Saturday, June 4, 2016

From "The Return of Little Precious" again



I slept for a few hours, then got up and ran a couple of errands. When I returned to the office, I found Dana sitting behind her desk looking like a wet rag. I asked her if she needed some of the hair of the dog, and she gave me the finger. Fair enough. I made casual mention of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Dana denied any knowledge of or interest in them-- but she looked really uncomfortable. She's a very poor liar.

I sat down and told her about my latest batch of recovered memories. That perked her up a little bit.

"Okay," she said when I was done. "You and I and Vionna were here in Zenith during the Little Precious Crisis. We don't remember anything about it. That is to say, we have screen memories, and somebody put them there. I can't detect any evidence of tampering, but there are techniques that are undetectable even by someone like me. They require a great deal of power. Who has that kind of power?"

"I have no idea," I said. My head was hurting and I wanted a drink. I had a bottle in my desk, but I didn't want to go for it with Dana sitting right there. Not that she would object, but... But what? I didn't know. I just knew I didn't want to do it right in front of her.

I felt the need to do something, but I had no idea what. Glancing out the window, I got an idea.

Because there was the goddamn Overcoat again, skulking in the narrow space between the hardware store and the adjacent brownstone. Good Lord, I was seeing Overcoats everywhere now. I knew I might be coming unglued. But he sure looked real, and here was something I could actually do. I hopped up and dashed out of the office and across the street like I was trying to win a gold medal. Dana yelled something at me, but I wasn't listening.

I was on top of him before he knew what was happening. He turned and tried to start running, but I grabbed him by the collar and slammed him against the wall.

He looked to be about fifty, though his reddish hair had no gray in it that I could see. He had the kind of face people call "interesting," when they don't want to say what they're really thinking.

Under the coat, he was wearing a dreary seersucker suit. His necktie wasn't a clip-on, but that was about all it had going for it. On his feet were a pair of white sneakers, and on top of his head was perched the crappiest-looking little straw had I have ever seen, before or since.

"Okay," I snarled fearsomely, "You've dogged us all the way across the country and back. I want to know who the hell you are and what the hell you're up to!"

"What are you talking about?" he blustered back. "I haven't dogged anybody across any country!"

"Bullshit," I said, grabbing him by his tie and drawing back my fist. "You tried to kill me in San Francisco. If you don't talk..."

Actually, now that I got a good look at this guy, I didn't think he was the knife-thrower, and he may not have been the mysterious skulker from the other evening. But he was here for some reason.

"Jesus!" he said. "You don't have to be so rough. I'm trying to help you."

"Help me? By spying?"

"I was going to talk with you eventually, but I had to be as sure as I could."

"Sure of what?"

He looked right and left and lowered his voice. "That you hadn't been subverted."

"Subverted by who?"

"The ones behind all this."

"Behind all what?"

He glanced around some more and said, "Look, I don't want to talk about this out in the open. There are ears everywhere."

"Whose ears?"

"You know... THEM. The government. The shadow government, I mean."

"Is that hat of yours lined with aluminum foil?" I asked.

"Certainly not!" he said indignantly. "What good would that do? It's lined with lead foil. Aluminum doesn't stop anything."

"Of course. Well, can you at least tell me who the hell you are?"

"My name's Garrison Knowles. My friends call me 'Grassy.'"

"I'll bet. Who are you working for?"

"Nobody. I'm a freelance journalist."

"Okay, Mister Freelance Journalist," I said. "If I were you, I'd go ahead and tell me why you're here, before I do something unpleasant."

"You already have," he said-- indignantly again. He was going to use up his whole supply on me.

"No, that was me being nice. You're about to see me being rude. If that fails to impress you, I can ratchet it up to hostile just like that." I snapped my fingers.

"That isn't necessary. I tell you, I'm not your enemy, but I think I know who might be. It's just that the information is very, uh...  sensitive."

"So am I. Come on, let's you and me go inside where we can talk. The house is surveillance-proof, so you can even be polite and take your hat off once we're inside."

He didn't want to come with me, but lacked the will or the physical strength to resist me. I practically dragged him into the brownstone and tossed him onto a chair in the office. Dana, who hadn't bothered to follow me this time,  watched impassively and did not speak. Our guest regarded her with fearful suspicion smeared all over his face.

"Here's the creep that's been spying on us," I announced. "Calls himself Assy Holes."

"Knowles is my name," he said archly. "Grassy Knowles. I told you that. You're just being childish."

"I was gonna dismember him out on the street," I said to Dana, "but I thought you might wanna watch."

"I might help," she said, smiling a nasty little smile and cracking her knuckles. Our guest was in for a little bit of our Bad Cop/Terrifyingly Psychotic Cop routine.

