The Belial Library

By: R.D. Brady

 (The Belial Series Book 2)



PROLOGUE



Baltimore, Maryland

Twenty-Nine Years Ago





Six-year-old Henry Chandler jarred awake, clutching his frayed bear. His breath came out in jagged bursts. He pulled his legs to his chest. Small for his age, he was dwarfed by the twin bed.

Henry’s violet eyes darted around the room, straining to hear anything that told him why he’d awoken. He knew his room looked the same as it had when he went to sleep: pale blue paint on top, red on bottom. His stuffed animals, soldiers, board games, and books crammed the shelves on both sides of the door. The ceiling fan turned gently, its air pushing the toy airplane that hung from the ceiling.

But moonlight shined through his window, casting long shadows across the floor. The shadows, misshapen, looked like monsters reaching for his bed. He clutched Huggles tighter. His mom had assured him there were no monsters under the bed, but late at night like this, it was hard to remember that.

Noises — shouts and crashes — echoed from downstairs.

Trembling, he called out quietly. “Mom?” If she was next door, she’d hear him. She always did.

More loud bangs echoed up the stairs. He knew those sounds. Gunshots. He’d heard them on TV.

A second barrage of gunfire echoed from the first floor, throwing him into panicked motion. He struggled to free himself from his blankets. Gripping Huggles, he hurried across the room, jumping over the toys scattered on the floor.

He peeked through the crack in the door. The lights in the foyer downstairs were on, casting the circular stairwell in a soft glow. More thumps came from downstairs, and his father screamed.

Feeling like his heart was going to gallop out of his chest, Henry ran from his room to his parents’ room next door. He flung open the door. The giant bed was still made. His mom’s lace pillows were perfectly positioned on the lavender quilt.

Where was his mom? He searched the hall wildly, his heart pounding. Where was everybody?

As if on cue, footsteps pounded up the stairs behind him. He whirled around. But he knew his parents’ footfalls. It wasn’t them charging up the stairs. His mother’s words floated through his brain. Trust your instincts, Henry. If they tell you to run, you run.

Without another glance, he sprinted down the hall. He rushed past door after door — the bathroom, music room, study, office, sewing room, another bathroom.

His little legs struggled to move faster. Why was this hall so long?

He kept his eyes focused on the little door two feet off the ground at the end of the hall. He jerked to a stop at the dumbwaiter, sliding the door open with a bang. Throwing Huggles on the tray inside, Henry clambered in after him.

“Hey!” A man in black charged down the hall towards Henry.

Henry slammed the door shut, locking it. His small hands curled around the thick ropes, pulling on them, lowering himself to the kitchen below. Above him, the wood splintered as bullets crashed through it. The man started kicking at the door.

“Come on, come on.” Tears streaming down his cheeks, Henry’s words came out in a hiccupped burst as he pleaded with the ancient pulley system to move faster. The lock above him gave way just as he reached the bottom.

Henry struggled to open the latch in front of him with his trembling hands. He yanked and yanked on the small metal handle, but it wouldn’t budge. “No, no, no,” he screamed.

The man’s head appeared though the opening above him, two floors up. He took aim. “Gotcha, kid.”

Henry covered his head with his hands just as the door next to him shot open. Two arms reached through the opening, yanking him into the dark kitchen. Henry screamed. He fell on someone as bullets slammed into the tray behind them.

Soft arms curled around him. “I've got you, baby.”

Henry flung his arms around his savior. “Mom,” he sobbed out.

She hugged him to her and then stood him up, firmly grasping his hand. “It’ll be okay, honey.”

He nodded, trying to hold back his tears. For the first time, he noticed the body stretched across the back doorway, the gun his mom held in her other hand. “Mom?” his voice cracked.

She squeezed his hand, turning her violet eyes to him. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

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