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EXCERPT: “What the hell?” Fred Coopersmith said as the savage barking and eerie howling of dogs sounded outside his small general store. The few locals and sprinkle of tourists looked toward the dusty windows that faced the dirt road, the main street of a once-thriving mining town.
Now Tinplate was an isolated mountain valley curiosity for hunters and fishermen near a large reservoir west of the rugged Rocky Mountains. The crumbling, boarded-up buildings from the town’s heyday were slowly being replaced with manufactured log cabins and boxy RVs with satellite TV dishes.
He stepped outside and looked up and down the street. Only a few pick-up trucks and cars were visible, parked against the rickety wooden walkway that passed for a sidewalk. Wild-eyed dogs, their tails between their legs as they looked back over their shoulders, raced past him and disappeared behind a thick stand of trees in a curve of the road.
Though the late fall sun was bright and the mountain air chilly, an arctic cold touched him with such force that his legs went numb. He fell against the old hitching rail. From the corner of his eyes he thought he saw a shadowy form standing in the curve of the road. When he looked again there was nothing. However, he vaguely felt the fleeting remnants of a dark, endless hunger.
“Fred?” His long-time lover, Lorri, hurried out of the store to him.
“Where’s Annabelle?” Fred whispered as he trembled from the cold. His eyes rolled wildly, and he collapsed.
The blonde-haired soldier, camouflaged helmet tucked under an arm, stood on the deeply rutted road that reminded him so much of the primitive world of Russia. Mother Russia with few modern roadways—only dusty trails, thick wild forests, and the vast empty steppes beyond which lay unknown worlds.
He rubbed his fingertips with which he playfully touched the man in front of the store, tilted his head, and sniffed the air—although he could smell nothing except for a hot, musky scent that was sensed rather than smelled. The scent was far stronger beyond the brown and green mountains to the east, like castle ramparts sparkling with fresh snow, but there was another scent, much closer…