I could tell that she didn't think my new friend was the mysterious party who had thrown the knife at us. But, like me, she was eager to learn just what he was up to, and scare tactics were acceptable.

"Now that we're nice and cozy," I said to Knowles, "I have some questions for you. Why did you follow us to San Francisco?"

"I didn't! I told you that once already! I haven't been to San Francisco!"

I looked at Dana. She met my gaze and did a subtle little thing with her eyes that told me she thought Knowles was telling the truth. While she isn't an infallible human lie detector, she has good intuition.

Which is not to say I trusted Knowles. There was something strange about him. That wasn't intuition on my part, it was glaringly obvious. But what was it? It seemed to me that he had something he wanted to let out, but didn't dare.

"Okay," I said, sounding very calm and reasonable. "Tell us what you think is going on. This is about Little Precious. You know we're involved. How you know this, I can't imagine, but I won't insult whatever you use for intelligence by denying it. Do you want to tell us how you found out?"

"Not really. I mean, if it's okay, I'd rather just, you know, protect my sources and so forth."

"We'll accept that for now," I said for the sake of convenience and expediency. I figured he'd throw a fit if we pressed him. "We also  know that someone besides you is keeping an eye on us. We know that someone is manipulating events from somewhere. I don't think it's Jessie Von Cosel. Do you think you know who it is?"

"I might," Knowles replied. "I believe it's one of the shadowiest of all the shadowy groups out there-- maybe the shadowiest."

"Who?" Dana said with a mild smirk. "The Knights Templar? The Freemasons? The Girl Scouts?"

Knowles shook his head. "Worse than any of those. Have you ever heard of the Cult of the White Centipede?"

Dana blinked and my eyebrows went up. Apart from that, we both did an admirable job of keeping our faces blank.

"No," Dana said. "That's a new one on me. What do you know about them?"

"The same thing most conspiracy researchers know. Two things, actually. One, they exist. Two, they do awful things."

"Okay. And..?"

Knowles shrugged. "Um... Actually, that's about it. They are super-secretive, of course. And ruthless. Very, very ruthless. Secret and ruthless, that sums them up. Awful things, done secretly and ruthlessly."

"Such as..?" Dana prompted.

"Well," he said with a bit of a quaver in his voice, "I've heard-- from very reliable sources-- that the White Centipede Cult may have been behind the whole Little Precious thing eleven years ago."

That was certainly interesting. We knew who the White Centipede was, more or less. He was the reason we'd been led by our noses to a cemetery in England a few weeks before by Dana's old schoolmate, Myra Linsky. But this was the first I'd heard of a cult.

"White Centipede Cult," Dana repeated.

"That's what I've heard. If it's true... My God, can you imagine how much power and influence would be necessary to achieve such a thing? That's why this whole thing is so difficult to peel open!"

He was babbling, and I had a feeling he was doing it on purpose. He knew something he didn't want to talk about. I had caught him off-guard and given him no time to prepare for this performance.

"Yes?" I prompted. "And..?"

"That's all I know," insisted Knowles.

"You have to know more," Dana insisted back. "Come on, now. You're not talking to a couple of children here."

"You must have made some connection between us and Little Precious, since that's what you've got on your mind," I added. "What gives?"

Knowles closed his eyes and didn't say anything for almost a minute.

"I don't think I should talk about it," he finally said. He opened his eyes and looked at me. Then he glanced at Dana. When he did that, I caught a tiny glint of fear in his eyes. It was unmistakable. He was afraid of Dana! Why? I mean, she can be pretty scary, but not if you don't know her.

Since he didn't seem as fearful of me, I figured a one-on-one might be more profitable.

I cocked my head and closed my eyes for a few seconds. Then I turned to Dana and said, "I just received a signal on my telepathic uplink. The Emperor of the Purple Goblin Dimension needs to consult with you, and he says it's urgent. You might want to go use the hyperfractal supercommunicator so you can be sure of getting a clear signal."

She picked up on what I was doing right away. That's one of the things I like about her.

"I'm on it," she said, nodding crisply. "The Dark Lord Pferdscheisse must be acting up again. I'll be back."

"Relax, Knowles," I said after Dana was gone. "I'm not going to hurt you, okay? I just want to know what this is all about."

"What it’s about is time," he finally said.

"What do you mean by that?"

"The White Centipede Cult seems to have an obsession with time. Temporal mechanics of all kinds, possibly even time travel."

"Okay," I said. "But what's it all about? You're not giving me that. Why are you here? And why now?"

He chewed his lips and wrung his hands and looked at me almost pleadingly.

"I'd like to trust you, but... I mean, you work with Dana Unknown, and the two of you are obviously close, and... I don't think she's up to anything, but she..."

"You're not making sense," I said. "Or maybe you are. If so, I don't like it. Are you suggesting that Dana Unknown is somehow involved in whatever is going on?"

