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Author Jeremy Bates is the #1 Amazon bestseller author of White Lies. He is a Mystery and Thrillers writer.
World's Scariest Places Book 2
Author: Jeremy Bates
Barnes and Noble
Paris, France, is known as the City of Lights, a metropolis renowned for romance and beauty. Beneath the bustling streets and cafés, however, exists The Catacombs, a labyrinth of crumbling tunnels filled with six million dead.
When a video camera containing mysterious footage is discovered deep within their depths, a group of friends venture into the tunnels to investigate. But what starts out as a lighthearted adventure takes a turn for the worse when they reach their destination—and stumble upon the evil lurking there.
Excerpt from The Catacombs
They were dead. All of them. Pascal, Rob, and now Danièle—dead.
I tried not to think about this as I fled down the crumbling and rock-strewn hallway. I kept the torch ahead of me and above my head so the smoke didn’t waft back into my face. The flames bounced shadows off the stone walls and filled the air with a sickening tar-like stench. The only sound was my labored breathing and my feet splashing through the puddles that dotted the chalky gray ground.
A passageway opened to my left, a gaping mouth leading away into blackness. I veered into it, hoping to zigzag ever farther through the underground labyrinth, praying it didn’t lead to a dead end. If it did, I would be trapped. My pursuers would catch me. Smash my skull into bits like they did to Pascal. Set me on fire like they did to Rob. I couldn’t fathom what they did to Danièle, but judging by her screams, I suspect she got it the worse.
I wanted desperately to believe that this wasn’t the case, that Danièle wasn’t dead, and for a moment I allowed my imagination to run wild with fanciful speculation, because I hadn’t actually seen her die…
No—I heard her. She was gone, she had to be, and I was next, as doomed as the rest of them.
Still, I kept running, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I was too afraid to accept the inevitable and give up and die, too hardwired to survive, even though there was nothing left to live for.
I opened my mouth and yelled. I hated the sound of it. It was shrill and broken and full of pain, what might come from a mongrel dog beaten to within inches of its life. My disgust with myself lasted only a moment, however, because seconds after the wretched moan tapered off, a riot of savage cries erupted from behind me.
So goddamn close!
The cries rose in a crescendo of frenzied bloodlust. Terror blasted through me, but I couldn’t make my legs move any faster. They were cement blocks. I felt as if I were running in the opposite direction on a moving walkway.
Suddenly the ceiling and walls disappeared and a vast darkness opened around me. While looking up to gauge the size of this new chamber, I stumbled over unreliable ground, lost my footing, and fell upon a mound of rubble. The torch flew from my grip and landed a few feet ahead of me. I stared at the polished rocks illuminated in the smoking flame until I realized they were not rocks but bones. Human bones. Skulls and femurs and tibias and others. I grabbed the torch by the handle and thrust it into the air.
Bones and bones and more bones, for as far as I could see.
I shoved myself to my feet, took several lurching steps, as if wading through molasses, then sagged to my knees. A centuries-old femur splintered beneath my weight with a snap like deadwood.
The sounds of my pursuers grew louder. I refused to look back over my shoulder. Instead I clutched at the bones before me, my fingers curling around their brittle lengths, pulling myself forward, my legs no longer responding at all.
Finally, beyond exhaustion, I flopped onto my chest and lay panting among the thousands of skeletonized remains as a sleepy darkness rose inside me.
They don’t smell, I thought, bones don’t smell, funny, always imagined they would.
And then, absently, in a back-of-the-mind way: I don’t want to die like this, not here, not like this, not in a mass grave, I don’t want to be just another pile of nameless bones, forgotten by the world.
That video camera.
That fucking video camera.
40 HOURS EARLIER
I was seated at a pavement terrace in Paris’s 3rd arrondissement, waiting for my steaming cappuccino to cool down and thinking that I was a long way from home. I was born in Olympia, Washington, but my family moved to Seattle when I was ten because my father was sacked from his job as a camera technician at Canon and decided he could find better work in a bigger city. He ended up selling used cars at a Ford dealership. He was never very good at it, not a natural salesman, and took orders from someone twenty years his junior until he retired. My mother, the head librarian at a private high school in Olympia, found administrative work with the King County Library System in Seattle. Though she took a salary cut in the move, she didn’t complain. She’d always been a team player, putting others ahead of herself. This was especially true for family.
