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To Whom Shall You Inquire?

Posted by Kent Whittington on March 23, 2012 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (2)

A new short for my readers.  :-)


To Whom Shall You Inquire?

 

by Kent Whittington



“You have a very serious problem here, doctor.”


“I know that, Mr. Abraham,” Doctor Winscombe replied with perhaps less tact than he had originally intended. Being a man of science and a prominent physician in and about the London community, Doctor Edward Winscombe could hardly admit to the supernatural, whether it be in theory or in practice. Surely in his own mind he could not believe in the existence of ghosts, specters, haunts or things that go bump in the night? It just wasn’t cricket!


After the events of the previous day, however spiritual or natural, something had to be done. Whatever this thing was had decided that it would manifest itself in the middle of tea with his good friend, Lord Ransom, knocking over tables and shattering gas lamps in the parlor as well as causing objects to be propelled at dangerous velocities at the two men while quite nearly beheading Winscombe’s housekeeper, poor Mrs. Prescott. It was then that Lord Ransom had recommended the Order to him.


“Order?” Doctor Winscombe had said, “What are these people then? Some divergent sect of religious fanatics? Spiritualists perhaps (a type of people Doctor Winscombe had little regard for)? One of the many secret societies such writers as Doyle might write about in his detective mysteries? Surely, my good fellow, you seriously do not mean to recommend lunatics to me, do you?”


He remembered Lord Ransom laughing as he replied, “My dear doctor, The Royal Order of Hunters is nothing like that at all, at least not in full. The members of this Order are more akin to men of science who also employ spiritualistic techniques in the practice of eliminating threats of a supernatural nature.”


Doctor Winscombe had scoffed at his description, saying, “Magicians, you mean to say, Lord Ransome?”


“If you prefer the term, sir, then yes, I suppose that you could call them that. It is as fine a moniker for them as any.”


Winscombe scowled, “Ah, but if I were to to take your recommendation, your Lordship, then should I not consider myself the laughing stock of all of London?” Lord Ransom had smirked at the remark, adding nothing more to the conversation. Driving his point forward, Winscombe added, “Besides, what do I really know of spirits? Perhaps what we experienced was nothing more than the shaking of the earth beneath our feet? Perhaps a shifting of the land?”


“Perhaps,” Lord Ransom said, acquiescing to the good doctor, “although I myself felt no shaking to go along with the commotion. For now, doctor, may we agree that we shall think upon it no longer if that is your wish. But do try to keep an open mind, won’t you? The Order does come highly recommended in matters spiritual.”


“By whom?”


“Why, by the Queen, of course,” said Lord Ransom as if it were a known fact, “The Royal Order of Hunters owes its fealty to the throne, and has ever since the Dark Ages, I suppose.

 


Later that evening, after having pushed all thoughts of tea, Hunters and spirits aside, Doctor Winscombe would have forgotten about the matter completely had it not been for what had occurred in his bedchamber that very same evening.


Just as the good doctor had slipped between the covers of his bed and eased in for a good nights sleep, the apparition manifested. A pale, gaunt specter emerging from head to full-torso only, the phantasm had the form of a woman who had been half starved to death. Fully emaciated, the creature stood at his footboard, a free floating entity, eyes hollow and black, its mouth agape in a silent scream.


“Wh-who are you?” Doctor Winscombe had remembered saying, barely able to form the words for the fear that had unexpectedly chilled his soul. In response, the haunt pointed toward him and screamed, a horrible, unearthly wail, sending the entire room into disarray and upsetting everything, including Doctor Winscombe’s nerves! With a frightening roar, the fire in the hearth flared to dangerous levels, threatening to set the room alight in its passing as the apparition rose up into the ceiling and disappeared. Doctor Winscombe had become so frightened by the ordeal that it took him a good hour to compose himself enough to call for Mrs. Prescott.

 


Doctor Winscombe slept no more that night.

 


The very next morning, a drowsy and highly distraught Doctor Winscombe called upon his friend, Lord Ransom, imploring him to contact the Order on his behalf Lord Ransom replied to Winscombe with haste, informing him to expect a Mr. Johannes Abraham and his associate at three o’clock that afternoon.


As the clock in the hall chimed three the doorbell rang. Mrs. Prescott answered the door and let the Doctor’s guest into the house. Asking the two to wait in the foyer, Mrs. Prescott entered the parlor where Doctor Winscombe had sequestered himself, saying, “Doctor, there is a Mr. Johannes Abraham from the Royal Order of Hunters and his...associate here to see you, sir.”


“Associate, you say?” Doctor Wiscomb had asked.


“Yes sir, and if you ask me, the whole thing is a bit unorthodox. Imagine! A lady dressing like that!”


Curious as to her meaning, and eager to greet members of the Order, Doctor Winscombe said, “Show them in, please.”


Mrs. Prescott exited the room to return moments later leading the doctor’s guests into the room. The man, who was obviously Mr. Abraham, was a gentleman, roughly in his twenties, dressed in a nondescript brown suit and vest, an auburn coloured ascot, dark brown waistcoat and bowler. His shock of dark hair threatened to overwhelm his hat as he removed it from his head, although in contrast he sported an immaculate mustache and goatee. Winscombe smiled as he was introduced to Doctor Abraham. Everything about the young man said ordinary, aside from a large brown satchel he carried with him, very similar to the physician’s bag Winscombe carried when going to visit his patients..


His young companion, on the other hand, was a contradiction in terms. While her features were as beautiful and striking as any woman of high birth, everything she wore spoke of decidedly American male affectations. She wore her red hair long under a cowboy hat that sported what appeared to be an odd set of goggles upon its brim. She wore a dark waistcoat, similar to her companions, but rather than a fashion befitting a lady, the woman had chosen to dress in a man’s white collared shirt and dark brown leather vest (forgoing a tie, the doctor had noticed for some reason) and, of all things, loose fitting leather trousers and cowboy boots. On her waist, Doctor Winscombe noticed a leather belt, slung low on her hip. It had slots sewn into the strap for what appeared to be bullets, although the projectiles she sported appeared more as shining metallic capsules with small nodes atop them rather than bullets. Was she carrying a gun as well?


The good doctor was momentarily distracted by the woman’s appearance, a fact that seemed to please her if one were to note the her expression. Abraham, seeing the effect his companion had on the doctor, cleared his throat and said, “Doctor Winscombe?


“Mr. Abraham,” Doctor Winscombe had said, recovering remarkably fast and rising to take the man’s hand, “so good to make your acquaintance, sir.”


“A pleasure, doctor. May I introduce my associate, Isabella Stanton.”


Isabella Stanton held her hand out demurely in stark contradiction to her appearance, “A pleasure to meet you, doctor.”


He took her hand, noting their accents in addition to their attire, “You are an American, I presume?”


“Yes sir,” she replied, “my family hails from Pennsylvania, but I’ve spent much of my life on the American frontier.”


“Hence the attire,” Abraham added.


“Ah, yes,” Winscombe said, “Please, I will hope that you will pardon my reaction to your appearance. It’s rather unorthodox for a woman of means to go around in men’s attire even in your United States, is it not?”


“Forgive me, Doctor Winscombe,” Stanton said, “I would normally not dress this way, but these clothes are solely for the work that Johannes and I do.”


“Spiritual evictions, such as that which you require from Isabella and myself, demand the utmost freedom of movement. For Isabella to run about in a dress would be problematic, not to mention outright dangerous.”


“Your accent is slight, sir, but do I detect a touch of Germanic?”


“Very good, doctor,” Abraham said, genuinely impressed, “I am a native of Strasbourg, though I have been a citizen of the British Empire for some time now and have been slowly losing the accent. I usually believe my accent so slight now as to be nearly undetectable, but you surprise me in this! You have quite a knack, doctor.”


“I have traveled extensively in my youth during my studies abroad,” he said. “Can I offer you and your companion a drink, sir?”


Abraham shook his head. “For myself, no, thank you doctor.”


Stanton’s face lit up at the offer, “I wouldn’t mind.”


“Sherry, or perhaps you might require something stronger?” Doctor Winscombe said, noticing the scowl that suddenly swept Abraham’s face.


“I would enjoy a brandy, if you have it, please.” Stanton said, ignoring her companion’s disgust.


“What gentleman would not?” As the doctor poured a brandy for Stanton and himself, Abraham said, “please forgive me, doctor, but I feel that I must apologize for my companion. Isabella has never been one to pass up a spirit, either non-corporeal or alcoholic. I myself prefer to work with a clearer head.”


“Yes, please do forgive him, doctor,” Stanton replied taking the drink from the doctor’s hand, “Johannes would prefer the two of us sober during our outings.”


