Soul Catcher

Soul Catcher

Leigh Bridger

$16.95 October 2009
ISBN 978-0-9821756-8-2

Someone's got to catch Hell. Otherwise, reincarnation will get you killed...again.
Book 1 "The Outsiders Series"

Our PriceUS$16.95
Save wishlist

Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

  • Leigh Bridger is the dark fantasy pseudonym for Deborah Smith.
  • Award of Merit Winner in HOLT Medallion for Paranormal

From the gothic eccentricity of Asheville, North Carolina, to the terrifying recesses of the Appalachian wilderness, from modern demonology to ancient Cherokee mythology, Soul Catcher follows the tormented journey of folk artist Livia Belane, who has been stalked through many lives by a sadistic and vengeful demon. Livia and her loved ones, including her frontier-era soulmate and husband, Ian, a Soul Hunter, have never beaten the demon before. Now, in this life, it's found them again.



"If you like action-packed, thrilling horror fantasies, then you have to get a copy of this book!" -- Freda's Voice Blog

"Soul Catcher is wonderfully dark urban fantasy, a quick read and a page turner." -- MyBlog2.0Review

"A fascinating world chock full if spirits unseen by most of us. Deftly melding folklore, myth, and urban fantasy, the author brings Asheville to life in a way that guarantees the reader will never view that city quite the same ever again... Characters that one can root for in their seemingly impossible tasks add to the reading experience. This reviewer very much looks forward to finding out how Livia and Ian resolve their next challenge." -- Bitten By Books paranormal review site, 4.5 gravestones (stars)

"I'm a big fan of Laurell K. Hamilton and her Anita Blake and Merry Gentry series. But now I can add another favorite to my Hall of Urban Fantasy Fame: Deborah Smith writing as Leigh Bridger...tense, heart wrenching and lovely." -- Pam Headrick, bookseller - A Thirsty Mind

"...a fresh new story and plot, a tough as nails female protagonist and some interesting supporting characters. The demon is one awful, scary and absolutely perfectly evil for this type of story." -- Mari Reads Blog, a Library Thing Early Reviewer

" exciting unique urban fantasy that is an amalgam of reincarnation, demonic-angelic warfare and special people" -- Harriet Klausner, Midwest Book Review

"This book had me hook, line, and sinker from the very first page. It was one of those books that when someone tries to pull me out of it, I just about snarl at them...I loved this book, to the point where I was sad that it had to end. Thankfully this is only the first installment of a series, so I'm eagerly awaiting more from this author. " -- Falling Off the Shelf Blog

"...a unique take on the paranormal." -- RT Reviews

"Soul Catcher is a new twist to the paranormal genre...I'll definitely be picking up the next one." -- Wendy's Minding Spot blog

"The cover was amazing as was the book...This book pretty much had it all." -- Ruthie's Book Reviews

"After the first page I was unable to put it down, for any reason." -- Maymay's Memos

" exciting, unique urban fantasy." -- Genre Go Round Reviews



Yeah, flesh is temporary and souls are forever, but that was no fucking comfort as I got ready to kill the man I'd loved for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years.

"Don't be thinking too hard about it, just do the deed, Livia," Ian said softly. "When the fecking bastard comes up the stairs, kill him quick too. Then you and me will go at him together. 'Tis the only way."

Ian's blood seeped from the gashes in his side onto the gray, weathered floor. This time I couldn't heal him. I could only free him. Outside, in the strangely bright sunshine of a North Carolina morning, things you don't want to imagine in your worst nightmares tried to rip the building's tall industrial windows out of their aging brick sills. Downstairs, the thick wooden door of the old Asheville Bible printing shop bulged inward as Pig Face slammed it again. The wood began to splinter.

I cocked the pistol. Everything inside me screamed against pointing it at Ian's heart. Fucking irony. I hated his body; I ought to be able to kill it without caring. But a funny thing had happened on the way to that moment. I'd fallen in love with my husband again. Even in this ass backward life, despite the body he'd picked this time. Regardless of what that body had done to me when Pig Face owned it.

