Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Volume 5

Here we go! This latest Airship 27 release features my first Sherlock Holmes story, "The Adventure of the Other Man," along with great stories by Aaron Smith, I.A. Watson and Andrew Salmon. 

GET IT HERE:   http://www.amazon.com/Sherlock-Holmes-Consulting-Detective-Volume/dp/0615935818/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386566660&sr=8-1&keywords=sherlock+holmes+consulting+detective+vol+5


Four New Mysteries Amidst the fog covered alleys and byways of London, murder and mayhem run rampant. With the dawning of a new century, Consulting Detective Sherlock Holmes and his able assistant, Dr. Watson represent the forces of truth and justice, ready to confront the villainy of these new modern horrors. Here is another quartet of unique, perplexing cases that will challenge this noble duo and test their fortitude and courage. Why would someone murder an old man a few months before his hundredth birthday? Why is Holmes’ arch nemesis, Prof. Moriarty, hunting the city for the same sadistic killer Holmes is after? And, when the Great Detective is arrested and imprisoned for attempting to seduce the wife of a wealthy nobleman, Watson questions whether his friend has finally lost his mind. Within these pages, writers Chuck Miller, Aaron Smith, I.A. Watson and Andrew Salmon offer up four of the most thrilling and suspenseful adventures ever devised to confound Arthur Conan Doyle’s most beloved heroes. It is time to load your revolver, hail a hansom cab and prepare for action, as once again, the game is afoot!

And Sherlock Holmes will make his mark on the world of the Black Centipede in 2014, in the "Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires" trilogy. The first volume, "Vionna and the Vampires," is also the first installment in The Incredible Adventures of Vionna Valis & Mary Jane Kelly, and will be out before too much longer. That will be followed by "Black Centipede Confidential," and then the first full-length Doctor Unknown Junior novel, "The Return of Little Precious." So, there you go.

Monday, November 18, 2013

THE ABOMINABLE MYRA LINSKY RISES AGAIN

Excerpt from "THE ABOMINABLE MYRA LINSKY RISES AGAIN," A DOCTOR UNKNOWN JUNIOR adventure by Chuck Miller, available NOW on Amazon:
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 31, 2012)

http://www.amazon.com/Pro-Se-Presents-Chuck-Miller/dp/1479250651/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346849136&sr=8-1&keywords=pro+se+presents+blalock


 CHAPTER ONE: AND BESIDES, THE WENCH IS DEAD 

CITY OF ZENITH
THE HOME/OFFICE OF DOCTOR DANA UNKNOWN
aka "Doctor Unknown Junior"
 
“What the hell kind of name is Myra Linsky?” I asked, shaking my head.

“I think it’s Irish, Jack,” said Dana. "I know it sounds Eastern European, but it has a 'y,' instead of an 'i' at the end.'"

We were in the ground-floor office of an old brownstone house in downtown Zenith. The house is owned by Doctor Dana Marie Laveau Unknown, and serves her-- and me-- as both residence and workplace. My name is Jack Christian. That's the one I was born into, but I've had several others at various times.

I was sitting behind my desk, and Dana was standing in front of hers.

“That’s not what I mean.” I refolded the newspaper I’d been reading and tossed it in her direction. “I mean, what kind of name is Myra Linsky for an arch-enemy? An evil sorceress called Myra? It doesn’t strike much fear into the heart, does it?”

Dana caught the newspaper and shrugged. “I’m sorry your aesthetic sense is outraged, Jack, but it is what it is. And I wouldn’t necessarily call her evil. I never thought of her as diabolical. Misguided, maybe. She certainly chose to abuse her gifts. But I would stop short of calling her evil, and I would also hesitate to use the term arch-enemy. She's just somebody I never got along with.”

“Were you ever friends?”

“No. We always hated each other. I always kind of wished we could have been friends, but there was something about her that put people off. It wasn't just me. I don't think she had any real friends at all.”

“Uh-huh. That’s really kind of a shame. It would be a lot more poignant if you had been best friends to start with, then something awful happened. But that’s as may be. You said you fought her almost to the death on three different occasions. That’s an arch-enemy, whether you like it or not.”

Doctor Dana Unknown is my partner in an agency whose mission cannot be summed up in two or three words. Just looking at her-- an unassuming young brunette, just a shade over five and a half feet tall, dark, slender and bespectacled-- you'd never guess she was so incredibly formidable, but Dana is probably the most powerful sorceress in the world. She's a Level Twelve Magus, whatever the hell that is.

Or she was, anyhow, until she lost a huge chunk of her power helping me to fight a monstrously evil ghost that was trying to make a major incursion into our world. The ectoplasmic fiend was screwing around with me, my sister Vionna, and my friend the Black Centipede. It’s a very interesting story, but we don’t have time for it here. The bottom line is, we saved the day—more or less—but it cost Dana dearly.