“Oh, that’s quite all right, Miss Stanton, is it?”


“Missus, that is. At least it is formerly. My husband was a lieutenant aboard the Virginious.”


The doctor’s eyes widened, “The Virginious you say? Terrible business that. Blasted Spaniards! You must have been quite young when he passed. My condolences to you, madame.”


“Yes, terrible business indeed,” Abraham replied solemnly, “but, be that as it may, we are here to work, not to socialize.”


“Yes,” Doctor Winscombe replied, “quite right you are. Won’t you please sit down?”


Johannes Abraham took the comfortable looking, plushly padded chair across from where Winscombe had been sitting only moments before, resting his satchel in his lap and leaving his companion to take the settee. Isabella Stanton draped her body across the seat, thoughts of her departed husband haunting her memory, but determined to enjoy herself and her drink until the work actually began.


“Ah,” Abraham said, enjoying the feel of the large, comfortable chair, “very nice. So, doctor, please do tell us your tale.”


“Am I to believe that Lord Ransom has not informed you of my plight then?”


“Just the opposite, Doctor Winscombe,” Stanton chimed in, “but we prefer to hear our clients personal accounts.”


“Yes,” Abraham added, “second-hand accounts often lack some truth, and the more the story is told, the worse the actual details become until the tale becomes wholly incongruous with the actual events.”


“Of course,” Winscombe said, who then proceeded with his narrative of the events that had transpired the previous evening. Unfolding the details before them he then added, “you must understand that this is all rather speculative. I have read the accounts of the popular spiritualists and even taken part in a seance or two, only to decry them as fraudulent in the end. I personally have never believed in the world of spirit, but how to explain what has occurred here in my home?”


“Interesting,” Abraham said, preferring to stay on the subject of the doctor’s, alleged haunting rather than his personal beliefs, “and you say that the first event took place here?”


“Right in this very parlor, sir, yes,” Winscombe replied.


Abraham nodded and rose from his chair. “Isabella, if you would be so kind, my dear?”


“As you say,” Stanton said, rising, “let the show begin.” Stanton removed the strange, green-lensed goggles from atop her hat and fastened them over her eyes. Aside from the green lenses, Winscombe noted other lenses of varying sizes, thickness and colors attached to the sides of the goggles by miniature armatures. Stanton, he noted, wandered about the room, flipping the strange lenses down or up as seemed necessary.


“Anything?” Abraham asked.


“Nothing yet, Johannes. I’m getting some flashes here and there, but nothing concrete.”


The doctor’s interest was peaked, “Mr. Abraham? If may ask, what are those things on her face?”


Abraham smiled, “I call them spectrometric spectral detection goggles, doctor.”


“Johannes’ own invention, doctor,” Stanton said as she surveyed the room, “they magnify and measure light, heat and spectral energy. They also look quite lovely on my hat.”


“Spectral energy, did she say?” Winscombe asked.


“Yes, that is correct. With those goggles we are able to detect spirits.”


“Remnants of spiritual energy actually,” Stanton chimed in, “usually when we have arrived, it is almost always after the fact. These goggles allow us to trace the spirit in question.”


Abraham added, “Stanton has a keen eye, doctor. I designed the goggles to modify what she could already see.”


“She can see spirits?”


“Spirits, entities, ghosts,” Stanton said, “I have been able to see the dead ever since I was a young girl. Usually it’s no more than their ectoplasmic remnants however, hence the need for the gog--” Stanton stood stock still, staring intently at the ceiling corner behind Doctor Winscombe.


“Isabella? What do you see?” Abraham demanded.


Stanton’s voice became a whisper. “It’s there, Johannes,” she said, pointing at the spot, “A woman. By the goddess! Johannes, It’s a--uh--” She hesitated, and it seemed to Winscombe that she was holding something back, although now was far from the time to inquire as to what it was, “ it’s sitting there, on the ceiling watching us. Careful, now.”


Abraham opened his satchel and produced a small device. It was black and metallic with brass corners and what appeared to be a crystal ball mounted atop it. Abraham moved slowly toward the corner and gently placed the device on the floor below it.


“What is that thing?” Winscombe demanded, “What’s going on?”


“No questions now, please doctor,” Abraham replied, “the work we do now is quite delicate. Any disruption could prove detrimental.” Abraham backed away from the corner asking, “Is it still there?”


“Yes, but it seems to be curious about the trap now.”


“Trap?” Winscombe asked.


“Good,” Abraham said choosing to ignore the doctor, “that is as it should be. Perhaps we won’t need the guns this time after all.”


Guns?” Winscombe cried out, suddenly remembering Stanton’s holster, “you intend to fight this thing with guns? In my home?


From Stanton’s perspective, the ghost, who had until then been slowly reaching out to the trap, suddenly jerked its spectral hand away, startled by Winscombe’s outburst. Whether or not it understood the implications of what Winscombe had cried out was unknown, yet the ghastly entity, sensing danger, bolted straight up, passing through the solid ceiling into the room above.


“Damn!” Stanton cursed, “it’s running!”


“Which direction?”


Stanton was on the move before she answered, “upstairs!”


Abraham retrieved the trap and as he rushed out the door he said to Winscombe, “You have a very serious problem here, doctor.”


“I know that, Mr. Abraham,” Doctor Winscombe replied as he followed with perhaps less tact than he had originally intended, “but I wish to point out that if it is your intention to fire weapons at whatever this thing is, that simply will not do!”


Abraham stopped abruptly, causing Winscombe to nearly rush into him, “Doctor Winscombe, we are professionals I assure you. Unfortunately We did not have the time to discuss our terms for your investigation, so let me make something very clear to you. Isabella and I have been doing spectral evictions for many years now and at each one my one sole requirement is that the client does not interfere! Your outburst in the parlor just now may have aggravated your problem tenfold.” Abraham turned and rushed up the stairs behind Stanton.


“But what do you mean by aggravate? Abraham! I demand that you answer me this very minute!”


Abraham kept moving and as he reached the top of the stair said, “It knows it is being hunted now, doctor! This spirit, as you have described it, is a powerful entity, quite capable of wreaking havoc upon your home, your life, and the lives of those who live here as well, and made more dangerous now by its desperation. So I say again, doctor, please leave us to it!” Both men suddenly turned then toward the narrow stretch of hallway as there came a loud series of crashes followed by a scream. Stanton flew out of one of the rooms and was subsequently slammed hard into the wall. She lay on the carpeted floor prone until the Doctor and Abraham drew near enough to assist her.


“Isabella!” Abraham cried, rushing to her side.


“I’m alright, Johannes,” she said weakly, “just a little dazed ‘sall.”


“The specter?”


“Left through the window. Johannes,” she said clasping her hand in his own, “I know what she is! She will return.” Stanton turned to Winscombe and through haunted eyes said, “I know it!”


“Return?” Winscombe said, “you did not evict it?”


“No,” Abraham chimed in, “it is as I said, doctor, we must be allowed to proceed as we know best if you wish this horror of yours to end. Isabella, are you certain about the specter?”


“I knew it the first time I saw its face. Johannes, do you remember our investigation in Cumberland last year?”


“Cumberland? Yes I remember. An apparition haunting a farmer’s home. But that was a--” Abraham stopped in mid sentence as the realization dawned upon him, “Isabella! Surely you don’t mean...”


“Yes, Johannes, the very same.”


Winscombe’s panicked curiosity could no longer be contained. “What is it? Mr. Abraham, Mrs. Stanton, I beseech you, please! What is this creature haunting my home?”


Abraham released Stanton and rose to meet the good doctor’s eyes, his expression both concerned and sad, “My dear Doctor Winscombe. I’m afraid the news is rather dire.”


“No!” Stanton said, desperately clutching Abraham’s trouser leg, “You mustn’t tell him!”


“He has a right to know, Isabella,” Abraham said and helped Stanton to her feet. She was still unsteady from the impact as Abraham held her up and said to Winscombe, “As I was saying, doctor, the news is rather dire. What is haunting your home is not an average spirit. The haunt is a powerful entity and extremely dangerous. Irish myth and folklore speak of it as an omen of death.”


“Death?” Winscombe said aghast, “whose death?”


“It could very well be yours, doctor. I’m am both afraid and saddened to say that you are a victim of a bean sidhe. It has come for you.”

 



As night loomed near, Doctor Winscombe sat in his parlor finishing off the last of the sherry. Through an alcoholic haze he asked the two investigators, “Are you certain that this’s absolutely necessary? Am I actually to become bait for this creature, this-this banshee?”