A lot of my adolescent friends went to Seattle University or U Dub or one of the smaller colleges in the state. They wanted to stay close to home so they could live with their parents to save cash. Where’s the adventure in that? I’d thought, and relocated across the country in New York City to study journalism at NYU. I wanted the college experience, and for this you had to get away from home. I remember my grade twelve English lit teacher telling the class one day how college was going to be the best three or four years of your life, so you better make the most out of it. In my case he had been right. It wasn’t that college had been ridiculously fun—though it did have its moments—it was that things had been pretty shitty for me ever since my younger sister, Maxine, died two years after I graduated.
As I braved a sip of my cooling coffee, I decided the 3rd arrondissement reminded me of Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood. It had a young vibe, with all the pubs and designer boutiques and vintage shops and brasseries-turned-hipster hangouts. The main difference, I’d say, was that here nobody seemed in any real hurry to get anywhere.
The tables around me had filled up with the after-work crowd, the men in dark suits, some without neckties or blazers, the women in institutional skirts and plain blouses. As seemed to be the fashion in this city, everyone sat facing the street, nonchalantly judging the people walking by.
I returned the white mug to the saucer with a delicate clank of porcelain and judged too. A woman dressed in lipstick colors and high heels held my attention. She was willowy with sharp cheekbones and a hooked nose, not the type of lady you’d approach for directions. A pair of big sunglasses covered much of her face. That was something else here. Everyone had great eyewear. No cheap prescription Lenscrafters, or pharmacy-rack shades with colored lenses and fluorescent frames. Only high-end designer stuff. I bought myself a pair of Ray Ban Aviators a while back. I also started wearing a lot of neutral tones. Nowadays I stuck mostly to black, and I guessed I looked about as French as you could get.
Just then I spotted Danièle halfway down the block. She was riding toward me on a pink bicycle with fenders the color of pearl and a wicker basket mounted on the front handlebars.
I stood and waved. She pulled next to the table, scissor-stepped off the bike’s seat, propped the kickstand, then bent close for a double air kiss—social protocol for both hello and goodbye. I haven’t gotten used to this yet, it wasn’t me, but whatever. When in Rome, right?
“Sorry I am late, Will,” she said in her French-accented English. “Do you want anything to eat?”
“I’m good,” I said, and retook my seat while she entered the café. I watched her through the large bay window. With her jet-black shag, pixie face, dark mascara, sooty lashes, and pale lips, Danièle reminded me of Joan Jett in the “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” days. She wore a butterfly-print summer dress that clung to her thin body as she moved, a silk scarf looped chicly around her neck, and knee-high green suede boots.
How long had I known her now? I wondered. Two months? Two-and-a-half? Something like that. I’d been in Paris for at least a couple weeks then, got tired of pantomiming my way around the city, so decided to give learning French a shot. I placed an ad for a language exchange partner on the France version of Craigslist. The site was used mostly by American expats. Apparently the French haven’t taken to it because of their difficulty pronouncing “Craigslist.” Even so, I received several replies. I chose to partner with Danièle because she came across as open and friendly in her initial emails.
We’ve gotten to know each other fairly well since then. She was born in Germany to a German father and French mother. They divorced when she was six, and she moved to France with her mother and older sister. She graduated from L’Ecole des Mines two years before. It was a prestigious engineering school, the MIT of France. She could have interned at any company she wanted. But, according to her, she wanted to take it easy for a while, so now she spent her days working in a florist shop and her nights exploring the network of catacombs that snaked beneath the city.
We got together twice a week, usually on Mondays and Fridays. She would teach me French one day, I would teach her English the other. Actually, I didn’t really “teach” her anything. She was pretty much fluent. English had been a prerequisite for admission into Les Mines, and she’d studied it extensively as an adolescent. She told me she just wanted someone she could speak the language with so it didn’t get rusty on her.
She liked me—romantically, I mean. She was fairly obvious about it too. I should have been flattered. She was good looking. I’d thought that the first time I saw her. But I hadn’t come to Paris searching for a relationship; I’d come to get away from one—at least the aftermath of one. My ex’s name was Bridgette Pottinger. We’d met at NYU. In our senior year we moved into a tiny flat together off the Bowery near Chinatown. I got a job as a copy editor for the Brooklyn Eagle. She was accepted to the law program at Columbia. I popped the question a year later at the top of the Statue of Liberty. I know, cheesy, but at the time I’d thought it was romantic. The wedding was planned for the following July at a lodge on Lake Placid.
