The Killing Bone
The Guardians #1
Peter Saxon | Berkley Medallion Books | 1968 | 159 Pages
Former priest John Dyball is called to St. Botolph’s Hospital to review a troubling case. An unknown patient was delivered in a strange catatonic state approaching rigor mortis, still alive, but seemingly frozen in a rictus of silent terror. Reverend Dyball, who has honed his own parapsychological skills through years of training, senses a malicious presence behind the patient’s staring but unseeing eyes, an unknown entity internally tormenting the man to death.
Reverend Dyball is not just an ordinary ex-priest; he is an active member of the elite team known as The Guardians, an agency established to push back against the advances of evil. The group’s founder is Gideon Cross, a sinister recluse and expert in arcane knowledge of the occult, suspected by Dyball as having advanced powers of the black arts. Anthropologist Stephen Kane acts as the group’s leader, providing guidance to Dyball and the group’s other two members. Lionel Marks, a cynical private eye, assists in gathering intelligence on cases, and Anne Ashby, a finely-tuned “sensitive,” contributes with her gift of advanced psychic abilities.
Following the lead of an eyewitness who saw a boomerang logo on the truck that dropped off the mysterious patient at the hospital, Dyball meets with an Australian journalist at an art opening featuring a new Aboriginal artist. Disregarding his own internal warnings, he is lured away by a young woman with promises of information to a nearby club, where he experiences an alarming blackout. While unconscious, he has bleary visions of his own sun-baked body burning on hot white sands, a compelling but indecipherable voice boring directly into his skull. Upon awakening, he returns to the Guardians’ headquarters in a partially amnesiac state, as if his recent memory had been scrubbed. With Dyball retaining little knowledge of the strange case at St. Botolph’s Hospital, it is up to Kane and the rest of the Guardians to solve the mystery and ultimately save the former priest from the malignant force at its center.
Lionel Marks and Anne Ashby are given virtually no roles in this outing of the series, with Steven Kane eventually pursuing the leads—and a psychically-controlled Dyball himself—to the Australian outback. Although Ashby does sense the evil in their opponent through a telepathic impression, the resolution acknowledges an unexpected gray-area, with the motivation of the initial attack revealing a certain level of understanding. This evil does not set out to destroy the world, but instead to punish a wrong inflicted against it.
Plus, Gideon Cross and his witch-doctor nemesis engage in an amusing final smack-down using their astrally-projected bodies, a battle only lacking in Wonder Twins-like cries of “Form of a dingo!” or “Form of a crocodile!”