“Yes, doctor,” Stanton replied, “absolutely necessary. The bean sidhe has marked you and will arrive with the setting sun. My actions drove it from the house and weakened it, but it will grow stronger once night has fallen and it will return with a vengeance.”


“But why me?’ Winscombe pleaded, “I am a good man! I am a healer, for God’s sake! Why do I deserve to be haunted by this thing?”


“I do not know, doctor,” Abraham said, “no one does, really.” Abraham took the trap from his satchel and handed it to Stanton who, in turn, placed it in Winscombe’s hands. “When you see the bean sidhe, doctor, you must wait until it comes to you. When that happens and only then will you need to rotate the crank on the trap.”


“Like this?” Winscombe said, turning the small crank on the trap about as he asked. Winscombe sat thoroughly amazed as two small doors in the base of the crystal slowly opened. The crystal, designed as an amplification device as well as a trap, illuminated the entire room in a greenish ghostly glow. Winscombe stared down into the crystal, there to be mesmerized by the sight of a small green flame, alight without any visible source of fuel. “Oh my...” he uttered in a whispered breath as the ghostly flame seemed to draw his senses into it.


Abraham quickly snatched the trap away from Winscombe and turned the crank, closing the aperture. “Please, have a care, doctor! This is highly sensitive equipment you have here, sir. If you had continued to stare into it, it might have killed you.”


“What is that thing, Mr. Abraham? What was that tiny light inside?”


“It is a ghost flame, doctor, a Will-o-the-wisp I managed to capture and trap in this device.” Abraham said. He handed the trap back to Winscombe and continued, “they are quite dangerous to mortal folk, actually when found in their normal habitat. They have the ability to mesmerize and draw in a soul. In a living creature such as yourself, sir, the Will-o-the-wisp would have to lead you to your death first before it could consume your spirit, usually by drowning as most of these creatures are found around swamp lands and bogs, but it can employ other means as well.” Abraham placed his hand on the trap’s crystal ball, “As an example, it might have convinced you to plunge both you, and it, out of the window to the street below just now in an effort to free itself and then feed upon your spirit once you had succumbed to your injuries.”


Winscombe held the trap a bit more gingerly than before, “How horrible! Why would you even wish to use such a creature?”


Stanton placed her hand on Winscombe’s arm, “Please understand, Doctor, the Will-o-the-wisp is a spirit devour. For all of their peril to mortals, they are equally dangerous to creatures of pure spirit as well, perhaps more so, for such a thing as this would destroy a pure spirit utterly.”


“The device it is contained in is perfectly safe,” Abraham added, “so long as one does not look directly at the ghost flame or remove the crystal before the aperture is closed. For a pure spirit encased in this fashion, the cold flame it burns is a lure, nothing more. As a spirit is drawn in by the flame, it becomes trapped within the crystal. There are thousands of facets to the crystal, which both confuse and frustrate the creature once it is trapped.”


“So you do not allow the spirits destruction then?” Winscombe asked, appalled that such a thing would even be considered.


Stanton’s voice was soothing and sweet when she replied, “No, doctor. Our order does not destroy these creatures. We...employ them in our research, rather, studying their nature so that we may better utilize our resources in future endeavors such as this. Please, doctor, be at ease. As Johannes has said, wait for the bean sidhe to come close before opening the aperture.”


“And do not look at the flame,” Abraham added once again.

 



As the hour struck eleven, Doctor Winscombe, tired of waiting, had dozed off as his lack of sleep from the previous evening finally caught up to him. Abraham and Stanton sat opposite Winscombe, placing a table between them and had begun a game of cards to pass the time, the only illumination in the room coming from a small gaslight placed on the table between them.


“I should think the waiting the worst of it,” Abraham said, playing a card, “Gin.”


“Bugger!” Stanton cursed quietly, “that is your third win a row.”


Abraham smiled, “fourth actually.” Abraham looked about the room, “anything yet?”


Stanton donned the goggles and looked about, “No, but the hour is late and midnight is approaching. It will be here before the first chime of the witching hour, I’m certain. Even spirits have rules to follow, as you well know.” Abraham dealt another hand and sat silent for several moments, contemplating his cards. With sounds of a swinging pendulum from a grandfather clock the only commotion in the room, the silence became unbearable to Stanton, who finally asked, “Johannes, why is it always the work for you?”


Abraham laughed quietly as he looked up, seeing that Isabella still wore the goggles, “Isabella, you know that I cannot take you seriously when you eye me with those things upon your face.”


Stanton pulled the goggles off and said, “I am quite serious, Johannes. Even in a lull such as this when all that we have before us is the waiting, you are at this very moment calculating odds and planning out the events to come. Do you not think of other things ever? Don’t you ever think of us?”


Abraham dropped his cards face down and rubbed his eyes, “Isabella, you know my true feelings for you, but this is my vocation, as it is yours. I, and you, are both priests in the Order. The work is our calling.”


“But you are a hunter, Johannes, as well as a priest, and there are no oaths of celibacy in the Order’s charter. Won’t you even consider that there could be more between us than being simply mere colleagues?”


“I have, Isabella. I think about it everyday. Please, my sweet, allow me time to come to grips with what it is that we do first.”


Stanton bowed her head and quietly said, “It’s because of what happened to her that you do this, isn’t it?”


Abraham placed his palms upon the table, “The werewolf incident was ages ago.”


“And yet it still haunts your dreams! You are not doubt aware that I have watched you sleep many times before during our investigations and your sleep is far from restful. You sometimes even cry as you sleep, Johannes. Your dreams are haunted by her.”


“I killed her, Isabella, and it haunts me all of my days for what I did.”


“Stanton reached across the table, taking Abraham’s hand in hers, “You had to, Johannes. Your wife was attacked and turned during the following moon. She killed your father, and would have killed you too if you hadn’t--”


Stanton’s voice cut off as a chill entered the room and the gaslight’s flame flickered and rose in response. Abraham said, “It’s here.”


Stanton replaced her goggles and surveyed the room, pointing, “There, Johannes! I see it by the window!”


Abraham cautiously moved toward Winscombe’s chair, waking him, “Doctor Winscombe, it’s time.”


“What?” Winscombe replied, shaking the cobwebs from his head, “The banshee?”


“Yes, doctor. Remember what I said. You must wait for it to get close to you before the aperture is opened. Do you understand?”


“Uh, yes. Yes, I understand. Open the aperture and do not look at the flame.”


Abraham smiled, patting the doctor on the shoulder, “Good man. You just might survive this yet.” Abraham turned to Stanton whose eyes stayed fixed at the window, “Isabella?”


“It hasn’t moved yet, Johannes. It’s watching us. I think it’s waiting for us to leave the room.”


“Bugger that,” Abraham replied, “If it wants Winscombe that badly, it must act soon, before its power wanes.” Abraham backed away from Winscombe, “Remember, doctor, only when it gets close.”


Winscombe’s growing dread was self evident as he said, “I-I don’t know about this, Mr. Abraham! I-I can’t do this!”


Winscombe wanted nothing more than to bolt like a mad man from the parlor in mortal terror, but Abraham moved to his side again, steadying him, “Get ahold of yourself, man! Just do as I have directed. You are perfectly safe so long as you follow my instructions. Do not move!”


Wincombs’ fear played across his face once more, but he gave Abraham a shaky nod and said, “All right. Yes,” and to himself said, “buck up, old man.”


“That’s the spirit, doctor.”


In a harsh whisper, Stanton said, “Johannes, It’s moving. I think it will manifest soon.”


“Good. Prepare yourself now, doctor.”


No sooner did the words escape Abraham’s lips as the bean sidhe coalesced in the moonlight. It hovered inches above the floor as it moved toward Winscombe. Its features were fuller than before, by the Doctor’s estimation, appearing less emaciated. It was dressed in a white shroud and its clothing and stark white hair moved independently of any breeze. the face of the creature had not changed at all, however. Still it seemed the same pale shadow; hollow, lifeless black eyes and mouth drawn forever open in a silent wail. Winscombe’s face turned deathly pale as it approached and he seemed to fidget as if he would flee the room if given half the chance, but it was that same fear, he realized, that had caused in him a sudden paralysis. He could not move, let alone stand and run. In a horrified whisper, he uttered, “Good God, the banshee!”


“No sudden movements now,” Abraham said to Stanton, “we don’t want to provoke the thing.”


“I know my job, Johannes.” she said, annoyed that he would remind her what needed to be done, being a seasoned professional like himself. From her holster Isabella drew her weapon, “draw yours.”