I kind of felt responsible for bringing her into the whole mess—mainly because I was responsible for bringing her into the whole mess. So, once the dust had settled, and Dana had come to terms with her diminished capacity, I—out of the goodness of my heart—had offered my services to her, at a very reasonable rate, as right-hand man, able assistant, bodyguard, and jack of all trades. Not that I ever got a proper acknowledgement of any of that from her!

I should mention here that Dana's father is Raoul Deveraux Unknown, the famed sorcerer/superhero/certified public accountant. The old man had retired several years earlier, after a traumatic incident in which a spell of his had gotten out of control and destroyed the planet Earth and a large portion of the solar system. He and Dana had successfully rebooted the time stream, more or less erasing the episode from history, but the experience left him a shattered man.

He currently resides in a retirement village in Florida, where his hobbies include drinking, wallowing in guilt, drinking, watching soap operas, and drinking. Dana took over his role as the mystical defender of the earth, or whatever the hell you call it. Which had been a cakewalk for her, up until her path crossed mine.

And now, six months into our partnership, things were so not rosy. I was thinking seriously about ending our arrangement. I hated to do it, but the fact was, Dana Unknown was driving me crazy.

Her attitude toward me, so it seemed, was supercilious and arrogant on a good day, and close to contempt on a bad one. And for the past month or so, the bad days had outnumbered the good ones. I supposed I was staying on with her because of the guilt I felt. Why Dana let it continue, I couldn't fathom.

Though I considered our arrangement a full partnership, Dana, for some reason-- no doubt psychological-- felt the need to maintain the fiction that she was actually my employer and that she hired me out of pity because I had no direction in life, was virtually unemployable, and would certainly drink myself to death within six months if I didn’t have something to occupy me. Which is absurd, because I could have gone another ten years at least.

And Dana, in the time-honored manner of everyone who spends a lot of time with a person who drinks to a degree that a layman would find excessive, nagged me about it incessantly. The universal bane of the dedicated drinker, these Carrie Nation types.

Actually, I had, by this time, cut back considerably, but I still indulged when the mood struck me-- which it had been doing more and more of late. It seemed that Dana and I were constantly at one another's throats.




"Why do I even have to have an arch-enemy?" she asked. "Did you have one back when you were running around in a cape and tights?"

"They were leggings, and yes, as a matter of fact, I did. Do you remember Mackie Messer and the Threepenny Gang? They had this so-called 'mascot' named Pirate Jenny. She was about my age, and I scrapped with her on several occasions. The Gang treated her like a baby, but I knew there was something in her that she kept hidden. And, sure enough, when she turned 14, she murdered the whole Threepenny Gang and took off with their accumulated loot. Hasn't been seen since. I often wonder where she ended up."

“Yes, well, I may have exaggerated a little about our battles. The first time Myra and I fought ‘almost to the death,’ we were both seven years old. It was a playground spat that got out of hand.”

“Whatever, she’s the only person I know of who has enough of a history with you to qualify for arch-enemy status. And it doesn’t reflect well on you to have a mortal foe with such a pedestrian name. ‘The Diabolical Myra Linsky.’ It just doesn’t track.”

“I can’t help that. Actually, she called herself ‘Lady Diabolique’ for a while. This was one summer when we were teenagers. She was going through a goth phase. She had this truly horrible costume, with a sort of...”


“So,” I continued, overriding her fashion commentary, “you two grew up together and attended Hogwarts, or wherever you people go.”

"Something like that, yeah. Her father and my father were friends. They had hoped their daughters would carry on that tradition, but things didn't work out that way. Myra always had a rebellious streak, and she never took her education very seriously. She started hanging around with a bad crowd. Got into some seriously forbidden practices. I found out much later that she had secretly apprenticed herself to Sikorski, the Dark Necromancer.”

“Are there any light necromancers?”

“Shut up, Jack. She ended up going down a very dark path.”

"But you did fight almost to the death the other two times?"

"Yes, yes," she replied sharply. "As I say, she went down some very dark paths, and on two occasions, I felt the need to step in. I imagine she hated me even more after that."

“And now she’s dead.”

"Yeah. Maybe."

This conversation had begun when I mentioned to Dana that I had just read an obituary in the Zenith Orator early edition for one Myra Linsky, and wondered aloud if she was the same one I had heard mentioned once or twice or a hundred times when Dana had been in a nostalgic and/or maudlin mood. I warmed quickly to the subject because it took the focus off of me and her. We had not actually discussed our problems as such, and I was eager to avoid doing so until I could come up with a good escape plan.

"Are you going to the funeral?" I asked.

"I hardly think I'd be welcome. But I do want to see the body."