I knelt over Ian, straddling him. His blood stained my knees. I put both hands on the shaking gun to steady my aim. My tears fell on his blood-stained face. He managed a rueful smile. "Now, that's a sight I'll remember to death and back," he whispered. For once in our life, I let him know I could cry over him. He clamped one bloody hand on mine. As always, we shared the choices, the pain, the passage.

"See you later," I said hoarsely. I pulled the trigger.


Even when I was a kid I could see the future coming at me like a bad video I couldn't erase. After all, I'd had a lot of experience living and dying. I thought this particular life was just another practice drive on the fucked-up road to eternity. The problem with reincarnation is that each time you're re-born you forget everything you learned already, so you have to go through all the panic and the freaking out and the learning process again. You can't remember how you died the last time, and why. You don't automatically recognize the souls you've learned to trust in all those lives before this one, and you don't understand that there always has been, and always will be, this one incredible soul mate who'll do whatever it takes to keep finding you, no matter how lost or hidden you are. So each new life seems like just another long, scary trip down Lonely Town Road.

This one didn't promise any better sightseeing.

Granny Warwick said I had to deal with destiny, so she took me to meet Preacher T high in the soul-baiting, demon-luring mountains above Asheville. There are energy vortexes in the Appalachians powerful enough to conjure Godzilla out of a toilet in Tokyo. The vortexes around Asheville are party central for the dispossessed.

When we drove into Preacher T's yard after bouncing over at least two miles of rutted dirt road along mountain ridges and through creek bottoms, what I saw made me tremble in my jeans and Rainbow Brite t-shirt. I could feel my black braid shivering down my back.

Preacher T had giant snakes in his yard.

They crawled from the carcasses of junked cars; they slithered from the roof of his run down cabin; they lay in sinister piles, like puppies sleeping, in the dark eye of his barn loft. Some were made of metal car parts; others were linked pieces carved from wood. All were painted in eye-popping bands of color, the brightest house paint an old man could buy or scrounge from the county dump. All had wide, all-seeing eyes.

And all had a white crucifix painted on their heads.

"Is he plain crazy?" I asked Granny.

"No, he's one of your spirit guides," she said. "When you're older, you'll understand."

I knew this much: Preacher T wasn't your regular North Carolina fire and brimstone preacher; he wasn't a preacher at all. He painted primitive art, folk art, outsider art, some called it. Granny was simpatico with the world of reclusive painters and obsessed sculptors who lived beyond the fringes of normal folks. She could handle it. Outsider art bewilders the piss out of most people, and fundie Christians seem convinced it's a kind of devil worship.

It offers up a double-dose of doom and weirdness, and some of the artists who create it come off like homeless schizophrenics talking to invisible beings on street corners, preaching the soul's apocalypse. For sure, Granny's folk art cronies painted some bizarre-ass demons and unholy, weeping angels and devil-things. Plus they scrawled incoherent messages on their paintings and sculptures, like warnings encrypted in rambling Bible references.

"Warnings and illumination," Granny said. "That's what this art is about." Postcards from a war zone. Most Wanted mug shots off the post office wall. Illustrations from the programming manual at

Okay, okay, but here's what mattered to me that day: At the tender age of only ten I was painting that brand of creepy shit too. I couldn't help myself. It came to me. Like I was just the messenger.

She locked the door of her big-ass pickup truck and tucked a pistol in her macramé tote bag. "He's not crazy. But he's got the sight. And that makes people think he's crazy."

"Like me?" I whispered.

She nodded. "Come on, Livia," she commanded, drawing me by the hand through that yard of huge, watchful snakes. "Don't be scared of the beast in its hard form; these hold the spirits of guardians. You can call them angels if that makes you feel better."

I didn't want to call them anything. I wanted to leave. Mother might hate church, religion, hope, faith and life itself since Daddy died the way he did, but if she'd known Granny had brought me here to Snake World, talking about angels and guardians and carrying a gun to visit a crazy old folk artist, she'd throw a fit. She was scared of the darkness. She could not reconcile Daddy's suicide. She didn't seem to notice that it haunted me, too.