Johannes did as Stanton requested, producing his weapon from his satchel. Winscombe noted that the guns they each held were not of ordinary make. While styled like revolvers, the weapons were larger with a rounded chamber in which Stanton and Abraham began loading the strange capsules that he had seen on Stanton’s belt earlier that day. The barrel of each ended in a conical opening. Both flipped a small toggle on their weapons and a hum pervaded the room.


The bean sidhe turned suddenly at the noise, and realizing the danger it was in, let out a ghastly wail, causing the cards on the table to suddenly fly into the air, momentarily blinding the two hunters. A sudden whirlwind erupted, sending other objects flying into the air as well. Abraham and Stanton each huddled behind the chairs they had been sitting in earlier. “Isabella! are you alright?”


“Fine!” Stanton cried out, exasperated, “It senses the danger!”


“I know!” Abraham cried out through the maelstrom, “We have to force it nearer the doctor! On my mark!”


Abraham yelled “FIRE!” and he and Stanton rose and pulled their triggers, sending lightning shooting across the room to connect with the banshee, each using their weapons in an effort to corral and redirect the entity. As soon as one would fire, sending the creature in one direction, the other would fire, redirecting the bean sidhe ever closer to Doctor Winscombe and the trap.


“Now, doctor! Open the aperture!” Winscombe hesitated a moment, but fought for control as he made his hand turn the crank, almost forgetting not to look inside. Abraham and Stanton ceased fire and at the same time Winscombe noted the maelstrom had ebbed completely. Objects twirling about the room ceased their flight and fell back to earth, the room a shambles.


The bean sidhe had turned just as the greenish glow from the trap lit the room. Curious (and much to Winscombe’s discomfort), it moved still closer peering into the box. It tentatively reached out and seemed to sigh, mesmerized by the ghostly flame within. As it’s cold fingers made contact with the crystal, it sought entrance and was was drawn into the trap. With a sudden and final wail the bean sidhe was entrapped, caught within the multiple facets of the crystal trap.


Winscombe watched all of this a mere hair’s breadth from the bean sidhe and had once again accidentally peered into the trap as well, yet again being drawn in by it’s beauty. Abraham rushed to Winscombe’s side and snatched the device from his hands, turning the crank in the opposite direction and closing off the green flame. Letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding, Abraham then moved to his satchel, placing it on the table.


Stanton drew near him, “We’ve got it, Johannes!”


“Yes,” he said as he removed the crystal from its housing, “Doctor, come and have a look, if you will. It is perfectly safe now that I have secured the ghost flame.


Winscombe rose from his chair and joined the two hunters as they stared in amazement at the crystal. “This is the banshee then?”


Abraham stared at the swirling mass inside that was the bean sidhe, “Rendered harmless in quartz crystal for all time.” Abraham removed a square, velvet lined wooden chest from his satchel and placed the crystal within, closing the lid as he did so. Placing his weapon, the box and the trap back in the satchel, Abraham turned to Winscombe, “Commendably handled, doctor! Thank you. The bean sidhe will cause trouble for your house no longer.”


Winscombe composed himself and, straightening his jacket, said, “No, Mr. Abraham, it is I who should be thanking both you and Mrs. Stanton for your help.”


“You’re welcome, doctor,” Stanton said as she holstered her weapon and replaced her goggles atop the brim of her hat.


“Yes,” said Abraham, holstering his weapon as well and taking Winscombe’s hand, “and please do not hesitate to call upon us again should you ever require our services.”


Winscombe laughed, “Considering the disarray this spirit seems to have caused, that is one occasion I should hope to never have to consider. In all honesty, I can hardly believe the entire event occurred at all. It seems that I have finally awoken from a horrible nightmare. But please, is there any amount of compensation that I can offer in gratitude for what the two of you have done?”


“No. Thank you, doctor, really.” Stanton replied giving a small smile to Abraham, “It is our calling, and that requires no compensation at all.”


Abraham nodded his agreement to her statement and said, “We will take our leave of you now, doctor.” Abraham placed his hat on his head and both he and Stanton donned their waistcoats, “if there is nothing more you require.” Noting the hour had just now struck the first tolling of the midnight bell, Abraham tipped his hat and added, “Good morning, doctor.”


As the two turned to leave, a perplexed and frightened Mrs. Prescott choose that moment to enter the room, “Doctor, I heard the most terrible noise coming from downstairs and I--” She stopped mid sentence as she noticed the state of the parlor, “My word! What happened here?”

 


Abraham and Stanton let themselves out of Winscombe’s home and stepped out into the gas lit streets of the foggy London morning, hailing a waiting hackney cab parked along the cobblestone street. Once seated and on their way to the mother house, Abraham opened his satchel and removed the chest containing the crystal trap. Abraham opened the lid and studied the swirling vaporous mass that was the bean sidhe trapped inside.


“I couldn’t help but notice that you didn’t tell him,” Stanton said, “I thought you said that he deserves to know.”


“It is my opinion, my dear Isabella,“ Abraham said, “that there are certain things that mankind is not meant to know, nor do I feel it is my place to tell him.”


“Perhaps,” Stanton said, “but did we do him a kindness in hiding it from him?”


Abraham sat back, exhausted from their ordeal and sighed, “I believe so, although I take no pleasure in it.”


 


One Week Later


Stanton had just returned from her morning errands to find Abraham unexpectedly in the library. She was dressed presentably this time, in a fashion befitting a lady of London high society. Other priests of the Order sat about in the library in conversations just respectably and conscientiously above a whisper, while others studied, practicing incantations or conceiving of rituals quietly under muttered breaths. Abraham sat alone in a corner chair, reading the newspaper by the morning light. The rustling of Stanton’s skirt as she moved across the carpet toward him brought him out of his perusal. Abraham looked up into her hazel eyes and smiled brightly, saying, “Guten tag, Fräu Stanton.”


“Good day to you, Johannes,” she said, returning his smile, “You’re not in the lab today. Have you no new projects for me to sample?”


“No, not today, I’m afraid. Truth be told, the sunlight dappling into the library this morning was so pleasant that I couldn’t resist.” Abraham’s smile faded as he said, “Have you read the paper today yet?”


“No,” Stanton said, understanding Abraham’s meaning immediately, “so, it’s happened then.”


Abraham didn’t answer, but instead turned the newspaper over to the section he had just read to show her the caption:


 


Prominent Doctor, Edward Henry Winscombe,

Mysteriously Murdered at Bedlam Asylum--Police Baffled


 


“I wish we could have told him,” Stanton said.


“One door closes, another opens,” Abraham replied.


“Meaning?”


Her answer came swiftly, but not by Abraham as the two were joined by Lord Ransom, the current high priest of the Royal Order of Hunters. “As the paper reads, Mrs. Stanton, my poor friend, Winscombe, died under mysterious circumstances.”


Stanton demurred, “Yes, your Lordship. I am deeply sorry for your loss,”


Lord Ransom nodded, “Thank you, Mrs. Stanton, and I should be glad to be the one to bare the happy news that the Order wants an investigation into the matter.”


Stanton read the paper as he spoke which quickly revealed Lord Ransom’s meaning, “Blood loss...puncture wounds? Johannes? Your Lordship, has this been verified?”


“The papers say it is the work of a deranged maniac,” Johannes replied, “however the coroner interviewed is a member of the Order. He has used the usual methods to test the body and confirms the account’s veracity.


Lord Ransom checked the time on his fob watch and gave the order, “There have been reports, unverified until now, of a bloodthirsty creature afoot in London prowling the streets near Bedlam and since Winscombe was your last client, it has fallen upon the two of you to investigate.”


“I’ll go get changed,” Stanton said with a smile as she turned to leave for her chamber.


“While I shall retrieve the stakes and the holy water,” Johanne added, returning his colleagues smile.

 


Afterward


 

It has long been my intention to try my hand at a steampunk/horror tale. If one reads between the lines, it’s easy to see elements of Ghostbusters within the pages (the title being a Victorian equivalent of “Who You Gonna Call?”), along with a smattering of my other inspirational authors, Anne Rice and Jim Butcher. This is my first foray into the steampunk genre and it is my great hope that it is an enjoyable one.


Lil' Ghost and the Phantom Faire

Posted by Kent Whittington on March 9, 2012 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

One more for the compilation.  I hope you all enjoy.  Please feel free to comment as I love constructive criticism.  :)


Lil’ Ghost and the Phantom Faire

by Kent Whittington


 

Lil’ Ghost rose up from his grave,

Out for a midnight stroll,

The moon was full and the night begun,

Daylight had taken it’s toll.


 

The graveyard ghosts were all about,

A thrill was in the air.

They all had gathered from far and wide

To attend the Phantom Faire.

 


“Come one! Come all!” the barker cried,

“Come see a spectacular show!

