This chapter seems like it should have been a movie. In several places the lovely wording gives way to brief, “punchy” sentences that seem inadequate. You really can’t get a person to jump with fear while reading a book. You can make them sick with suspense and dread, but they’re not going to jump no matter how many exclamation points you put to emphasize the suddenness of the action — the reader reads at the same number of words per minute regardless. Jump-scares simply don’t have the same effect when the reader is in control of the delivery mechanism.
This is good:
His insides had gone through this little dance before, that night when Sandy had run off
This is a logistical error:
and again there seemed no obvious, up-front reason for it
The front door of the house was open. The front window was broken.
only a few sentences earlier.
This is good:
Marshall forced himself to make his way around his car, up the walk, and onto the front porch very slowly, very carefully. He kept listening, looking, feeling. There was no sound except his own pounding heart. The sound seemed deafening.
Slowly, suspensefully, the author teases us with the knowledge that Something Bad Has Happened while keeping the details of that Something just out of reach, making us fear for the protagonist, anxious to see how this will be resolved.
This is not:
Shrieks! Thunder! Fangs bared to bite! The demons exploded from the walls
Because that ought to be a thunderclap and a jump-scare and it just seems… silly.
In any event, we do eventually find out what happened to Ted: he’s apparently blown his own brains out. Meanwhile, the angels use Marshall to launch a trap — when the demons swoop in to attack, they ambush first, killing every last demon in the place.
Careful not to leave any prints on the phone, he calls Bernice:
“Hogan, are you calling in sick?”
“Act normal, Bernice,” Marshall said. “I’ve got some heavy developments.”
“Well, take an asprin or something.”
Can I, just as an aside, express my undying hatred for the idea of speaking to a human being in the same terms you’d use to praise a dog that performed a particularly clever trick? It’s condescending and belittling and I know it’s common in many areas of the country but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It’s dehumanizing. “Thanks” would work just as well.
Worried about his other contacts, he drives to Eldon’s place. By the way, we’re given lots of detail about just how far apart these guys’ places are, which makes me wonder what Marshall thought he was going to be able to do anyway?
Marshall drove about thirty miles north [to Ted Harnel’s] […] He’d taken an hour and a half to get there.
It took him another hour to make the drive [to Eldon Strachen’s place]
His phone rang at 3:48AM, so it’s now 6:15am. Ouch. It was five fifteen when he called Bernice, by the way, so office hours start early.
Anyway, Eldon’s place has been ransacked as well; he and Doris are missing, and there’s an “obscene message of hate” written in red paint on the mirror. Just as he’s trying to figure out what happened…
“All right! Freeze! Police!”
dun dun DUN! Marshall is under arrest!