"The funeral's tomorrow," I told her.

"Then I want to see the body tonight."

*

Which meant doing something stupid. That's the only way to describe breaking into a funeral home at 3 in the morning, which is what we did. But She Who Must Be Obeyed had spoken...

The Melchoir Memorial Chapel and Crematorium was located on the outskirts of Zenith, in one of those neighborhoods I never have any legitimate business visiting. Dana had to defer to me on the details, since stealth is my business, or was at one time.

For a few years I had been known as Kid Mercury, boy sidekick of Captain Mercury, noted American superhero, currently deceased. That gig had its ups and downs, and had ended badly twelve years before the events that brought Dana Unknown into my life, or vice-versa. Captain Mercury died a nasty death, and I was pretty well ground up by the vicious gears of an uncaring world. After a very brief stint as a ward of the state-- and a few criminal misadventures-- I broke out of the juvenile detention home and fled into the wide world beyond the city of Zenith. The less said about that, the better.

That night at the funeral home, my old skills-- both as a superhero and a juvenile delinquent-- answered my call, still well-oiled and ready for anything. We parked a block away, crept around to the back of the establishment, and found the rear entrance. It was made of light metal painted a somber brown. Next to it was a large garage-type door.

I bypassed the burglar alarm with ease, something I had learned to do at the age of eleven, then went to work on the smaller door.

"Rumor has it," I told Dana as I deftly prodded the tumblers inside the lock with a thin, rigid wire, "that this place was once owned by the Stiff. Don't know how true that is. Nobody's seen him since 1963. Four witnesses swear they saw him on a certain grassy knoll in Dallas on November 22... Ah, here we go!"

I popped the door and we entered. My sense of pride and accomplishment was tempered by the fact that I hate funeral homes, even in the daytime, and at three in the morning, there is nowhere I'd rather not be. It was cold and dark, and had that sad smell of chemicals and flowers, vying with one another for control of the atmosphere. The flowers never win the battle, and the resulting amalgam of odors always makes my skin crawl.

We were in some sort of receiving bay. We picked our way through the dark, not daring to use flashlights until we were further into the building, away from any windows. We found another locked door which I made short work of. Once we were through and it was closed behind us, we turned on the flashlights.

This was evidently the crematorium.

"Goddamn," I said, "that's a big oven. Hey, you remember those Easy Bake toy ovens they used to sell? You could make a cupcake in them. They used an ordinary light bulb to generate the heat."

"I don't think that's what this is."

"I know that, I was just making conversation."

"I wonder if you could refrain from voicing every inane trifle that crosses your mind."

"I don't believe so, Dana."

We went past the oven and found locked door number three, upon which I worked my magic. Beyond it was a small, dark room with heavy drapes on all the walls. In there, we found four caskets, each one sitting on a metal table with wheels. I hung back while Dana lifted one of the lids. The occupant was a middle-aged man. She went to another, which contained the corpse of an elderly woman.

The third one was the charm.

"Well, it's her, alright," Dana said, gazing at the remains of a young woman. "Poor thing."

Myra Linsky's mortal clay had been dressed up in a high-necked black dress with some white lace at the neck and wrists. She had a magnificent head of red hair and a nicely-arranged face. She was actually quite attractive, but I pushed that thought out of my mind, her being a cadaver and all. Corpses are like your parents; you aren't at all comfortable imagining them in sexual situations, but once the idea gets into your head, it's difficult to dismiss.

"I wonder what she died of," I said. "The paper didn't say."

"I doubt it was anything mundane. Probably something the paper wouldn't dare print even if they knew what it was."

"Like magic cancer or something?"

Dana looked at me as though I were something she had just stepped in, then turned back to the corpse of her old acquaintance. Her back to me, I took the opportunity to covertly give her the finger.

I can't say I was surprised by what happened next, but it did catch me off guard. Myra Linsky sat up in the coffin, grabbed Dana by the throat and started throttling her.

Though I could sympathize with the corpse, I sprang to Dana's rescue. I grabbed Myra's cold wrist and applied pressure, but that didn't loosen her grip. So I started beating her on the head with my heavy flashlight. The glass shattered, the bulb popped, the flashlight got dented up, and that was the net result of that maneuver. Myra's grip remained firm.

I was wondering what I might do next when the cadaver abruptly let go, went limp, and fell back into a supine position in the casket. Dana put some distance between herself and the casket, rubbing her neck and coughing. I put myself between her and Myra, holding my mortally injured flashlight out in front of me as though it might offer some protection.

"Are you okay, and what the hell was that?" I asked, eyeing the apparently inert body.