There’s nothing like it on heaven or earth!

Bring everyone that you know!”

 


Lil’ Ghost floated up to the tent,

And pulled the veil aside,

Eager to see what wonders it held,

And what mysteries lay inside.

 


“Welcome one and welcome all!”

The ringmaster said with a bow,

“Welcome to the Phantom Faire!

The show begins right now!


 

“If I may direct your attention to the center ring,

The clowns are out to play!

They’ll start our show with gags, and pranks,

They’re sure to make your day!”


 

A tiny car drove up real slow

And with a wheeze did it stopped in its section,

When from inside flew fifty clowns

From the car in all directions!


 

The ghostly clowns spread all about

the ring, the stage, the seats!

Entertaining the happy crowd

With their wondrous comical feats.


 

“How do we pack our clowns,” one asked,

“In that car in the center ring?”

“It’s easy,” said another fellow,

“When one doesn’t weigh a thing!”


 

One clown hovered up to Lil’ Ghost,

Presenting a flower with quiet grace,

But when Lil’ Ghost leaned in to sniff

It squirted water right through his face!


 

The Acrobats were next in line

Swinging with such agility,

No one could doubt their high flying skill,

Nor their acrobatic ability.


 

If they were living they’d be death-defying,

But there was nothing to fear or dread.

Death defying stunts aren’t quite as grand

When one is already dead!


 

The lion tamer was up next,

And his phantom lion did roar!

The whip went crack, the lion reared,

And the crowd cried out for more.


 

The tamer brought out a shining ring,

A giant silver-moon loop,

The lion was made to dance and prance

As it jumped right through the hoop.


 

Lil’ Ghost enjoyed the entire  show,

And left with a smile on his face,

But the night was still so very young,

And there were other sights to grace.


 

He wandered to the midway,

For games of skill to try

He hoped to try a game of skill

To try and win a prize.


 

“Come try your luck,” the carney said

“Three balls for a dollar, you see?

If you can knock the bottles down

You’ll get a prize from me!”


 

Lil’ Ghost threw out the first two balls,

And missed with every one,

But the third ball hit and the bottles went crack!

His prize had just been won.


 

“Here you go,” said the carney with a smile on his face,

“A stuffed tiger that’s bigger than you!”

Lil’ Ghost smile grew wide as he took

A huge tiger all colored in blue.


 

Wandering down the midway

With Tiger Blue in hand,

He heard the wonderful musical sounds.

Of a hauntingly musical band.


 

The drummer banged a solid beat,

Repeating the four-four time,

He kept the rhythm even and smooth

For the band to play in the line.


 

The trombone blared a jazzy note

That got the crowd a-clapping,

A tuba added his baritone

And got their feet to tapping.


 

The trumpeter he jumped about

In a wild and madly prance,

His notes brought music to the streets

As he got the crowd to dance.


 

“Come join the fun,” the conductor said,

“We’ve room for everyone!

We’ll march along the graveyard path

and dance until night is done!”


 

Lil’ Ghost rose up and joined the line

Of spirits on the street,

He twirled and spun and kept the count

Of the bands most jazzy beat.


 

How he danced and sang the night away

How he laughed and made everyone smile

Lil’ Ghost and the others had great fun

While slowly, all the while...


 

The moon grew low upon the sky

And a glow on the horizon begun

The Phantom Faire had reached its end

And with sunrise the the night was done.


 

“The Faire has closed! Go home now folks!”

The barker cried with a tear,

“But don’t you worry a single bit!

‘Cause we’ll all be back next year!


 

“You’ll see the show again, my friends!

And dance and sing and play!

But, for now, go home and get some rest

Before we reach the day!”


 

The crowd dispersed as the sun grew large,

Each headed for their crypt, grave or tomb,

And Lil’ Ghost, with a weary sigh,

Floated off into the gloom.


 

He found his grave and did descend

Before daylight had reached the land,

There to dream of clowns and lions

And blue tigers and loud jazzy bands.


Old Gnarleytoes

Posted by Kent Whittington on February 23, 2012 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I seem to be on a roll here.  This next one is a cute little story in verse I call "Old Gnarlytoes".  It begs the question, "if something seems horrible, is it truly?"  I hope you all have been enjoying my posts lately and I hope you enjoy this one as it is one of my favorites so far.


Thanks!  :)


Old Gnarlytoes

by Kent Whittington


 

Old Gnarlytoes sat

In his dark, gloomy hole,

All grumpy and irksome,

A right miserable troll!

 


When high moonrise came

He climbed out of the dark,

And emerged from a tunnel

He had dug in the park.

 


He kept to the shadows,

So as not to be seen

By any wandering person

Whose vision was keen.

 


He wandered quiet streets,

Searching here, peering there,

In the hopes he might find

A child’s scent in the air.

 


He wandered the night,

Quiet as a mouse,

When, lo and behold!

He found a grand house.

 


Three stories, it was

With high columns of stone,

And large, blackened windows

With no light to be shown.

 


Gnarlytoes weaved a small spell,

Shrinking down to the floor,

And, going on tip-toe,

Snuck under the door.

 


Growing back to full size,

He moved through the gloom,

From the foyer he entered,

Searching room to room.


All Downstairs was quiet,

No sound, not a peep!

Gnarlytoes lumbered upstairs

Where the people did sleep.

 


He found mother and father

Asleep in their beds.

Never once did they stir

Wherever he tread.

 


Brother’s room was next,

A right terrible mess!

He almost seemed a young troll

Sleeping snug in his nest.

 


This bother the old troll,

He scowled with derision.

This dirty boy won’t do!

Then he came to a decision

 


To search one more room

Where sister lay quiet,

Snug as a bug in her bed

And no nightmares this night.

 


Gnarlytoes harumphed,

Startling the poor child to death,

And leaned in so close

Sister could smell his foul breath.

 


She trembled and shook

As he climbed on her bed,

Moving closer and closer,

This creature she dread.

 


He showed his sharp teeth.

This was it! It’s the end!

But he held out a rose,

Saying, “Will you be my friend?”

The Goblinfolk

Posted by Kent Whittington on February 23, 2012 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Having had so much fun with the last story I wrote, I have decided to do a few more short tales in verse.  Below is a cautionary tale reminiscent of the old folk tales  about faeries who spirit people away.  I hope you find it enjoyable (and informative!).


Please feel free to let me know what you thought of it.  Thank you for reading and hope you enjoy.  :)


The Goblinfolk

by Kent Whittington

 

If you enter the woods

On a black, gloomy day,

Be careful the goblinfolk

Don’t take you away.


 

If you travel too far

In the deep forest gloom,

They’ll surprise you for certain

And then seal your doom.

 


They’ll troop in great numbers,

They’ll March and they’ll stomp,

They’ll scream and they’ll scare you,

They’ll laugh and they’ll romp.

 


You’ll flee far and wide,

Getting lost in the dark,

But you’ll never outrun them

Once they have your mark.

 


You’ll be bound up in briars,

Then they’ll take you in tow,

And drag you, deep down,

To their kingdom below.

 


They’ll poke and they’ll proud you,

They’ll gnash their sharp teeth,

They’ll kick you and pinch you

While you’re underneath.

 


And once you are tender,

The goblinfolk sing!

For now comes the hour

To come before their king.

 


The king, he will mock you

Upon his tall throne,

All polished and white,

Shining, glittering bone.


“Well, what have we here?”

He might say with great menace,

“A young Christian soul

In need of great penance?”

 


He’ll leer with great cunning

As his wobble and roll,

And he’ll mutter this phrase,

“Why, I’ll save your soul

 


In a jar!” he will bellow

While his court laughs with glee,

Then he’ll turn out a pocket

And produce one, you see?

 


Then he’ll bid the goblinfolk

To bind you down tight,

Then, the king, he will hold

That jar up to the light

 


And reach way down deep

From your head to your knees

And, with one wrenching tug

He’ll pull your soul free!

 


For your soul is their barter

For goods and for trade,

But it’s your body they want

For a new Goblin to be made.

 


For goblins are soulless

And can raise them no kin,

So the goblins make new ones

From lost human beings.

 


So be warned now, young traveller

If you're to the forest today,

For the goblinfolk may come

And take you away!

The Proud Little Book

Posted by Kent Whittington on February 21, 2012 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)

For my readers,

This is a story that I had written many years ago, but had actually lost over time.  It isn't written quite the same as it was, but the story hasn't changed for the wording I assure you.  I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for viewing.

 

The Proud Little Book

by Kent Whittington

 

 

On a cold rainy night,

In the midst of a storm,

Sat a small little bookstore,

All cozy and warm.