A huge old black man in paint-smeared overalls rose from a circle of large dogs and green-eyed cats on the cabin porch. Dark tattoos covered his arms and forehead, merging with his dark skin in places. Religious symbols and images from his art hung from every rail and rafter. I stared at spiked creatures with angel wings. They didn't look angelic to me.

The cats perched on old kitchen cabinets like the ripped-out kind you buy at salvage stores. Preacher T had painted with symbols and strange animals. The disembodied cabinets made a fort around him. Behind him, an open screen door let me peek into a dark room crammed to the ceilings with paint cans, brushes, bolts of canvas, and tools.

"I've been waiting to meet this child a long, long time," Preacher T announced in a voice like a bear. I squinted at him. For just one moment he grew a black-bear snout and fur. "I see the light around her, Jeannie. Maybe this time she'll live long enough to become . . ."

Granny cut him off with a hiss.

Live long enough to . . . live to . . . maybe this time I'd live? My head swam.

"She doesn't know what she is?" Preacher T growled.

"Godssake, Preacher, she's only ten. She needs help. The girl has taken to cutting herself. If she's got no paint on hand, she uses her own blood. She's gotten lots worst since her daddy died."

He took my scarred arm in a huge hand etched with words on the backs of every finger. PRAY. WATCH. GUARD. RESIST. He stared at me. He reached behind him, into a pile of whittled amulets, and pulled out an ankh on a leather thong. "This'll do for a start," he said, and slipped it around my neck.

Granny pulled the necklace off and handed it back. "She wears a cross, see here?" Granny lifted the small gold emblem that dangled from a chain near Rainbow Brite's cartoon face. "I can't get anything else past her mama. Not without explaining, and you know how that is. I don't like to be called crazy, either."

Preacher T scowled. "You better figure a way then. This ain't no game. The good spirits are drawn to blessed symbols. This child needs to draw all the help she can."

"What are y'all talking about?" I asked in a low, horrified voice.

Preacher T squatted in front of me. "Livia Van Belane, you're special. It's a gift or a curse, but you got it, either way. I know you don't understand now, but you will, child, I'm sorry but you will. You got to be strong. There are trials and tribulations for the holy, that's what the Bible and all the other good books tell us. You remember that whatever happens, it's the spirits trying to push you this way or that. Try to think for yourself and whatever you do, don't stop your painting. What do you see when you paint pictures, child?"

"They're monsters. I've never seen anything like them in movies or comic books. Not even in Star Wars. I'm scared to sleep. I can almost hear them. I only see them in my sleep. That's when I paint their pictures."

"Those are demons, child. Demons and their helpers. When you're ready, you'll be able to see them without going to sleep first. And not just demons. But angels, too. You'll know the difference."

"I don't want to see them!"

"I know, child, but your soul chose this job for you, and it knows best." He spread his hands. "Now here's what you do. This ain't the only way to fight demons, but it's the easiest to explain. When you wake up and find that you've painted a demon during the night, you take that picture outside right quick! And you burn it."

He nodded up at Granny. "Your grandma'll help you with the chore. But you do it every single time, all right? 'Cause that's one way to send a demon out of this life forever. It's a banishment."

"We'll burn the paintings from now on," Granny assured him.

"Good. What's happening, child, is that you're snaring demons in your sleep. Like you've set a rabbit trap in the woods, you understand? And once you catch one, don't you set it free again! No, ma'am. You got to banish it while it's trapped in your painting. Right quick."

He was telling a ten-year-old whose father had committed suicide that the light behind the very air we breathe really did hold horrors.

Nausea boiled in my throat. I gagged. "Is my daddy out there with the demons?"

"No, baby. Some demon got rid of him so he can't watch over you no more. Your daddy is one of your spirit guides. Demons always try to pick off the spirit guides first."

I exploded. "A demon did not get my daddy! My daddy could kill any demon in the whole world!" I hadn't been raised to yell at elders that way, but hell, I hadn't been raised to capture demons in my crayon art, either. "My daddy fell off the high falls at Ludaway Ridge. He tripped and fell!"