"No, not her. I told you, I don't think she's... Oh, hell, just look at this."

He reached into his jacket and pulled out a folded magazine, which he handed to me.

"Here's a copy of a recent issue of National Watchdog Magazine. There's an article in it that I wrote. I want you to read it. That's all. See what you think."

I eyed the front cover coldly, then opened it to the contents page.

"Not right this minute," he whispered. "Don't let her see it. Listen, you aren't holding me here or anything, are you?"

"Of course not," I said. "I'm not the cops or the government. I can't arrest or detain people-- not legally."

"Then I need to go. Here, take this."

He gave me a card with his name and a phone number printed on it.

"That's my local number," he said. "I'm in and out a lot, but if you want to talk to me after you read what I gave you, keep trying, or leave a message."

I stared at him for thirty seconds. Oddly enough, I thought he was on the level-- or at least he believed he was. And I could see no advantage in keeping him there any longer.

"Right, then," I said. "Be on your way. I'm not saying I trust you, and if I find out you're bullshitting me, I will locate you and there will be a reckoning. Paranoid though you may be, I have resources you cannot imagine, and you won't be able to hide."

"That's fine," he said. "If you're part of it, I'm screwed anyhow. But I'll keep investigating and I won't avoid you if you want to get ahold of me."

A minute after Knowles left the brownstone, Dana came back into the office.

"How's things in the Purple Goblin Dimension?"

"Oh, the usual. How's things in this dimension?"

"I didn't learn anything illuminating from Knowles," I said, which was true. Perhaps I would when I read his article, but the magazine was in one of my desk drawers at the moment. I really hated lying to Dana, and I told myself I wasn't doing anything of the sort, I was keeping something from her because I thought it might be for her own good-- but it sounded like bullshit even to me, and I felt like a lousy little creep.

After we had a fruitless little discussion of Grassy Knowles and other things, Dana said she needed to go out for a while. I told her I needed to stay in for a while. She departed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Five Stars For Carl!

First review of the KOLCHAK DOUBLE FEATURE on Amazon. Allow me to share it with you:

By A. Craft on May 3, 2016

I've been a loyal reader of the Kolchak output from Moonstone. The quality has had its ups and downs (more ups than downs). The two stories in this book are among the best that Moonstone has published. The first story is an outstanding story dealing with some supernatural happenings that involve Charles Manson. The story is structured in the fashion of the TV movies and the TV series; as a long-time fan of the movies & show, I very much enjoyed the comfortable structure of the story. There are even cameos by a couple of villains from the TV show.

The second story is a fun story featuring the villain from the original TV movie. It's an exciting (and at times nicely creepy) tale that involves time-travel and vampires.

My only complaint is that the book could have used a few illustrations, perhaps at the chapter breaks. All-in-all, a fun read and I hope that Mr. Miller revisits Kolchak and provides us with more stories.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Okay, maybe it COULD happen here...

Now available!


In "Penny Dreadful," Carl Kolchak teams up with private eye Domino Patrick to investigate a series of murders that appear to be copycat crimes based on the 1969 Tate-LaBianca killings. The trail leads to one Penelope Anne Hilligloss, a former member of the Manson Family who now seems to have aligned herself with an even darker power. Kolchak's quest for the truth, and the means to stop "Penny Dreadful," takes him to San Quentin State Prison for a face-to-face meeting with the one man who might have the information he needs: Charles Manson himself.

"The Time Stalker" finds Kolchak in Las Vegas, the city where he once destroyed a vampire named Janos Skorzeny-- or did he? When Skorzeny reappears and begins another murderous rampage, Kolchak must solve the riddle of the vampire's impossible return. Does a mysterious, accidental time-traveler named Zero hold the key? Can Carl put Skorzeny back where he belongs without being arrested by the Vegas P.D. or fired by Tony Vincenzo? With the help of an old, estranged friend from his original Vegas days, and a conspiracy-minded young reporter named Gail Karen, Kolchak once again tackles his first, most terrifying supernatural foe!

Friday, March 11, 2016




Down in the office the next morning, I found Dana standing in front of her desk frowning at an envelope that must have arrived in the early mail. She held it in her hand as though it were an ugly little animal that might bite her if it got a chance.

"How come you're standing there frowning at an envelope?" I asked.

"It's from my cousin Louis," Dana said. "Why is he writing to me?
 The whole family avoids him-- myself included. He's been involved in any number of shady things. Last I heard, he was in the vanishing curio shop business."

"Vanishing curio shop?" I repeated. "What the hell is that?"