 

All alone and content,

Very full of himself,

Sat a proud little book,

On the uppermost shelf.


 

His pages were crisp,

Gold lining their sides,

He was all bound in leather,

With gold leafing outside.


 

The other books did not like him,

He was boastful and proud,

He’d exclaim from his top shelf,

In a voice that was loud,


 

“I’m the best of the books,

I’m quite better than you,

My cover is handcrafted,

All shiny and new.


 

My bindings are tight,

My pages secure,

My title is brilliant,

Etched in gold that is pure.


 

My typeset is neat,

My borders are straight,

I’m the best of the books,

I’m really first rate!


 

There are no others like me,

I’m unique and quite rare,

I’m a limited edition,

Autographed by Voltaire!”


 

How those books hated his boasting

On day after day,

They wished that dumb book,

would just go away.


 

But he sat were he did,

Always full of himself,

That proud little book,

On the uppermost shelf.


 

On that cold rainy night,

That was mentioned before,

Something remarkable happened,

In that tiny bookstore.


 

Two ladies came in,

From the rain and the wet,

For a bit of light shopping,

For their book club event.


 

“This store is so quaint,”

One lady did say,

All these books are great reads,

For a cold rainy day!”


 

“Some may be a bit old,”

The other one said,

“But they’re fantastic reads all,

There’s no reason to dread.”


 

They shopped all of the shelves,

Emptying them neat,

“These books are the best!

Now our collection’s complete!”


 

They paid for their gains,

All happy and smiles,

With boxes of books,

But then, all the while,


 

Forgotten and alone,

Sitting all by himself,

Sat that sad, prideful book,

On the uppermost shelf.


 

“I don’t understand it,”

He said in despair,

“They bought all of the others,

With nary a care.


 

But they missed me up here,

They didn’t see me at all,

All of the others are gone now.”

He felt scared and quite small.


 

The days ran by fast,

Turning on into weeks,

Other shoppers did come,

Other books they did seek.


 

But no ever did buy him,

That proud little book,

And he was eventually moved,

To the lowermost nook.


 

Weeks turned into months,

He sat there for ages,

His leather was wearing,

And some kid wrote in his pages.


 

His pages had torn,

The gold lining was gone,

His bindings had loosened,

As he sat all alone.


 

He’d cried and despaired,

He would never be sold,

He feared for his future,

As he sat growing old.


 

“Why so sad little book?”

said a voice old and weary,

“Why do you sit there,

All sadness and teary?”


 

“Who’s there?” asked the book,

in a voice scared and wary,

“It is I, Webster, of course,

The store’s old dictionary.”


 

“What has you so down?

Why are you so sad?

Why do you feel sorrow?

Are things really so bad?”


 

“They are,” the book said,

“No one wants me, you know,

I’m an old, worn out book,

On this shelf, far below.


 

I thought I was special,

I thought I was grand,

There was nothing quite like me,

I was the best in the land.


 

But look at me now,

My pages aren’t neat,

I’ve been handled and tossed,

I’ve been mangled and beat.


 

I’m and old worn out book,

No one wants me, you see,

How could a book buyer,

Buy something like me?”


 

But Webster abided,

He didn’t feel sad,

He answered his new friend,

In a voice that was glad.


 

You don’t understand,

You prideful young book,

Does it matter all,

About the way that you look?


 

Look at me, if you will,

I’m old and I’m torn,

I once had gold leafing,

I wasn’t always so worn.


 

But I’m smart and I’m useful,

I’m read all of the time,

My words are well versed,

In song and in rhyme.


 

I’m the source of the language,

That people might read,

I’m the one that they come to,

For a reference they need.


 

In my way I’m an asset,

I’ve been around for ages,

But do you think people view me,

By the look of my pages?


 

It’s not just the cover,

That makes you unique,

It’s what’s inside that counts

It’s the content some seek.


 

So listen to me,

Don’t ever despair,

Don’t have any worries,

Don’t have any cares.


 

You’ll find that you’re special,

To someone who’ll love,

The stories inside of you,

They’ll value above,


 

Everything else,

For the wonders inside

Spark the imagination,

That’s the best reason for pride.


 

So sit here awhile,

Be at peace where you lay,

Knowing one day you’ll be found,

And read straight away.”


 

And the proud little book,

Thought a moment and said,

“Webster, I will,

I want to be read!


 

For it’s not how I look,

That defines what I am,

It’s the content inside me,

That makes me feel grand.


 

I’ll sit here a bit,

I’ll be content with my fate,

While I have a new friend to,

Converse with and wait.


 

For that day to arrive,

When a person walks in,

To the bookstore to buy me,

And I’ll go with a grin.”


 

He waited and waited,

But he never was sold,

But he never was sad,

As he sat growing old.


 

And he was actually read,

Time and again,

Buy the bookstore employees,

And he gave them a grin.


 

And he was never alone,

But was now proud of himself,

Being the old, well read book,

On the lowermost shelf.


The Huntress (A Dark Cove Short Story)

Posted by Kent Whittington on January 12, 2012 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (2)

 

The Huntress

 

By Kent Whittington


(Author's note: This is the second draft of my very first short story ever completed. It takes place before the adventures set forth in "Crimson Cove." The story is a day in the life of Arianna de Morney, huntress and assassin for the order known as the Sanguin de Christi.  I welcome all comments and criticisms.  Enjoy. :))

 

 

Paris at night is a sight to behold. They don’t call it the city of lights for nothing. After all, anyone strolling along the Seine after dark is treated to sights like no other in the world. From the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe, from the Sorbonne University in the Latin Quarter to the Louvre, everything is lit up in brilliant splendor. Paris is a city almost as bright (in most places) by night as it is by day, or so I am told.


I have not seen the sun in centuries, for its brilliance is anathema to all that I now am. Even the tiniest exposure to sunlight could mean mortal peril for one such as me. My name is Arianna de Morney and I am vampire, prone to all of the pitfalls and forebodings of the undead. Sunlight burns, stakes incapacitate, but you get the idea; the usual rules for my kind apply.


Unlike others of my kind however, crosses and likewise other symbols of faith hold no revulsion for me. A fear in God’s wrath is as well anathema to all that I am now, for I am a Huntress, an ordained assassin in the order of the Sanguine de Christi. In point of fact, I am a servant of God. As such, objects of faith hold no power over me.


How I came to be this way is a tale for another time, however. Suffice it to say that in my early years after I came to undeath, I was tested by the priests of the Vatican, and through torture, endless questioning and humiliation, I was found worthy of redemption on the condition that I serve God as His Huntress, a creature sworn to track and destroy her own kind.


France is my ancestral home and Paris will always be in my heart, but tonight even the city’s lights are denied me and hold little in the way of splendor. Tonight I must wander underground to a place few mortals in their right minds tread unless they too seek the dead. Tonight I hunt the Paris Catacombs.


The l'Ossuaire Municipal are a labyrinth of tunnels used for centuries as burial grounds and cemeteries for all manner of people. Tours are sometimes given in the more popular and best accessible sections of the catacombs for the curious and the adventure seeking There are even those who dare sections rarely explored. For these the city often levies hefty fines or even jails trespassers for their own safety. There are even rumored to be caverns connected to the catacombs that are older even than they are. For these, adventurers who find them and enter, few if ever return, becoming disoriented and lost in the darkness, or worse.


Tonight I am a trespasser out of necessity. It all began with a series of, for what all accounts state, very strange disappearances. Coroners’ reports I have gathered through my Vatican sources had confirmed incidences involving the deaths of several individuals over the past two months who had entered the catacombs, or were possibly taken there, and were discovered near the surface entrances days or even weeks later after missing, dead. Most of the deaths in the reports are comprised of tourists who came for the sights, young and vibrant with an urge for adventure or romance and a devil-may-care sensibility. When their bodies were found, each in their twenties at the time of their demise, every single individual victim had physically aged an average of sixty or seventy years for the time they had gone missing.


The mortal officials originally suspected that an unknown pathogen had somehow entered the catacombs. Disease Control did a thorough examination of the areas where the bodies had been found, but no evidence of viral contamination had ever been discovered. Moreover, since every incident involved tourists rather than the locals such as the tour guides and the cities thrill seekers, who had had no contact with one another at any time, nor shared any commonality other than where their bodies had been found and their condition, a pathogen had been ruled out and replaced with “unknown circumstances.”

 


Unknown my undead ass.

 


Bruno, my handler, did what he does best. Triangulating the areas from the known disappearances, Bruno managed to determine the best possible location of the creature I hunted tonight (although the best he could do was an overland guess, seeing as most of the catacomb maps did not create an accurate overlay above ground).


