The Soft Place

My father, an English hatmaker in Dublin, died of consumption and my mother and I went into service at Harrow Hall near the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. It was the home of landed gentry and the very old Harrow family of English extraction who had established the house in the 1600s. It was a magnificently faded gothic house in the Irish countryside, far away from the view of the surrounding towns. It was said to be haunted, and indeed it was and on many fronts.

mansion in the woods

(image: Angelus YODASON)

First, the Harrow family was steeped in tragedy, with a son lost at sea a number of years before as he was on business, and a daughter who had gone mad as a result, it was said. A younger brother lived there as well, although little was known of him. My mother told me that he was about my age, which was eleven. But, she said, I must never seek him out or speak with him as despite his misfortunes in losing an older brother, he was my better.

And that was another layer of the haunted nature of Harrow Hall. If there were ghosts in that gloomy place, then surely I was to be among them. My duties were to the dusting of the great cabinetry, the polishing of the silverware, the scrubbing of the stone floors, the cleaning of the chandelier in the front hall once Mr. Purves, the butler, had seen to its careful decscent to the marble floors below. I was to be a shadow, a shade, a spectre in that house. For no one there was to converse with the family, least of all Master Harrow, who’s Christian name was Edmund. But, even the utterance of that name was forbidden by the staff. Continue reading

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Generation Gap

Raymond rode the moonbeams from the city until he arrived at the abandoned house in rural Upstate New York where Tiberius his Sire and the rest of The Family lived. It was Nightthanks – the most important family gathering on the vampire calendar.

Red Moon

image: Sudhamshu Hebbar

Into the house, then down into the cellar, and through a secret door in the floor. Then, a spiral staircase down into the dark, across an expansive subterranean gallery, and into the shadowless corridors of the Bloodline of Tiberius Aquilus Undermansion into the dining room. There they all waited, Tiberius at the head. Alba Agrippina his First-Bride was on his right, Brother Stephen on the left, and an assortment of cousins lined up on either side of a long, ebony table.

On the table lay three humans, still alive, and each attached to elaborate siphons and tubes that led to each place-setting. It was a sumptuous repast by the standards of most vampires. Continue reading

Hauntr

It started with the little things.

None of them realized how bad it would get. None of them understood the gravity of their offence. But that wasn’t because they weren’t smart.

On the contrary, every employee at the mobile app startup known as Jumpr was very smart. There were six members of the team in all, typically hunched in front of one or more computer monitors typing on wireless keypads. These were the technological elite, coding away in a Gastown brick building with hardwood floors, a meeting room with a donated leather couch and an unimpressive if functional kitchen island. Continue reading

Bad Deal

Berlin: Former Stasi PrisonEddie Irvine wasn’t the first serial killer that David Keller had ever met. Far from it; still, the forensic psychologist thought this one might just be the creepiest.

A lot of psychopaths had mastered the art of human interaction. Some were real charmers, with good grooming and a winning smile – at least superficially. It let them get close to their victims.

Sometimes, even untrained folks could detect the evil lying underneath, but it took time. They didn’t always have time to find it out before the killer struck. Continue reading

Missing Girl

That rule about not calling the cops until the person’s been missing for 24 hours? Total bullshit. TV fantasy — and an insidious one at that. Why give the creeps time to do what they do and get away with it?

Call it in. That’s the rule.

Detective Lewis Costello personally knew parents who’d put themselves right into a real-live version of purgatory. They sat on their hands for that magical, fictional 24-hour window while their guts froze and their hearts died. Hope died. When purgatory ended, hell usually opened up. Continue reading

Forever Young

The Museum of Art was unusually busy for this time of night. Admission was free on the first Tuesday of the month. They kept this space open until midnight in the hopes of enticing attendees who otherwise tended to busy themselves with television sitcoms or sitting on their favorite barstool. They welcomed a motley lineup of tweed jacketed intellectuals, college hipsters, romantic couples in ties and pearl necklaces and tourists with backpacks and cameras slug over their shoulder. Everyone was welcome. Continue reading

Guns in Guatemala

It wasn’t even past 10 am in Guatemala City and already Detective Rick Rhodes was sweating bullets. Traffic snarled outside the decrepit café that survived in this derelict avenue, attached to a boarded-up hotel where lizards scampered in the early morning shadows. Rhodes had seen his share of slums – this dank and dusty pothole, where bums sweated out rubbing-alcohol flavored Tequila from their pores and the prostitutes were all either under thirteen or over fifty-five, just might have been the worst.

No. Maiduguri was worse. But Africa’s a whole other planet. At least Guatemala City was in the same hemisphere as America. Still… it was bad. Continue reading

Soza’s Well

The Sea

Photo: ahisgett

The São Augusto was a Portuguese carrack, setting sail from Cape Verde in 1550 with a payload of Senegalese banana plants. It had been one of many such ships to transport banana plants from Portuguese Africa into what is now modern Brazil. It had a modest crew of fifty men, all of whom disappeared completely along with the ship in one of the most mysterious nautical misadventures in the history of colonial Brazil, the details of which  was sure to interest those who dealt in items of historical importance. The ship had been spotted near French Guyana before it made its way southward along the coast. But, it never made its destination at the port of São Vicente. The ship had carried more than banana plants. It carried two additional treasures; the promised soon-to-be bride of a banana plantation owner’s son, and her dowry of jewels and gold.

Jewels and gold.

Centuries later, just last week, these details were sent to Guy Chalmbers’ office in Boston from an address in São Paulo. They came from a Raul Merenda, a legal representative of the very respected Soza family. Chalmbers was a finder, a freelancer for museums, universities, and sometimes private collectors who were interested in acquiring historical data, and most importantly artifacts. Most academics, and curators didn’t like to deal with the likes of him. He drew a sizeable fee for his uncanny ability to produce results, and most knew it. But, he was crass, with a cloud of ill-omen about him. Usually, his patrons acquired his services off of the books, and through very specific contacts. He barely existed in daylight. He did his deals in the shadows.

The Sozas knew where the jewels and gold were, the letter said. They also knew the whole story of the ship and her crew, with documents to prove it. Chalmbers could sell the information to the highest bidder, and then take the gold for himself. It was unusual. There was normally a middle man for a deal like this. He hadn’t expected a letter from the Soza family in Brazil delivered to his office directly. But, it was a simple job. He would take it, not just because of how lucrative it would be. But, because he was curious as to why the Sozas had contacted him personally. What was in the deal for them? Continue reading

Ghost Clown

“And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids,” I snarled. That fucking college kid with the perfect blonde hair and movie star teeth just gave me a shrug as the rest of his hippy friends and their dog bundled into their acid-trip themed purple-green van… like they didn’t care that they had just ruined everything. Like it was no big deal.

Where the hell had these idiots come from, anyway? How close I’d come to getting my hands on the Bandoucie brothers’ gold! Continue reading

Bloody Dangerous Liaisons

In retrospect, I let this dance of deception go on for far too long before confronting Count Dracula with my suspicions. I cannot say for certain whether my motivation for letting it carry on was a matter of professional courtesy, fear for the future of my career or a desire to avoid personal embarrassment. Perhaps it was a mixture of all of these factors. In any event, I write this journal with trepidation that it may be discovered by someone of ill character and unsympathetic mindset, or worse, that I might endeavor to actually submit it to my employers at Hawkins & Harker Co. out of genuine guilt. Continue reading