SPECIAL NOTE: The Bone Keeper, by Luca Veste, is one of four books included in this month’s Creepy Crate. Order by February 10 to get one of these books, plus a selection of terrifying true crime-themed collectibles.
The Bone Keeper is just a myth–or so Detective Constable Louise Henderson has been trying to convince herself for years.
But the kids in Liverpool still believe in the Bone Keeper, long after Louise’s own childhood has come to a screeching halt. And when a young woman emerges from the woods, beaten, brutalized, and singing that eerie childhood rhyme–“he’ll slice your flesh, your bones he’ll keep”–it seems the Bone Keeper has come to life. As bodies keep appearing, and innocent people keep vanishing, it’s up to Louise to convince her partner that something inhuman is on the prowl...
The Bone Keeper hits shelves on February 5, but we've got a sneak peak at the terror.
Read on for an excerpt of The Bone Keeper, which you may receive in this month’s Creepy Crate.
A light breeze rippled the police tape strung up across the road as Louise crossed over to the other side. More people were turning up at the scene. Some, she guessed, had just been passing by and wanted to see what was going on. Others would have been told about it and had come specifically to see what was happening on their doorstep. As she crossed she had caught herself before she looked both ways, realizing there wasn’t any traffic able to travel down the road at that point. Not with all the police vehicles blocking the way. It took seconds to reach the growing number of people gathered there, all of whom were beginning to look a little uncomfortable. A uniform she recognized fell into step with her. “That’s enough now,” Louise said, holding up her hands to the various members of the public standing around. “Going to need you to move farther back over that way and stop filming.”
“It’s our right, isn’t it,” a voice said from the back. “Can’t stop us doing it. We’ve got rights. It’s a public place.”
“Just listen and let us do our jobs,” the uniform next to Louise said. PC Robertson, she thought. Her first name came to her mind just as easily. Andrea. A tall, stocky woman in her mid-thirties. Long, dark hair, tied back out of her way. “Let’s not create more of a scene.”
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Louise was about to speak again, but the loudmouth toward the back piped up again.
“Can’t force us to do nothing. We’re not doing anything wrong. What’s the matter? You worried we’ll see you doing something you shouldn’t be?”
That’s how it is now, Louise thought. Every move recorded, scrutinized. The victim didn’t matter to these people, just what they could capture on video or in pictures. They were more interested in posting on social media and gaining as many shares, likes, comments, whatever, as they could. They didn’t care who was affected.
“Come over here,” Louise said, her eyes growing darker. The tall lad at the back gave a quick smirk to one of his mates, then peeled away from the group and made his way over to the side where she was waiting for him. “Put that down for a second.”
The lad couldn’t have been more than twenty, the cocky air of the young and foolish surrounding him. Black tracksuit pants on, one of the legs tucked into a faded, white sock. He was holding his phone up, pointing it at her. “Don’t see why I should.”
Louise smiled at him, which had the effect she wanted. A flush of red rose in his cheeks as he lowered the phone, switching it off and placing it back in his pocket.
“Listen, we’re just trying to give her a bit of dignity,” Louise said, her voice low so she couldn’t be heard by the rest of the people gathered. “You understand, right?”
The lad hesitated, quickly looking her up and down. He grinned as his eyes rested on hers again. “You’re fit for a copper, you know.”
“Did you see anything, at least? Make yourself useful to me.”
“I got here the same time as the first ambulance,” he replied, his voice thick with accent and entitlement. “Just the girl on the floor, that’s all.”
Louise tried to ignore the girl word, clenching her jaw to stop herself from saying something she’d regret later. “Are you going to stop getting in the way and back to whatever you usually do?”
“What do I get out of it?”
Louise could feel herself losing control of the conversation as she glanced back across the road, to the main hive of activity. She imagined grabbing the lad by the throat, slamming him into the ground. Smashing his head off the pavement, watching him cry, beg, plead for mercy. The images flashed through her mind in an instant. An explosion of violence she couldn’t control. She’d often heard it described as “red mist descending”—usually from some worthless defendant in an interview room—but that wasn’t how she experienced it. It was more like darkness. The world turning black, punctuated by pockets of light, which contained horror within them.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” Louise said, blinking away the images and remaining calm. “I won’t search through your pockets and find the weed and whatever else you have on you.”
“I’m not stashing anything—”
“Save it,” Louise replied, stepping closer to the lad now. “You reek of it. Just do us both a favor, get on your bike and bugger off out of here. We’ve got enough to deal with.”
The lad thought about it for a few seconds, then walked away, jerking his head to a couple of the other men who’d been standing at the back of the group watching them intently. Louise waited for them to round the corner and then started breathing again.
The rest of the group milling around looked back across the road as she returned to them. The phones had disappeared, but she knew they wouldn’t wait long to start up again. It would be too late anyway, she thought. They would have enough to get as many likes and retweets as their hearts desired.
“Can we help?”
Louise turned to the two uniformed officers who had been waiting for her to come back. She looked them up and down, wondering how much use the dozy-looking pair would be, and shook her head. “Help Robertson there move the tape back. At least out of sight of the ambulance.”
She didn’t hear their response, her attention drawn to the shop opposite. A few feet from where the ambulance was parked yet seemingly ignored, a figure stood in the doorway and caught her eye as she looked toward him. Then he turned away, disappearing into the shop. Louise frowned, then crossed back over, leaving the uniformed officers to sort themselves out. A few seconds later, she was stepping into the shop.
There was no answer, so she continued to walk farther in. It was a convenience store, which seemed to contain everything anyone could ever need for any eventuality. An alternative to one of the bigger supermarkets, which she knew were a hell of a walk from there. She imagined it was a favorite for the old dears who probably made up a high percentage of the local populace.
