion?”

Dean turned to look at Sam. “Yaphet the Poet is someone Dad and I met down in Key West while you were at Stanford.”

Sam nodded. He knew that Dean and their father had visited Key West at least once before. Sam had gone with Dean to Key West once also, but that was an in-and-out job that hadn’t left any time for seeing the island, or talking to its denizens. Dean had, Sam recalled, expressed great regret at that, and might have even mentioned this Yaphet guy.

Dean went on: “He sets up somewhere on Duval Street selling his poetry, and he keeps an eye on the weird stuff.” Cutting Bobby off before he could interrupt, Dean said, “And YES, he lived through the Sixties so good he never left, and he’s not always big with the specifics, but if there’s something wacky going on in the Keys, he usually knows about it.”

“The only wacky thing going on with him,” Bobby said, “is his tabacky.”

Sam stared blankly at Bobby, as did Dean.

Waving his hand, Bobby said, “You’re both too young. Look, I ain’t gonna stop you from following up on this, but you might want to wait until a *real* case comes along.”

“This might be real, Bobby. Yaphet says that spooks have been on overdrive for the last six months or so.”

Sam winced. “Since the Devil’s Gate opened?”

Dean nodded. “Mostly it’s been more hauntings—Key West has more ghost stories than anyplace this side of New Orleans—plus a weird death. Girl got her throat slit, and there was sulfur on the wound, according to Yaphet.”

“Do me a favor, all right?” Bobby said. “Let’s check on this ‘weird death’ from here before you go on down to Florida?”

“Yeah,” Dean said, “’cause the absolute LAST thing I want to do is leave the twenty-degree temps here and drive to a place that’s famous for sun, warm weather, live music, and partying.”

Sam looked at Bobby. “He’s got a point.”

“I do?” Dean looked at Sam with mock-confusion. “Waitasec, if you’re agreeing with me, something’s gotta be wrong.”

“Very funny. Look, if it’s a real job, we should go. If it isn’t, it’ll probably be fun.”

“No ‘probably’ about it,” Dean said with his biggest this-will-be-great smile. “Key West is *always* fun. And this time, we’re gonna appreciate it properly.”

Bobby threw up his hands. “Fine, do what you want—but I assume you ain’t gonna go till morning anyhow, right?”

Dean started to say something, but Sam said, “Right.”

“Say what? Sam, if we leave now, we’ll make better time.”

“We’ve both been drinking—”

“A glass of champagne and a couple beers. I’ve driven just fine with more booze in my system. I’ll be fine.”

Undeterred, Sam went on, even as he admitted to himself that Dean had an enviably high alcohol tolerance. “—plus it’s New Year’s Eve, so there’s bound to be lots of crazy people driving. Let’s get a good night’s sleep and hit the road in the morning.”

“Fine, whatever.” Dean got up. “I’m gonna get started on that sleep.”

Sam looked up at Bobby, who spoke before Sam could even ask the question. “Go ahead and use the computer.”

“Thanks.” Bobby’s computer was more up to date than Sam’s laptop, and had a faster processing speed. Sam would dearly have loved to upgrade his machine, but that required funds he just didn’t have. They barely survived on credit-card fraud—which, with federal warrants out on both Dean and Sam, was getting increasingly risky—and Dean’s ability to hustle pool and win at poker. In fact, just last night, he’d gotten into a high-stakes game. Bobby had lent him the stake money, after a great deal of cajoling, and Dean had won it all back and then some, to the tune of five figures. That would keep them going for a while. Heck, they’d even be able to stay in motels more often, instead of squatting in abandoned houses, as they’d been forced into more than once.

Bobby of course had the money because he actually made a living—which enabled him to upgrade his computer every once in a while, too. The Singer Salvage Yard was a thriving business.

As Sam sat down at the keyboard, he was reminded of another reason why he had to find a way to save his brother: Dean was their bread-winner. It was far from the most important reason, and didn’t even register ninety-nine percent of the time, but it was there nonetheless. Sam didn’t actually have any marketable skills—at least, not any legal ones. He had been less than halfway to a law degree when Dean had come for him at Stanford with the news that Dad had disappeared. The only things he knew how to do were either useless for making money, way outside the law, or in professions (the military, law-enforcement) that were likely cut off to him forever.

Of course, illegal behavior wasn’t totally out of the question. He was a wanted man in any case, for several felonies, so a few misdemeanors would hardly make a difference. Back at Stanford, he knew a guy who made a good chunk of change writing papers and selling them, and that was certainly an option he could pursue.

But that was a thought for another time. Forcing himself to focus, he made a few online searches, and found what he was looking for. A young woman vacationing in Key West named Megan Ward was found with her throat cut on a back street.

Bobby being Bobby, he had several bookmarks to coroner’s offices from around the country. Normally, these were highly secure intranets, but Bobby had managed to get through that. Apparently Ash, the now-deceased computer genius who hung out at Harvelle’s Roadhouse before it was torched, had performed that feat for him.

Scrolling down, Sam found the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office site, and was able to track down the ME report on the girl’s death. Sure enough, her throat was cut—but there was very little blood at the scene, even though her carotid artery was sliced open, and there was no indication that the body had been moved. The ME also noted, as this Yaphet character had, that there was sulfur on the wound, which was odd, as there was no evidence of sulfur anywhere else.

It wasn’t odd to Sam, though. Lots of demonic rituals required blood, and demons tended to leave sulfur behind.

“Bobby?” When he came over, Sam pointed at the screen.

“Yeah. All right, I guess the sun shines on a dog’s ass every once in a while.”

Sam set all the pages he’d called up to print on Bobby’s laser jet, then stretched his long arms. “All right, I’m gonna hit the hay. Thanks, Bobby.”

“No problem. I just hope this isn’t a wild goose chase.”

Shrugging, Sam got to his feet. “Worst-case scenario, Dean’s cut loose on Key West.” He grinned. “Key West may never be the same.”

Bobby did not grin back. “Yeah, well, be careful. There’s a reason why the place has so many ghost stories. Lotta spiritual energy on that island. If there is a demon that got out of the gate workin’ down there, it could be real bad.”

Sam nodded. “I know. But we’ve got the Colt—we’ll be all right. Hey, we’ve already faced down two gods and the seven deadly sins. We should be able to handle this.”

Bobby wasn’t buying Sam’s bravado. Sam had never been very good at it anyhow—that was more Dean’s bag. He’d been trying to be more like Dean in preparation for Dean being gone, but some things just didn’t take. Hell, he still was having trouble figuring out what went where under the Impala’s hood…

Putting a comforting hand on Sam’s shoulder, Bobby said, “Keep workin’ on it, Sam.”

Sam wasn’t sure if Bobby was referring to Sam’s piss-poor attempt at being cocky or his ongoing attempts to find a way to save Dean. Maybe it’s both, he thought. He nodded to Bobby, who nodded back. Then he went off to bed.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

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