The area Bruno had determined might be it’s lair did not even register on the best of the catacomb maps. Before my hunt began this night however, Bruno had the good fortune to acquire from the gendarme a missing person report concerning a mother and her child. The area of the report was very near one of the entrances to the catacombs near Pere Lachaise Cemetery. The lights of Paris’ night sky do not penetrate as well here as in other locales, so I was able to wander into the cemetery under cover of shadows. I still had to be very careful as it was the night of a full moon, which made skulking in the darkness difficult. Even mortal eyes are usually keen enough to see object moving in the moonlight when the moon is at it’s apex.


Shadow walking is in a vampire’s nature, as it is what our immortal souls become after we ultimately pass on, mere shadows of our spiritual selves, entities craving life force, but too weak to affect the mortal plane any longer. Often more’s the pity for myself as my preternatural abilities go. As a redeemed vampire, my immortal soul is not of shadow, but of something closer to a human soul, which makes shadow walking difficult, but not impossible. With some effort I had willed my corporeal body to meld into the surrounding darkness and began flitting about from one shadow to another as I made my way through the cemetery, somewhat confident that I would not be seen by the caretaker or any stray humans prowling in the night.


The undead can be tracked by one another easily enough. One might say it is by scent, but that is not wholly correct. It is rather of the essence of the undead that my kind can feel. A vampire such as myself can often track in this fashion, sensing where another of our kind has been. We feel its presence in the very air. This works both ways, of course, so one must take care. It’s not as if you can stand upwind from a vampire to avoid detection in this way, after all. He or she just knows that you are there!


The report of the disappearance had paid off. The creature I tracked had been here within the last day and his essence was strongest near--


 

Oh for crying out loud. Jim Morrison’s grave.


 

In a way, that actually made sense. People had been coming to Morrison’s grave for years since the day of his death to pay their respects, while still many more came in the night hours to party, enact rituals over the grave, or to simply deface the grave site with their vile graffiti. Poor Jim had had his grave defaced in so many ways.


Of course, there were also the stories that claimed that the Lizard King’s body had been removed at one time as well and was later interred on another sight out of the eyes of the public. Others claimed that the body had been returned to the original sight all along. The nearness of the creature’s essence made me believe that the former was true, that somehow the creature was using Jim Morrison’s crypt as a means to access the catacombs.


To my consternation, a group of teens had already gathered around the grave, drinking and smoking, cavorting about to the sounds of heavy metal music. None of them had any genuine appreciation for the poet that lay at their feet (or had lain, if I didn’t miss my guess). I flitted into a tree’s shadow that actually crossed the flat headstone that had most recently been placed there after vandals had destroyed the last one. The Greek motto etched on the face of the stone reads, “ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ,” which means “True To His Own Spirit.”


Feeling a bit appalled by the teenage display of rudeness and disrespect in front of me, I willed myself to form a mist from my body as I also willed my corporeal form into being at the same time. I had form now, but far less substantial than flesh. I had become, in effect, a ghost to all eyes, and the sudden fear on their faces as they tripped over each other to get as far away from me and Pere Lachaise as possible did wonders for my mood. I nearly broke character and laughed out loud as I heard one of them exclaim, “Mon Dieu! Un fantôme!” and trip over another of his cohorts in the very next instant, planting his chin into the soft earth as he desperately tried to escape.


I waited, hovering in the mist until the very last of the teens were safely out of sight, then willed my body solid once again. Erring on the side of caution, I waited a moment longer just to make certain that none of them were brave enough to come back and investigate what they had just witnessed. Sure that they wouldn’t return, I took to examining Morrison’s grave in earnest. The concrete slab covering his tomb was far too heavy for any mere mortal to lift, and I was safely assured that, unless someone had cause to remove it, the truth of it would never be discovered. Unfortunately for myself, I had cause.


Inspecting the tombs cover, I detected indications of movement, as if someone had slid the cover aside to gain entrance recently. Tentatively, I reached for the edging of the cover and slid it slowly aside. Even with preternatural strength, this was accomplished with some difficulty a no little effort, further proof that my quarry was confident in the fact that his lair would not be disturbed.


The tomb, as I had believed, was indeed unoccupied. Morrison, like Elvis, had left the building. In his former resting place, I discovered that the bottom of the crypt had been punched through and in its place lay a deep opening giving way to darkness below. My eyes could adjust to almost any light level, so long as there was a source of light to see by, no matter how faint. Here, the darkness would be total.


I unslung the pack from my shoulders and checked my inventory. Like others of my kind (Hunters, not vampires), I was required to carry the tools of the trade: crucifix, stakes, holy water and wafers, etc. as well as a bible, not to mention other essentials such as neon glow tubes, radio headsets and the like. To be honest, I rarely had need for little more than the stakes and sometimes the crucifix (a source of constant consternation for Bruno as I wouldn’t even use the radio unless it was to let him know that the mission was successful). Along with my vampire hunting essentials, I also took the time beforehand to strap my glock 27 to my gun holster. It would do little against something already dead, but it could slow it down enough for me to destroy it. It would also come in handy should I ever encounter a creature with human thralls out for my blood.


 

A girl can’t be too prepared.


 

Certain that everything was in place, I slung my pack on, closed the cover of Jim’s tomb over me so as not to arouse the suspicions of the local gendarme, and carefully descended into the pit, cautiously feeling for hand and footholds. I could have simply leaped in, but I was wary should I spring a trap. It would not do for me to be staked or beheaded before I got the drop on my target. Time was of the essence, but I could do little for the victims of the creature if I was incapacitaed.


The earth was soft, moist and loose, an indicator that the hole had been recently dug. This made climbing problematic as the loose earth gave way in my grasp. A sudden slippage of earth at my feet sent me falling into the well and, like a cat, I righted myself to land on my feet as I hit the bottom. I only hoped that it wasn’t so deep that I might actually injure myself when I landed.


I felt like I was falling forever, and I worried about serious injury, but fortune held as my body plunged with a splash into icy water. The cold wasn’t a bother to me as my kind were immune to the effects of cold and most heat, but I gasped in surprise; finding myself both submerged and blinded by the total darkness was definitely unexpected and frightening.


There was no current here, at least none that was discernible, so it was fair to say that I had landed in some natural underground pool. I broke the surface of the water and tread it’s surface, looking about. Total darkness met me at every turn. Carefully, I removed a glow stick from my pack and snapped it, mixing the chemicals inside. As I shook it alight, the soft greenish glow, enhanced my preternatural night vision and enlightened the surrounding expanse, revealing a massive cavern, and I realized with certainty that this section was not part of the catacombs. This was natural, and far older than those man-made tunnels.


I attached the glow stick to the strap of my gun’s harness and swam the short distance to a nearby shore. I took a moment to steady myself as I left the water. I don’t feel the cold as a human would, but the shock of the fall and the water left me shivering despite the it. The fall had been unexpected and I knew I had been lucky to survive it.


After a moment, I took stock of the area, looking for any indications of my prey. Visually, there was nothing here to indicate it’s passing. The surrounding rocky surface of the shoreline had been worn smooth by the water, and the polished rock would hold nothing in the way of footprints or markers of anyone’s passing. The rock ahead would bare no better. There was nothing to indicate a direction. Worse, the cave was connected by at least five different tunnels.


What I could not accomplish visually, I would have to rely on by my other senses. As I mentioned before, vampires and other undead have a sixth sense when it comes to sensing others of our kind. I opened up that sense and immediately picked up the taint of the creature in the cave opening nearest me. I removed the stake from my pack and proceeded through the tunnel to my quarry.


The tunnel, level at first, began to slope slightly, only to suddenly angle down on a path so steep that if it hadn’t been for the glow stick and my night vision, I would have plummeted once again. As it was, the grade had taken me slightly off guard and I whispered a curse in frustration as I dropped my stake down the well and was forced to cling to the slope. Whatever the creature was, it traversed a tunnel bare handed with a skill only an experienced spelunker with the proper climbing equipment could handle. Luckily for me, I’m a vampire. No equipment necessary.


I clung to the floor of the slope, taloned hand to toe, slowly descending into the darkness below, hoping that the noise from the dropped stake hadn’t attracted it’s attention. The surface was damp and somewhat slimy, which told me that there must be instances where the pool above me rises and flows into this natural well. Had this been the case tonight, I would never have found the creature’s haunt. Here and there I could see evidence of the creature’s ascent and descent through the well. Notches in the rock, similar to the one’s that I was currently making with my own talons, marred the smooth rock in several places, repeating themselves over and over again.