The night before the ceremony my younger sister, Maxine, and my best friend, Brian, died in a boating accident. The wedding, of course, was cancelled. My life was thrown into chaos. My parents blamed me for the death of Max. My friends blamed me for the death of Brian. Bridgette and I began to unravel too, and we decided it would be best to take a break. I had moved on from the paper to a travel writing gig, assisting with the guides for the Mid-Atlantic states. I was close with my boss, both professionally and personally. He knew what I was going through, knew I needed a fresh start. He told me head office was looking for someone to revamp a few of the European editions, and he put my name forward. A month later I was in London, getting the lowdown for a revised Paris guide. The other correspondents in Paris were covering the cafés and restaurants and hotels. My brief was to cover the nightlife scene. They wanted to jazz up the guide to appeal more to the younger crowd.
And so far, so good. My new boss liked the copy I was turning in, and I liked doing what I was doing. I spent my nights checking out different bars and clubs, and my days writing up an opinion of them. There was a lot to do, and the deadlines were tight, but the work kept me occupied, kept me from thinking too much about my old friends, family, and most of all, Bridgette.
Still, I’d be lying if I said I’d gotten over Bridgette. I hadn’t. In the back of my mind I had a plan. After a year or so away, I would return to the States, I’d be a little more worldly, a little more mature, and Bridgette and I could start things anew.
I winced. Danièle’s birthday party. Christ. How the hell did I get roped into that? Danièle’s friends—an eclectic mix of bohemians and young professionals—had been pleasant, the drinks kept coming, and everyone got piss drunk…and then…then everything blurred together.
When I woke in Danièle’s bed Saturday morning, I could barely remember how I got there. Filled with guilt, I did the asshole thing and left without waking her. I spent the entire weekend at my laptop whipping my latest bar and club notes into some sort of coherent form. I didn’t answer my phone when Danièle called Sunday afternoon, and we didn’t communicate again until earlier today when she texted me to confirm that the lesson was still on.
I almost cancelled, but I knew how obvious that would look.
Danièle returned from the café proper with a cappuccino now. She sat across from me, took off her sunglasses—Fendis—and smiled hesitantly. I cleared my throat. I had already decided to act as if this was any other lesson, and I said, “French or English today?”
A flash of surprise crossed her face before she turned her attention to the spoon stirring her coffee. “Friday was French,” she stated. “So today is English, if that is all right.”
“Good with me,” I said. “So…”
She lifted her eyes. “Yes?”
“I’m thinking of a topic to discuss.”
“How about the weekend?” she suggested coyly. “You always ask me about my weekend on Mondays.”
“Did you get up to anything on Sunday?”
“On Sunday?” More surprise, maybe some disappointment. She shrugged. “No, I stayed home all day. What about you, Will? Were you hung over both Saturday and Sunday? Or did you do anything special on Sunday?”
“I made chicken Provençal. Have you tried it?”
“Of course I have. I am French. What else did you do?”
“Nothing really. Work. That’s about it.”
I frowned. “You see?”
“You do not want to talk about Friday night. I see. That is fine with me.”
“I had a fun time.”
I wondered if I was blushing. “Yeah.”
“You were gone when I woke up. I thought…”
“I know, I— What time did you get up?”
“You are very good at avoiding this topic.”
“I’m not avoiding it.”
She nodded silently.
I lit a Marlboro Light to give myself something to do. The trio at the table next to us were sharing a bottle of wine and laughing loudly. This made the silence between Danièle and me seem all the more protracted and uncomfortable.
I decided it was stupid to try to ignore what had happened between us, to pretend this was nothing but another lesson.
We had slept together. We were having coffee now.
That made this a date, didn’t it?
At least in Danièle’s mind it did.
“I liked your friends,” I said, segueing back to Friday.
She smiled. “They liked you too.”
“Except for one guy. What was his name? Patsy…?”
“He had a wool cap.”
“Yes, that is Pascal. You do not like him?”
“He’s fine, I guess. He just didn’t seem like he wanted to talk to me.”
“Because he has a crush on me,” she stated matter-of-factly.
“Yes, for many years. We were in the same freshman class at school. He was with me during my initiation.”