Granny turned me to face her. "No, baby child, he didn't fall and he sure didn't jump," she said in a low, sad voice. "He was pushed."

I stared at her until I thought my brain would melt. I pulled away then stumbled across the yard, halting in the middle of Preacher T's junk-art snakes. I looked at one of them, banded in white and purple with the white cross gleaming between its black eyes, and my vision blurred, and it seemed to me, it seemed at the time, that the snake pulled back its lips and smiled at me.

I screamed.

Granny grabbed me up, cooing. I went nearly limp in her arms. I felt as if my eyes would roll back in my head.

"The child's heard enough," Granny told Preacher T. She nuzzled my black hair with her cheek. "All you need to do for now is learn and grow," she whispered. "And don't stop painting."

Preacher T came down from his ramshackle front porch, his animals around him. "Jeanie Warwick, you protect that child with every spirit symbol you can," he boomed. "I tell you, you do it now. This world is full of demons and they're getting worse every day. She's got a job to do and this time, by God, she better live to do it."

"I'll find a way," Granny promised. I was still staring at the purple snake. The one who'd smiled. It smiled again. Wider. Preacher T looked from the purple snake to me. "She's found her a friend, Jeannie. Good." He went back inside, and when he returned he pressed a whittled miniature of the purple snake into my sweating hand. "Give it a name and talk to it," he said. "It'll listen. And it'll tell you things you need to know."

The snake charm moved against my fingers. Warm. Comforting. Strange, for a snake.

I vomited on myself, the snake charm, and Granny's tie-dyed shirt.


Granny drove me straight to Asheville from there. The city was a two-hour trip along narrow roads that wound around mountainsides like snakes. Everything was a snake, to me. I lay against the truck's passenger door with my face against the cool glass, unmoving. I clutched the snake charm in one fist.

"Where we're going, you can't ever tell," Granny said. "And what we do there, never show your mama."

Granny was a Christian woman by all accounts, but I already suspected that was a cover, or maybe just one of the swords she held against the darkness. Mother let her take my baby brother and me to the First Methodist church in our tiny town, Ludaway, but she tucked strange bookmarks into her Bible, symbols she'd drawn on card stock and glossed with varnish, and during the services she moved her mouth in Christian prayer but stroked the symbols with her fingertips. Like she needed a back-up system in case the first one failed.

She took me to Asheville often, telling Mother we liked to stroll the streets and look up at the grand old buildings. But the truth was this: Granny taught me all about the city so that I would know where to find its safe places, and I don't mean the ones with a low crime rate. The ones supervised by angels.

Asheville is a haunted city atop a high plateau necklaced by the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers. Its back streets are narrow and filled with deep shadows. Its massive and gothic downtown buildings sink their foundations into ancient trails and the lost dreams of Cherokee Indians. Many gilded and violent lives have passed through the streets and the mists along the rivers. And many of those souls are still there.

Granny carried me into an alley where moss clung to damp drain pipes. I looked down woozily at stepping stones set with weird patterns of beads and colored glass. We ducked into a doorway beneath the stained glass symbol of a bleeding moon.

A young woman with long blonde dread locks and gold lame' leggings frowned at us over her tattoo machine. She was etching a marijuana leaf on her own forearm. Granny handed her money and they talked in long, hushed words. I didn't want to hear. My eyes drifted over walls of strange designs, fascinated. The snake wound around my ring finger.

Don't look at those, it whispered. Some of them draw banes.

I didn't know what a bane was then, but I averted my eyes anyhow. The purple snake was talking to me now. I'd better listen. Which seemed all right, considering. The blonde woman gestured. I curled on my side atop a softly woven rug on the floor, and Granny undid my long black braid and parted it vertically down the side of my skull, just above my left ear. She plucked the hair one strand at a time. Later, when I had the courage to lift my hair and look in a mirror, I saw a naked strip two inches long and an inch wide.

My brain hummed as the tattoo needle buzzed in my ear. Tiny symbols embedded themselves in me. A cross, a Star of David, an ankh, and other symbols, some so odd that Granny drew them on paper for the tattoo artist to copy.

