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Hugger Doll
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-242-9
Genre: Supernatural/Horror/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 228 Pages
Published: April 2005

From inside the flap

When a hugger doll enters Hally Varneyís life she doesn?t at first understand the danger. But Police Sergeant Clint Hendrick soon realizes that he should have paid more attention to his old grannyís superstitions. Heís discovered the hard way that hugger dolls do exist and heís got to figure out how to get rid of this one before it kills any more people. Before it kills him and then turns on Hally?

Hugger Doll (Excerpt)


Dockenmacher the red wooden letters proclaimed. Doll maker. Inside the steep-roofed building a fire blazed on the hearth, but despite the flames the old man bending over the pine table felt the icy chill of winter wrap around his legs. Oblivious to the row of dolls? heads gazing eyeless from a shelf above his head, he stroked the hair of the newly completed doll on the table.

I will make no more, he vowed, no matter how much gold is offered. For they change when they leave my hands. They change when the blood bonds them, and then they are no longer my creations.

He looked into the dollís staring glass eyes, eyes as velvety brown as sable fur. Even you, he told her silently, my last beautiful little one. Even you. I would keep you safe if I could.

He continued to stroke her dark hair absently as he peered through the window at the swirling snow.

Changed. Innocent no longer..

Each customer came no more than once; none dared return. But word spread somehow and he?d be asked again. And again.

His resolution to stop was easy, but he knew he?d be irresistibly tempted by the gold of those in need of what only he could offer. Gold was gold, after all, and doll-making was his profession. He sighed, aware his will was weak. There was only one alternative.

Putting the dark-haired doll gently aside, he lifted a silver box from behind its secret panel on the shelf beside the blind dolls? heads, feeling the eerie warmth of its contents through the metal. Inside, he knew, were seven more of the crystal amulets. He?d used the rest over the years, one embedded deep within each body of his special creations, crystals like sinister hearts.

The truth of the amulets sifted through him with snow-cold painfulness.

"Essence," his wifeís mother had told him when she first placed the silver box in his hands.

He?d opened the lid, looked inside, not understanding what he saw.

"In the crystals lies your fortune," she went on. "Keep them safe from fire and they will last forever. Customers will come and ask you to make a special doll. Place one of the crystals in each such doll and you will be paid in gold. Much gold. Use this, my daughterís dowry, wisely so she will never suffer want." Her dark gaze told him she?d see to it he suffered if he disobeyed.

He hadn?t asked what she meant by essence; he hadn?t wanted to know. Gretchen, his beautiful, simple wife, was not intelligent enough to be taken into her motherís confidence but, as she prattled innocently of conversations she?d overheard in her childhood, he?d been forced to realize what the crystal hearts of his special little ones contained. Gretchenís father was a regional magistrate, one who presided over the witch-trials. Germany, it was whispered, had burnt over fifty thousand witches at the stake already and everyone knew there were more fires to come. Gretchenís mother went to every execution her husband attended. It was there that she, using arts taught her by her mother before her, collected the essence and trapped it in the crystals.

An essence of life. The spirits of those who perished in the fires.

Gretchenís mother must be a witch herself--but who would dare denounce her? He would not; he was terrified of the woman. Fortunately, dear Gretchen had no witch taint. Nor any idea what she?d revealed, bit by bit, to him. She?d been dead and gone these five years--whatever he did couldn?t harm her. Nor their far-away soldier son.

As the old man carried the silver box to the fire, the storm wind shrieked like a demon let loose from hell, a demon protesting what he meant to do. But his determination to cast the blasphemous contents into the flames didn?t falter.

He tried to open the box and failed, though he?d never had any difficulty before. He grasped a flat-bladed tool from the work-bench but, before he could use it to pry open the lid, the tool flew from his hands, clattering onto the floor.

He refused to be thwarted--both the stubborn box and its contents would go into the flames. He raised his hand to fling the box into the fire but never completed the toss. Through no will of his own, his fingers clamped down on the box, refusing to release it. Only then did he understand that he would never be allowed to rid himself of the deadly crystals.

Setting the box carefully into its hiding place, he huddled on his stool, his glance darting around the shop even though he expected to see no one, since the dead are invisible to those still alive. He knew who had prevented him from destroying the box and its contents. The witch who?d been his mother-in-law had reached from the other side of the grave to impose her will.

Though he longed to be released from the evil he was committing, she wouldn?t allow him to be. He?d be forced to continue until the day he died.

"For the wrong I have done, for the wrong I will do, forgive me," he whispered, tears staining his cheeks, unsure where or to whom he directed the prayer since he was certain Godís face had long been turned away from him.

Outside the town a dark coach approached from the east, the horses straining through the accumulating snow. The feeble gleam of the lantern barely illuminated the letters spelling out Nurnberg on the roadside sign. The woman inside the coach pulled her sable-lined cloak closer about herself and smiled. The town of toys. Of dolls.

She needed what the doll-maker alone could give her and, though she could tell the old man hated her, he had promised. The doll would be waiting for her.

The doll that would be the perfect gift for a spoiled and pampered princess. The dark-haired, brown-eyed princess who was the last obstacle between her and the throne.

No one would suspect her, the childís loving aunt. How could they? She?d be nowhere near the castle when it happened. And what could be more innocent than a doll?