The Scarlet Gospels: A New Excerpt

The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker concludes the Hellraiser horror series in the collision of tattooed paranormal detective Harry D'Amour with the Cenobite known as Pinhead (available May 19, 2015).

The Scarlet Gospels takes readers back many years to the early days of two of Barker's most iconic characters in a battle of good and evil as old as time: The long-beleaguered detective Harry D'Amour, investigator of all supernatural, magical, and malevolent crimes faces off against his formidable, and intensely evil rival, Pinhead, the priest of hell. Barker devotees have been waiting for The Scarlet Gospels with bated breath for years, and it's everything they've begged for and more. Bloody, terrifying, and brilliantly complex, fans and newcomers alike will not be disappointed by this epic, visionary tale. 

 

Book 1
Chapter 1

Two decades ago, Harry D’Amour had turned twenty-three in New Orleans, drunk as a lord on Bourbon Street. Now here he was in the same city that had taken terrible wounds from hurricanes and human greed but had somehow survived them all, its taste for celebration unscathed. Harry was drinking in the same bar on the same street, twenty-four years later. There was music being played by a jazz quintet led, believe it or not, by the same trumpet player and vocalist, one Mississippi Moses, and there were still one-night love affairs happening on the little dance floor just as there had been almost a quarter of a century before. 

Harry had danced then with a beautiful girl who claimed to be Mississippi’s daughter. While she and Harry danced, she told him that if they wanted to do something “bad tonight”—Harry remembered perfectly the way she’d smiled as she said “bad”—then she had a place where they could play. They’d gone up to a little room above the bar where her papa’s music could be heard loud and clear coming up from below. That little fact should have warned Harry that this was a family affair and that men who have daughters can also have sons.

But all of his blood had gone south once he had his hand up her dress, and just about the time he had slid a finger into the moist heat of her, the door opened, and the girl made a pantomime of being surprised to see her two brothers, who were now standing in the room looking almost convincingly upset. The two intruders into Harry’s bliss had played out a scene they probably performed half a dozen times nightly: informing him that their lovely little sister was a virgin and that there wasn’t a man in the bar who would ever testify to having seen him if they dragged his Yankee carcass to a tree hidden behind a wall just a minute’s walk from there, where a noose was already hanging, waiting for a taker. But they assured him that they were reasonable men and if D’Amour had enough money on him they could maybe overlook his transgressions—just this once, of course. 

Naturally, Harry had paid up. He’d emptied his wallet and his pockets and almost lost his best Sunday shoes to the taller of the two brothers, except that they had been too big for him. The brothers knocked Harry around a little as he made his exit, tossing his shoes back at him and leaving the door open so he could make his escape, the lighter for a few hundred bucks but otherwise unharmed. 

All these years later, Harry had come to the bar half-hoping to find the girl still there, changed of course by the passing of so many years but still recognizable. She wasn’t there and neither were her ostensible brothers. Just the old jazz musician, eyes closed as he played, riffing on the bittersweet love songs that had been old when Harry had first heard Mississippi Moses play them all those years ago. 

None of this nostalgia, however, did much to improve Harry’s state of mind; nor did his reflection, which he caught in the age-eaten mirror behind the bar whenever he looked up. No matter how much liquor he downed, it refused to blur, and Harry saw all too clearly the scars of battle and time. Harry noted his own gaze, which, even when hurried, had taken on a distrustful cast. There was a downward tug at the corners of his mouth, the consequence of too many unwelcome messages delivered by unlovely messengers: notes from the dead, subpoenas from infernal courts, and the steady flow of invoices for the services of the janitor in Queens who would burn anything in his furnace for a price. 

Harry D’Amour had never wanted a life like this. He’d attempted to make a normal life for himself, a life untainted by the secret terrors whose presences he had first encountered as a child. The keeping of the law, he had reasoned, would be as good a bastion as any against the forces that stalked his soul. And so, lacking the smarts and the verbal dexterity required of a good lawyer, he became instead a member of New York’s finest. At first the trick seemed to work. Driving around the streets of New York, dealing with problems that reared from the banal to the brutal and back again twice in the same hour, he found it relatively easy to put to the back of his mind the unnatural images that stood beyond the reach of any gun or law that had been made. 

That wasn’t to say that he didn’t recognize the signs when he sensed them, however. A gust of wind carrying the scent of corruption was enough to call up a black tide from the base of his skull, which he only managed to drive back by sheer force of will. But the labor of normality took its toll. There wasn’t a single day in his time as a cop in which he hadn’t needed to cook up a quick lie or two to keep his partner, an occasionally affable family man known affectionately as Sam ”Scummy” Schomberg, from knowing the truth. After all, Harry wouldn’t wish the truth upon anyone. But the road to Hell is paved with the bubbling mortar of good intentions, and ultimately Harry’s lies and half-truths weren’t enough to save his partner. 

“Scummy” Schomberg’s nickname, however lovingly used, was well earned. Besotted as he was by his five children (“the last four were accidents”), his mind was never far from the gutter, which, on nights when he was on duty and the mood struck him, ensured that he’d spend time driving up and down the squalid streets where hookers plied their trade until he’d found a girl who looked healthy enough (“Lord knows I can’t take some fucking disease home”) for him to arrest and then subsequently set free once he’d received some complimentary service in a nearby alley or doorway. 

“Another Jack?” the bartender asked Harry, shaking Harry from his reverie. 

“No,” Harry replied. A memory of Scummy’s libidinous leer had come into Harry’s head, and from there his mind ran in quick autonomous leaps to the last moments of his partner’s life. “Don’t need that,” Harry spoke more to himself than the bartender as he rose from his barstool. 

“Sorry?” the bartender said. 

“Nothing,” Harry replied, sliding the ten-dollar bill he’d left toward the man as though he were paying him not to ask any more questions. Harry needed to get out of here and put his memories behind him. But despite his alcoholic haze, his mind was still faster than his feet and, his protests notwithstanding, it brought him back to that terrible night in New York, and he instantly found himself sitting in the patrol car down on 11th Street waiting for Scummy to get his rocks off.

Copyright © 2015 by Clive Barker

 

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Clive Barker is a legendary author, filmmaker, and visual artist. His Books of Blood series and his novella The Hellbound Heart, which inspired the Hellraiser movies, have amassed a global cult following and cemented his place in pop culture history. The Scarlet Gospels marks Barker's highly-anticipated return to horror fiction.

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