"Oh, I'm sure you've heard stories about them. Some poor, hapless schmo-- call him the mark-- is walking around in a part of town he's unfamiliar with. He spots a strange-looking little curio shop and feels irresistibly compelled to go inside. The proprietor is some strange old coot who gives the mark the creeps. The mark notices an exotic object of some sort, and expresses an interest. The proprietor spins some yarn about the object and what it can do-- grant wishes, bestow great personal power, whatever. The mark purchases the object-- usually for a ridiculously low price--takes the object home and uses it for whatever purpose he has in mind. Things are fine at first, but the whole deal quickly goes south. Remember that story, 'The Monkey's Paw?' 

"So, the mark returns to the curio shop, hoping the proprietor can help him undo whatever he's done. But when he arrives, he finds an empty lot or an abandoned building that looks nothing like the shop he remembers. A quick canvass of the neighborhood reveals that the building or the lot has been vacant for as long as anyone can remember; there is not, and never has been, a curio shop there. The mark returns to the mess the power object has made of his life, and either dies or loses his mind and gets locked up in an asylum for the rest of his life."

"Jesus," I said, "that's messed up. Why the hell would anybody do a thing like that to people?"

"Practitioners of the Dark Arts claim it increases their personal power by a factor of five every time they fleece a mark. Of course, pulling jobs like that is pure hell on the karma, but that's what they want. Dark Arts practitioners have a thing called anti-karma. They rack up so many demerits they could never possibly atone for them, even if they were reincarnated a thousand times. Once you hit that level, the question becomes moot. They never reincarnate because they never die. Death itself won't touch anybody with that much stink on them. And there's really no point in them dying if they can't come back in another form. They've sabotaged their whole cycle of life and death, and so become untouchable. Basically, they're written off the ledger. They can go on for centuries that way. It's actually pretty elegant in its simplicity, but it's an absolutely repugnant practice, and only the lowest of the low go in for it."

"Like your cousin."

She sighed. "I'm afraid so. I guess you could say I was closer to him than anyone else, because I only disliked him intensely; the rest of the family hated him or worse. But what little I had to do with him was years ago, when I was a kid. Why the hell is he writing to me now?"

"People typically answer that kind of question by opening the letter and reading it," I advised her. "It's always worked for me."

"Shut up, Jack," she said absently as she tore the envelope open and extracted a single folded sheet of paper. She unfolded it and read it. Then she read it again. She was going for a hat trick when I snatched it away from her. 

"He has nice penmanship for a fiend," I remarked as I glanced over the thing. "Seems very polite, too. Calls you Dearest Dana in the salutation-- you don't see that very often these days. He inquires about your health, expresses the hope that you are well... Ah, here's the punch line. He hates to bother you and would not dream of imposing on your good nature-- oh, that's a hot one!-- but wonders if you could look into a little matter for him. Sounds like a case of retail theft to me. Some mysterious someone swiped some mysterious something from him-- he says what it is, but I can't pronounce that word..."

"It's pronounced exactly the way it's spelled," Dana said. 

"Oh yeah," I said. "So, anyhow, a mysterious somebody swiped his supercalifragilisticexpialiwhateverthefuck, and he needs help getting it back. He thought of you immediately because you're one of the smartest people he knows and one of the most adept sorceresses in the world. Boy, he lays it on, doesn't he? And look how he closes it: 'Yours in Christ.' What the heck? I thought he was irredeemably evil!"

"He is. I can only assume that he's had some kind of a scare thrown into him and he's trying to hedge his bets. Sort of like a politician who gets caught committing adultery, or a serial killer with a death sentence. First thing they do is leap blindly at Jesus. Well, he won't help them-- not under those conditions."

 "I assume, then," I said, "that this is going straight into the circular file?"

"I don't think so," Dana said. "I'd ignore it if it were anything but a Cauliodanbannasertopsis. I can't explain why, but I think this has something to do with the Little Precious business."

"Refresh my memory," I said. "What is a wopbopaloobalopalopbamboom again?"

"Something that has the potential to be a very, very dangerous thing, if it falls into the wrong hands."

"Okay, so you're just gonna sit there, then," I said, "and not explain it to me, is that the program?"

"No, of course it isn't. But it's difficult to explain a Cauliodanbannasertopsis..."

"Say," I interrupted, "is there, like, an abbreviated version of that word?"

"That is the abbreviated version."


"It has the power," she said, "to blur the lines between what is and what is not. That which exists and that which does not exist. In fact, it can breach those lines, and allow people and things to pass from one state to the other, and back again. There are places that don't exactly exist, as such. The concept is pure magic-- it cannot be expressed mathematically, it cannot even be theorized about in any school of purely scientific thought. And there are also places that have been magically sealed in one way or another. Sometimes the entrances to the non-existent places fall into that category. Dad used to do a lot of that, but I haven't... 

"Well, a Cauliodanbannasertopsis is a sort of magical skeleton key-- it can be used to gain access to such places."

I didn't like the sound of that.