AFTER ABNER COLE III AND SUZETTE LANGTREE WERE MURDERED, their daughter, Rose, made her first trip to Crockett County, Alabama to deal with the aftermath. When she went back home to Pennsylvania she earned her degree in criminal forensics, found work as an investigator for the D.A.'s office in Pittsburgh, got married, had a baby boy, and never imagined she would ever return to Alabama.

Then one day she got a mysterious package in the mail. It was postmarked Crockett, AL and bore only a handwritten name in the return address section, that of "Myriel Justice." The package contained two items: a historical manuscript written around the end of the Civil War, and what looked like a ransom note--with photos and words cut out of magazines and newspapers and pasted on a single sheet of paper.

The manuscript was the confession of a woman named Myriel Justice, whose family owned a plantation the area that became known as Crockett County. The confession described a slave rebellion and massacre, never recorded in the history books, involving a slave named Rufus. It was a savage tale of both human and supernatural evil.

The Confession of Myriel Justice would have been just an artifact of her father's work, but for the ransom note. To Rose it looked like a threat against her and her family. She had long suspected that the young man convicted of murdering her parents did not act alone. But he was illiterate and in prison, and could not have assembled or mailed the package.

She began to suspect he was part of a cult that worshiped the idol of Rufus, like the girls in Wisconsin who tried to murder a friend to show their devotion to Slender Man, only more sinister and deadly.

The package insinuated into her normally rational mind a terrifying nightmare and a fear that something or someone was lurking in the shadows, a boogeyman with a sack, ready to snatch up her little child. Her rational mind would tell her: Rose, you're overreacting. Her husband and other investigators told her the same thing.

But she decided to return to Crockett County to find the truth, and when she got there, they told her the same thing. Rufus isn't real. It's just a story. D'Mon Brown acted alone. There's no cult.

And then a child was kidnapped from her own back yard by a man with a sack. And whatever hell was in Hell's Back Forty suddenly broke loose.


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