I was marked now, or protected, or scarred, depending on your point of view. It would take Mother a few years to find the hidden line of strange encryptions on my scalp, and by then, Granny and Preacher T would be dead, removed from this life in violent ways I tried not to think about. Just as they'd worried, something was closing in on me, and that that something decided they had to be eliminated first.

Finally, it took Mother and my brother and what was left of everything normal I'd ever been or hoped to be.


Our pretty little house in the sweet little mountain town of Ludaway caught fire when I was eighteen. Mother and little Alan died in their beds of smoke inhalation. I woke up naked in a neighbor's yard with my hair in singed hunks around my face and the skin peeling off my burned feet. I clutched a sooty piece of canvas frame in my hand. I didn't know how I got out of the house and couldn't remember anything about the fire. Investigators decided it started in my bedroom.

Had I done something stupid and careless while burning a painting? Or had I gone psycho and set the whole house on fire on purpose? Why couldn't I remember? No one, not even me, could say whether I was a victim or an arsonist and murderer. They sent me to a nice little institution way over in the flatlands of Chapel Hill, where researchers from the university gave me heavy doses of anti-psychotics that still didn't keep me from painting demons with my own blood at night. Finally, they gave up, judged me harmless to anyone but myself, and let me out.

They were right. I could only harm myself. Living with the unanswered questions about what happened the night Mother and Alan died pretty much killed me inside.

And the darkness, filled with danger, started closing in.


Six years later

Something terrible was about to happen. Stars had aligned. A threshold had been crossed. The dark eye of Mordor had turned my way. Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

I saw tracks in my studio's backyard no living animal could make. Nothing known to man has eight finger-like toes on its paws, long claws, and a heel hook like the spur on a rooster's foot.

Not inside the city limits of Asheville, anyhow.

I couldn't quite shrug it off. Couldn't quite convince myself this was just another multi-dimensional mind fart. Until then I was comfortable being diagnosed as completely, totally, fucking delusional. A highly functional schizophrenic. Better to explain my weird shit in those terms than to think the things I saw and did were rational reactions to my everyday reality. Otherwise I'd end up gumming my oatmeal in a padded room again or dead under a bridge near a homeless shelter. No biggie.

I could handle self-destruction, either way. I'd tried to kill myself about a dozen times in the six years since the house fire, but my hallucinations kept interfering. Angels, right. I just didn't have the guts to off myself in a competent way. I'd have to keep practicing.

In the meantime, I humored my fears. Some of the tattoos covering both my arms from shoulders to wrists were protective. Some were hopeful. Some were in-your-face threatening. Some were sentimental. But most hid scars. Over the years I'd tried the obvious solution to stop painting demons in my sleep. I'd locked up my acrylics and oils and canvases at night. I locked myself into bathrooms. Handcuffed myself to beds. Handcuffed myself to men I fucked so I wouldn't have to sleep alone. I'd sat on park benches all night, playing checkers with the street people, beating African drums with rhythmic old druggies, whatever.

It never worked. When I was in a trance I used whatever made a mark. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, mud, soap. Or, deprived of all else, my own blood. Old childhood habits are hard to break. When you're in a trance the surface of your skin parts under your teeth and fingernails like a fine seam. I never felt the pain until I woke up the next morning with a gash in my arm and something awful and bloody staring at me from the nearest paintable surface.

This time was different. This time was the major leagues of terror. This time there had been tracks.

Please review these other products:

Solomon's Seal

Leigh Bridger

$2.95 December 2008
ISBN 0-9673035-7-5

Special E-Book Only Novella! 

*Not available for Kindle.

He is larger than life.
She is his only hope.
Together, they will transform our world forever.
Because some tall tales are true.

Our Price: US$2.95

click to see more

Solomon's Seal: Beginnings

Leigh Bridger

$2.95 July 2009

Second book in the Solomon's Seal Series

Special E-Book Only Novella!

*Not available for Kindle.

Our Price: US$2.95

click to see more