“Hello?” she tried again, raising her voice a little more. “I know you’re in here. I saw you in the doorway. I just need to ask a few questions, that’s all.”
As she reached the counter, Louise heard the labored breathing from behind it. The man she’d seen in the doorway was standing off to the side, hidden by the oversized scratch-card dispenser.
“Hello,” the man said, shuffling toward the counter now. He was older than she’d expected, face creased by lines and age. Leathery skin, which kept going back from his forehead, unkempt gray hair sprouting from the sides of his head. There was an almost imperceptible shake in his hands as he raised them and pointed toward the outside of the shop. “I don’t know what’s going on out there.”
“Have you been here all morning?” Louise asked, ignoring his plea. “You saw what happened?”
The man shook his head, the shake in his hands becoming worse the longer Louise looked at them. “Please, I don’t know anything.” He had the look of someone from her past—an old guy who had run the local corner shop. Weathered and disheveled. “There’s no trouble here,” she tried, cocking her head and smiling tightly. “We just need to make sure we don’t miss anything, okay? We want to help.
I’m Detective Constable Louise Henderson. What’s your name?” “George,” the man replied. It was clear from his tone that that was all she was going to get at this point.
“Okay, George, we just want to help the woman who’s been injured, now—”
“I can’t help you.”
Louise stopped smiling, working hard to keep herself from giving the man a good, hard shake. “Why don’t you just tell me what you saw before we arrived. What happened?”
The man shook his head, more forcefully now. “I don’t want to get involved. I’ve already told them I didn’t see anything. I’ve heard the stories. You ask for my help and then suddenly I’m a grass, a snitch. Next week, they’ll put stuff through my windows and I can’t have that. You’re only placing me in danger. I’m not going to speak to you.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t understand—”
There was movement at the back of the shop, a sound like something shifting on one of the shelves. “Are you hiding someone back there?” Louise said to George, who didn’t respond. She looked at the doorway quickly, then turned back in the direction of the noise. She walked toward it, waiting for any more movement or sound.
A head poked around the door, saw her coming, and disappeared again. Louise straightened up from the bent-over crouch she’d been walking in. “You can come out now. I’ve seen you.”
A small boy, no older than eight or nine, peered around the shelves and then withdrew, but not as quickly this time.
“I won’t bite,” Louise said, stopping a few feet short. “I want to make sure you’re okay, that’s all.”
The boy shuffled out, staring at his feet as he did so. She could see some resemblance to George, who was still behind the counter but watching her intently.
“What’s your name?”
The boy didn’t answer, so Louise squatted down, finding his eyes and not looking away. “Mine’s Louise. Are you okay?”
He thought for a moment, then nodded his head.
“Shouldn’t you be in school?” Louise asked, trying not to sound like a teacher as she did so.
“Teacher training day,” the boy replied, his voice soft, a slight trace of a local accent, but nothing like some of the kids of that age she’d dealt with in the past.
“You can check with the school,” George said, appearing behind them. “They’ll tell you he never misses a day. I’m just helping out my daughter, that’s all. She can’t take him into work with her, so he’s come here to be my helper.”
Louise ignored the interruption. “Have you been back there this whole time?”
The boy shook his head. “I was in the doorway when the woman went past.”
“So you saw her?”
“Yes. She was bleeding.”
“You can come out now. I’ve seen you.”
“She was, but we’re helping her now. Did you see anything else?” “No,” the boy replied, shaking his head. He was small but stocky for his age. A hardness to his posture. “She was singing.” Louise felt her legs begin to protest as she continued to squat on her heels. She wasn’t ready to stand up yet though.
“What was she singing?”
The boy’s eyes flashed to his grandfather’s, a watery film appearing over them and then being blinked away. Louise turned to George and met his stare. He gave a nod to the boy.
“Was it a song you know?” Louise said, prompting the boy now. “A pop song or something like that?”
The boy shook his head. “Not that kind of song. It’s one the other boys say in school, to frighten everyone.”
Louise frowned, wondering what the hell she’d gotten herself into. Never take the word of a child, she heard DS Shipley say in her mind. “What’s the song?” Louise said, ready to give up and go back.
“The Bone Keeper song,” the boy replied.
Louise rocked back on her heels slightly but didn’t show any other reaction. She remembered the song; it came to her mind quickly and easily. The familiar rhyme, the sound of the voices that had sung it all that time ago. She hadn’t heard it in years, but just this reminder was enough for it to replay clearly in her mind.
“The Bone Keeper song?” Louise said, wanting to be sure.
“Yes,” the boy said, his eyes now locked on his grandfather’s. As if he were scared of his reaction or maybe just wanted his approval. “She was saying it over and over. Then she fell over, just outside the shop.”
There it was in Louise’s mind. The song, being sung off-key. A child’s voice, thick with scorn, trying to scare her. The horrible rhyme, full of death and fear.
“Did she say anything else?”
The boy looked back at the floor, scraping his shoes against the linoleum. “She said he was coming back for her. That he was going to get her. I ran away and hid at the back of the shop.”
Louise stood up, her knees clicking as she did so. She turned back to George, who was standing behind her, arms folded, but unable to keep the fear from his face. She looked back at the boy, who had shrunk further into himself.
“You did good, lad,” she said. For some unknown reason, she had the urge to ruffle his hair, but she resisted. “Thank you.” She turned back to George, giving him the same smile she’d given the boy, but he didn’t return it. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone you said anything.”
She left them there, her mind racing as memories flooded back to her. Children’s voices, singing and playing. The squeak of swings and the braying of boys’ laughter. The sounds you only hear deep in the woods, as the trees become closer together and the wind struggles to dent them. One single thought came through more than any other.
Why would a grown woman be singing that song?
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Featured photo: Valeriy Andrushko / Unsplash