My movements were slow and deliberate due to the slimy surface, but I took advantage of the creature’s progression up and down the well by placing my fingers in the grooves it had made and found that I now made better progress. Slowly descending the well, I began to get a better sense the presence of the thing below me, as well as hear the sounds of sobbing. Good fortune smiled, I thought. My movements hadn’t attracted it’s attention after all and I had found the missing mother and child as well. At least one of them was still alive.


Now came the dilemma. In order to surprise the creature, I would have to extinguish the glow stick, leaving me in total darkness. While I would be able to sense it, it could also possibly find me and take me by surprise.


I couldn’t take that chance. I would need to see it to, using the terminology loosely, kill it and a lightless void would not allow that. My other senses were sharp, unnaturally keen, but this creature was most likely born of the darkness, and lived, hunted and thrived in the in that element as well. My other senses would be nothing compared to its abilities.


If I had brought a torch I could most likely blind the thing and gain a huge advantage over it, but even a thing sensitive to light, as I suspected this creature to be, would only be mildly discomforted by the soft glow of my green stick, but it was a small advantage I meant to press.


I touched down on solid rock and took inventory of my surroundings, holding the glowstick in front of me to get a better view and possibly get the jump on the creature before it could me. The base of the well lead into a small opening where the water from the rising pool would continue to flow, most likely into an underground river or stream. The ground proved less slimy than the walls of the well, a good indicator that it had been some time since the water in the pool above had risen, so there was better footing and less chance of slipping here, good fortune if I had to move quickly. Twenty feet ahead the path curved to the right, but there was no longer any descent, the ground here was level.


Knowing the moment was soon at hand, I stopped to retrieve the crucifix from my pack, as well a vial of holy water and the stake I had dropped before my descent. I also removed the clasp from my holstered weapon, ready to pull it at a moments need.


The sobbing grew louder as I rounded the bend. I kept my progress slow and deliberate as I entered the creature’s lair, treading carefully in hopes that the creature hadn’t sensed or heard me. Here the pathway opened into a larger chamber. Across from the entrance I spotted the creature. It was humanoid in appearance and naked. My glowstick made its flesh appear pale and sallow, but its body was all muscle and sinew, tall and lean and completely hairless. It sat hunched over something with its back to me. My hearing told me what it was doing as I listened to the sounds of its rasping hiss. This creature was a life stealer, an absorber of mortal vitality and it was doing what it did best.


I could not immediately see its victim, but I knew for certain that it was feeding. I also made out the form of another person shackled to the adjacent wall. She was small and frail and I made her apparent age near eighty years, judging by her wrinkled flesh and long white hair. The creature had stripped her bare, leaving only a small red bow in her hair. It was from this woman that the sobbing I had heard in the path had come from.


As I neared a bit closer, The creature finally sensed me. It stopped feeding and sharply turned with a hiss, startling me. Its features were horrible. It had little in the way of a face. The creature’s mouth was little more than a sucker it used to suck the life from its victims. It nostrils and ears were enlarged, a clear indication that the thing relied strongly on its senses of smell and hearing to find its prey. Its eyes were nearly nonexistent, small and white. It was utterly blind. It could not see me, but it would only be moments before it sussed me out with it’s other senses.


It dropped its victim with all of the disregard one gives a strange rock after one is done looking at it and turned to face me in a crouch, ready to spring. I stood firm and raised the crucifix in front of me. The creature could not see it, but it recoiled from it’s presence just the same. Unknown to most, the sight of the cross is not necessary to repel the undead. The mere presence of a holy symbol in the hands of the faithful is enough. My faith is strong (which is why I am able to wield a crucifix in the first place), so I was confident that I would be able to hold the creature off.


To my utter surprise, the creature sprang to the wall and ricocheted toward the ceiling as it attempted to get around the holy symbol and at me. I turned just as the creature touched down and flung the vial of holy water at the thing. The creature howled in agony as burns appeared on its face and flesh. Its dropped to the ground, spasming and writhing in pain. I had the advantage now and I pressed it. Leaping upon the creature, I raised my stake high in the air, preparing to thrust it into the creature’s heart with all of my might. “I condemn thee to Hell,” I spat as I brought the sharpened wood down.


Without warning, the creature swung wildly with a haymaker, connecting with my wrist and shattering the bone. I screamed in pain and dropped the stake just as the creature shoved and rolled, spinning me onto my back and pinning me to the ground with such force that, if I still had breath in me, would have knocked the wind out of me completely. I laid under the creature, pinned and one wrist broken, one hand useless. The creature held me down by the waist and shoulders, limiting my movement. My wrist would heal quickly, but not fast enough to regain the advantage I had lost, but I still had an option. My good hand was free.


Before the creature could attempt to rend my flesh (it could not feed on me as I had no life to take, but it’s deadly talons could rip my body to shreds) I pulled my pistol from its holster and fired with a swiftness that would make Clint Eastwood blush, sending a short burst of automatic fire into its chest. The impact sent the creature flying off of me and I rose firing the pistol in quick short bursts, keeping the creature off balance. It screamed in pain and frustration, black blood oozing from the wounds I had created as it tried to regain its footing.


It took a split second to retrieve the stake, which was almost enough time for the creature to regain its footing, but I proved the faster of us. It made its final leap toward me and I raised the stake, using its own momentum to thrust it through its chest and into the creature’s heart.


We rolled end over end as the creature’s momentum carried us across the floor. It didn’t die in rage or surprise, and there was no melting or bursting into flames as some of us do when we die, only a sudden gasp and a dying rasp as the stake pushed it’s way into its chest.


I didn’t need to breath, but I panted heavily from the exertion of killing the thing just the same. I examined my wrist and found it already beginning to heal. I retrieved my crucifix and pistol and moved over to examine the two mortals. The old woman chained to the wall seemed uninjured aside from the obvious. The other woman was not as fortunate. What lay on the ground was little more than a husk of dried flesh and bone. She would never rise again.


I went to the surviving woman and pulled her shackle from the wall, freeing her. “It’s alright now,” I said, “you’re safe.” To keep her calm I asked, “What’s your name?”


“Lizzie,” the tiny old woman rasped, “Lizzie Foreman.”


Something in how she had said her name troubled me. Hesitantly I asked, “How old are you, Lizzie?”


“I’m ten.” The woman looked up at my face and in a shaky voice whispered, “I want my mommy.”

 


Oh, God in heaven, this was the child! The mother lay dead at her feet!


 

As Lizzie began to cry I held her close to me and shushed her, whispering, “Hush now, Lizzie. Everything will be all right, now. I’ll make it all right for both you and your mommy.” Tears streaked with blood welled in their ducts as I silently cried for the poor child. This was a ten year old girl now forever trapped in the body of an aged creature. I hadn’t reached her in time and there was nothing I could do for her now. Her life would be a torture of adult complications and disease her aged form would not be able to combat, but there was a way I could give her peace. Having come to the decision, I hesitated only a moment as I kissed her cheek and thrust my fangs into her flesh, finishing her off as painlessly and mercifully as I knew how.


I laid her body gently down next to her mother and whispered a silent prayer for their souls. I stayed with them a few moments, thankful that they were at least together in the end. I returned my stake and crucifix to my pack and produced the radio from its contents. “Bruno,” I said into the transmitter, “do you read me?”


Bruno’s reply came back sharp and with no small amount of static, “Barely.”


“It’s probably due to the strata,” I said, “I’m several meters underground.”


Dannazione, Arianna!  I wish you would keep me appraised of your situation and not wait until everything’s over.” he said, berating me.


“Temper, Bruno,” I replied, “cursing doesn’t suit you.”


“What’s your status?”


“I’ve found the creature’s lair,” I said, “it’s not going to hurt anyone else ever again.”


“Excellent,” Bruno replied happily, “what about our two abductees?”


I hesitated a moment before I replied, “I was too late. Their both dead, I’m sorry.”


“Well,” Bruno said, “I’m sure you did your best, I’m sorry. Get topside and meet me at the tower in one hour. We’ve been reassigned.”


“Reassigned? Where?” I asked.


“According to the cardinal, someplace in Northern California, USA. A town called Aliester Cove. I’ll fill you in on the details when we meet. This place is apparently a hotbed of supernatural activity. The church believes its an attempt by the Horde to gain a foothold on our world. Your mission is to find the last members of the Royal Order of Hunters there and aid them in eliminating the threat.”


“I thought that order died decades ago with Lord Waterhouse’s line?”


“So did many of us here. Turns out that crusty old pagan priest has been in hiding with his grandnephew since the witch hunters attacked his estate in London. It seems that the prophesy regarding his nephew, Jackson Thorpe, has come to pass. The old order is back and it has a new high priest.”


 

The Beggining