Danièle was referring to her university initiation. She had told me all about it on numerous occasions. You could enter her favorite stomping ground, the catacombs, any number of ways, including Metro tunnels, utility systems, church crypts, and the basements of homes, hospitals, lycées, and universities (apparently there was even an entrance in the bowels of Tour Montparnasse, one of Paris’ first skyscrapers). Like most of the other buildings in the old Latin Quarter, L’Ecole des Mines had its own secret access points, and it was a tradition for seniors to drop freshmen into the underground maze and have them find their way out again.
I said, “Do you guys still go into the catacombs together?”
“Many times. As a matter of fact—” Her phone rang. “Just a moment, Will,” she said, and answered it. The voice on the other end was male. My French was still piss poor, and I was only able to gather that she was meeting this person later in the evening.
“Big date tonight?” I asked when she hung up.
“Would you be jealous if it were?”
“I do not believe you.”
“I would be.”
“You know, Will, I thought we had a good time on Friday.”
“Then why…I have the feeling you…regret it.”
I looked at my cigarette. “I don’t regret it.”
“Then why are you acting so strange?”
I was about to tell her I wasn’t acting strange, but I held my tongue. I suppose I was.
I took a final drag on the smoke and stubbed it out in the ashtray. “Look, Danièle. I like you. But we have been friends for a while now. And then…you know, just like that. Boom. I—it’s a bit overwhelming.”
She considered that, nodded. “Okay, Will. I understand. You just tell me when you are ready.”
I studied her. The delivery was so pokerfaced I couldn’t discern if she was being sincere or sarcastic…
Mystery & Thrillers
Jeremy Bates - Suspense Author
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Jeremy Bates is the award-winning author of several novels and short stories. He writes suspense, horror, and thrillers. The novels in his "World's Scariest Places" series are set in real locations, and so far include Suicide Forest in Japan, The Catacombs in Paris, Helltown in Ohio, and (forthcoming) Island of the Dolls in Mexico.
Author's Book List
- Suspense Horror Thriller & Mystery Short Stories): A Collection of Four Novellas
A collection of four novellas exploring the dark side of love:
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado boasts one of the most beautiful and deepest canyons in the United States. For twelve-year-old Brian Garrett, a weekend camping trip in the park promises to be an opportunity to bond with his aloof parents. But after his father suffers a horrible accident during a hike to the chasm’s floor, events spiral quickly out of control, and over the next twenty-four hours Brian will uncover a terrifying dark side to his father—and an even darker side to himself.
When a man wakes in a rundown apartment, hooked up to a strange machine, a dead body in the next room, he has no memory of who he is, or what he is doing there. Over the next forty-eight hours, however, as he works to unravel the mystery of his identity, he'll come to realize that some things are better left unknown.
When a former soldier recently released from prison comes looking for his longtime girlfriend, and discovers she has moved on with another boyfriend, he vows to kill her. Now, it seems, she only has one option: Run.
New York City. Eight million people. You never know what kind of psycho may be living next door.
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- World's Scariest Places Book 3
Since the 1980s there have been numerous reports of occult activity and other possibly supernatural phenomenon within certain villages and townships of Summit County, Ohio - an area collectively known as Helltown.
When a group of out-out-town friends investigating the legends are driven off the road by a mysterious hearse, their night of cheap thrills turns to chills as they begin to die one by one.
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Just outside of Tokyo lies Aokigahara, a vast forest and one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in Japan...and also the most infamous spot to commit suicide in the world. Legend has it that the spirits of those many suicides are still roaming, haunting deep in the ancient woods.
When bad weather prevents a group of friends from climbing neighboring Mt. Fuji, they decide to spend the night camping in Aokigahara. But they get more than they bargained for when one of them is found hanged in the morning—and they realize there might be some truth to the legends after all.
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While driving to a charming village tucked away deep in the Cascade Mountains of eastern Washington, where she is to begin a new job teaching high school English, Katrina Burton picks up a young hitchhiker who turns out to be drunk and predatory. Fearful for her safety, she lies about her destination in order to get him out of the car. But when she later discovers that he is a teacher at the same school, she finds herself feeding that initial lie with more lies. Then Katrina meets a mysterious man . Handsome, charismatic and strong, he is exactly what she needs to extricate her from the expanding network of lies, now spinning out of control. She falls fast and hard for him. But her perfect solution soon becomes a nightmare that lands her in the middle of a grisly murder. And Katrina's problems don't stop there.
She must decide whether to betray her new love or to cover up the murder and hope for the best.
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