On a secluded island ruled by a puritanical cult, where hangings of sinners are concealed as suicides, one cop struggles to free himself and his son from his family’s dark legacy as hangmen.
Only Killers and Thieves x The Gods of Howl Mountain
Sandlow Key, Florida. 1995
In the lee of the bastard oak, the condemned man awaited reckoning. Shirtless and filthy, handcuffs at the wrists, his quivering produced the tinkling of bells. Above him, the oak towered like some black mark upon the world. Solitary and bleak, naked limbs parallel to the horizon, it resembled a necrotic claw intent on dragging the man to some underworld below the sand.
The name bestowed upon the tree by children a century past was its name still.
The Devil’s Hand.
Before the condemned man, Tommy Abraham peered at strips of predawn sky between branches black as coal. He turned up the folds on the collar of his windbreaker against the unrelenting February wind. A chill coursed through his slender ten-year-old body, owed only in part to the cold.
Flocks of seagulls stalked the beach, picking amongst shells for hermit crabs, their tracks erased with each lethargic wave of the Gulf of Mexico. Undecided if the condemned man was on display for him, or if he was on display for the man, Tommy tried to lose himself in the repetition of the tide. He plucked bits of fray from a cord of rope in his hands. The rope stank of rust and left stains on his fingertips.
He barely recognized the man standing beneath the tree. Swollen eyes, his face distorted with grime. Yet, the familiar pattern of dark moles populating the man’s pale torso were confirmation enough.
The youth pastor, Mr. Jack.