As Aaron works to solve the cases and protect his only witness, an orphaned child, he learns of an ancient curse that leaves him questioning all he’s ever believed. Now, to save himself and the child, Aaron must confront his own inner demons, and some he never knew existed. But if he does, will he make it out alive?
Devil’s Nightmare is an occult suspense horror novel by Robert Pruneda, who shakes readers with his visually graphic scenes, supernatural twists, and disturbing settings in this first installment of the Devil’s Nightmare series.
I arrived at the crime scene at seven-thirty on Monday morning and parked my black ’81 Corvette Stingray behind a police car that had the left rear door hanging open. A young boy with sandy blond hair sat in the back, staring at the seat in front of him. Emergency vehicles packed the street in front of the house. Police officers, crime scene investigators, and paramedics performed their jobs while reporters yelled out questions to anyone within earshot. A mob of reporters barked a barrage of questions at me, but I ignored them and ducked under the police tape, making my way to the front porch. A bloodstained curtain hung out of a broken window to the right of the front entrance. The shattered bay window to left of the entrance had pieces of the frame bent towards the interior of the house. The highest-ranking officer of the Austin Police Department, and an old friend of mine of many years, exited the home just as I stepped onto the front porch. I shook his hand. “So, what’ve we got here, Chief?” “It’s bad, Aaron. Tenemos dos víctimas.” Chief David Hernandez spoke perfect English, and without much of an accent, but that didn’t stop him from throwing in a little bit of Spanish for my benefit. It was David’s not-so-subtle way of trying to mold me into a bilingual detective, which of course is useful in Texas. I still couldn’t speak the language, but, thanks to David, I could at least understand it. “So, who are our two vics?” “Carol and Tony Scoletti. Whoever killed them must have been really pissed.” “Yeah, that’s usually the case” I bobbed my head in agreement. Murderers do tend to have slight anger issues. “So, we have a double-homicide. Doesn’t happen here much, but what’s so unusual?” “You haven’t seen the bodies… or what’s left of them, that is.” “Okay.” I lowered my brow. “Now you have my attention. Just what exactly are we dealing with?” “Follow me,” he said, and led me to the living room. The body of a decapitated Caucasian woman lay mangled on top of a shattered glass coffee table. Her left arm hung from her shoulder, attached only by tendons. Intestines spilled onto the floor from her torn stomach. She also had three large gashes across her breasts and several more on her bare legs. “Jesus! You weren’t kidding. What the hell did this guy come at her with, a chainsaw?” “You haven’t seen anything yet,” Chief Hernandez answered, and then headed down the hallway towards the bedrooms. I followed him inside the first bedroom. Blood and gore painted the walls and ceiling. Only the torso of what used to be a body lay in the middle of the room in a pool of blood, guts and ripped flesh. Pieces of bloody flesh hung from the ceiling fan. There was a severed arm on a blood-soaked pillow on the bed and a detached leg protruding out from underneath it. Where was the rest of the body? “This is the kid’s bedroom,” he said. “He’s lucky to be alive. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but why spare him?” I noticed muddy footprints mixed in blood underneath the shattered window. “Come on, Aaron. You don’t really think anyone would do this to a kid, do you?” No, I didn’t, but you could never know for sure. Some people have absolutely no conscience whatsoever. The kid was lucky. After examining the remains of a man’s body, I asked, “That kid in the squad car. Has he said anything?” “Nada. Not a word since we arrived.” “I’ll go to talk to him. See if I can get him to open up.” I tapped the shoulder of the crime scene investigator taking photos of the body. “You have a swab kit I can borrow?” “Yeah, sure.” The young CSI set her camera down and retrieved the items from her crime scene kit. “Need me to come with?” “Nah, that’s okay. I got it.” My heart sank from the boy’s blank expression. Dry blood splatter peppered his cheeks and forehead. The blood covering his clothes told me he’d had a front seat view of what had happened. A seat that would have also given him a clear view of the perpetrator. “What’s his name?” I asked the police officer in charge of babysitting the boy, while a bunch of strangers with badges, guns, and funny-looking suits, filtered in and out of his home. “Cody Sumner,” the officer answered. “I can’t imagine what he’s going through.” She shook her head and added, “Poor baby.” I knelt down next to Cody and introduced myself. “Hi, Cody. My name is Detective Aaron Sanders, with the Austin Police Department. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” Cody didn’t acknowledge my presence. “Are you hurt anywhere?” Nothing. He just stared ahead. “Can I see your hands?” That time he gave me a subtle shrug. I put on a pair of latex gloves and tenderly turned his hands over. Dried blood covered his palms. I sighed and placed the boy’s hands back on his lap. I pulled a buccal swab from the kit that I borrowed from the crime scene investigator. “I need to get some samples off your clothing and hands. It’s not going to hurt though. Can you give me a little nod if that’s okay?” Cody faced me, his blue eyes watering, and said, “They’re dead.” “I’m sorry.” I placed my hand on the back seat. “I promise we’ll find and punish the person who did this, Cody, but we need your help. Can you tell me what happened?” Cody focused on the back seat again. His crying came in constricted whimpers and sniffling. “That’s okay.” I squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “We’ll talk later.” “Aaron!” Chief Hernandez yelled from the porch, gesturing me toward him. I met him halfway on the front lawn. “What is it?” “We have another crime scene.” “Another one?” “Memorial Heights Cemetery. Busy day for the APD, and it’s about to get even busier for you, amigo.” “Can we get Anderson or—” “No, I want you on this. You should head over there right away.” “Why? What’s so special about this one?” “The grounds crew found three bodies. Two of them with their heads missing.” He rubbed his hand over his face and took a breath. “What?” Finding dead bodies at a cemetery was normal enough, but they tend to arrive in caskets. And they typically have their heads attached. I asked again, “What?” “They’re kids, Aaron. Niños!” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. “What the hell is going on here?” “I don’t know, pero we have one sick cabrón targeting children now. I need you to head over to the cemetery. I’ll call the FBI. This is way over our heads.” “Whoa, wait a minute.” I hated dealing with feds. “The last thing we need is a bunch of bureaucratic suits flashing badges around here and putting up a bunch of red tape. We can handle it ourselves.” “Aaron, this isn’t a typical murder case. I think we’re dealing with a serial.” “Yeah… maybe.” “Maybe?” Chief Hernandez said. “Decapitations and bodies ripped apart don’t exactly fit the description of a normal homicide. And speaking of decapitations, where’re the victims’ heads?” Good question. “All right, I see your point. I’ll check out the cemetery. What about that kid over there?” Cody had stopped crying. A police officer handed him a bottled water. “He’s our only witness.” “I’ll let you know where he ends up. Probably Brackenridge. Now go.” “All right, all right. I’m going.”
He also pens the occasional family-oriented tale just to keep from going completely nuts with all those creatures of the night whispering in his ears. When he’s not pulling ideas out of his twisted brain, you’ll likely find him on social media or fighting alongside his fellow gaming buddies where they all get shot up into Swiss cheese (or turned into little bite-sized chunks because of “Sharky’s” obsession with explosives). Medic!
Pursue your dreams . . . and never look back.
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