"Yes and I'm not sure. It felt like some kind of post-mortem spell release. Whatever it was, it's over. There's nothing in there. Something jumped out. I couldn't get a fix on it because my senses are still badly scrambled. Something was in that body and it left. It took a moment to screw with me, but that wasn't its ultimate aim. It has gone from here."

"To where?" I asked quite reasonably.

"Somewhere," Dana replied, sounding petulant and juvenile.

"How come?"

"To do something," she snapped.

"Well." I clammed up then and started thinking for the umpteenth time about my possible exit strategies. Irritation was rapidly beating the hell out of guilt.

Dana gave me one of her looks. "If I could be more specific, I would, Jack."

"I don't doubt that. You'd run your mouth for hours. Was it Myra herself? Her spirit or whatever?"

"I don't think so. Not as such." She shook her head. "I just don't know. Whatever it was, it left an empty shell behind. She's dead, really dead, that much I can tell."

She put her hand on the corpse's forehead. "Myra," she said in a low, sad voice. "What the hell have you been up to?"

I shuddered. "Do you have to touch that thing?" Though I am of course fearless, I'm a  little superstitious about dead bodies. I don't like handling them, and would never do so voluntarily for no compelling reason. Dana paid me no mind.

"So, basically, this is not over," I piped up after a while. "Something bad is going to happen. Right?"

Dana continued ignoring me and I decided to keep my trap shut until she got tired of this grim tableau. I was thoroughly sick of it, but I do have a certain capacity for self-discipline. I stood idly by while she contemplated her old adversary's remains.

Finally, Dana sighed and said, "I wonder why we couldn't have been friends." She stepped back from the casket and closed the lid.

We were silent on the drive back to Dana's brownstone. She was thinking whatever she was thinking, and I was thinking that once this Myra Linsky business was settled, I would start looking for someplace else to go. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

THE RETURN OF DOCTOR REVERSO CHAPTER SEVENTEEN



(To go back to Square One, CLICK HERE!)

JAILBREAK!

Nineteen minutes later, Stanley and I stood in the gravel parking lot outside the prison. There was a gaping hole in the wall of the place. A bit of smoke was wafting from it, but the fire had already been extinguished.

"My God, Centipede," Stanley said, "I thought were were goners for sure."

"So did I," was my response. "I have never in my life been in a stickier situation. Never. When the tunnel collapsed and buried us under all that rubble, I sent up a heartfelt yet oddly insincere prayer for our souls. There may not be any atheists in foxholes, but a healthy skepticism can be preserved. I believe I'll write a little monograph on the subject. Perhaps the Christian Science Monitor would be interested."

I watched a swarm of masked, black-clad guards racing back and forth in front of the building. They were yelling at one another, but I couldn't understand anything they were saying.

"If you hadn't done what you did," Stanley said, grinning and shaking his head, "we would have been dead. How the hell did you manage that, anyhow?"

"Practice, my boy. Years and years of strict training and practice. I'll admit I never expected to be tested in quite that way, but I was ready for it just the same. Even so, It was the performance of a lifetime. I doubt I could repeat it. Split-second timing and good luck converged beautifully."

"Centipede, it was the single most thrilling, exciting experience I ever had," said my friend. "Even though it scared the hell out of me, there was something kinda beautiful about it. I mean, the way you handled it. I'm glad I witnessed it, that's all I can say."

"Stanley, you're minimizing your own role. You took my cues brilliantly. We acted in concert as a precision instrument. When I made that slight miscalculation, your improvisation was nothing short of genius."

"Aw, it was all in a day's work," he said modestly, shaking his head. "I just can't get over it, Centipede."

"It was absolutely extraordinary, all the way around," I said. "But, Stanley... You know nobody else will ever believe it, right?"

"They sure won't," he agreed sadly. "I'm certainly not putting any of it into a report."

I thought for a moment, then said, "I think we should agree, here and now, never to speak of it again. We'd only be asking for trouble."

"You're right," he said. "Okay, you got my word. My lips are sealed."

"Mine, too," I vowed. "It goes into my deepest vault, forevermore."

We shook on it.

I'd love to share the details with you, but, as you see, Stanley and I made a solemn pact. I know you wouldn't want me to dishonor it. Fear not, your touching hero-worship is not misplaced. The Black Centipede always keeps his word-- except, of course, for the not-infrequent occasions when he does not. But this isn't one of those. Thank you for understanding.

"Too bad Duranceville bought it," Stanley said, "even though I didn't like him much. He took a bullet from one of those commandos, eh?"

"Ah... Yes, yes, Stanley," I said-- somewhat convincingly, I thought. "I saw the whole thing. Just terrible. He was being menaced by one of the invaders. I thought I had a clear shot at his assailant, but I missed, curse the luck. The coward then gunned Duranceville down from behind. Of course, the impact from the shot turned poor Duranceville completely around, which is why the back of his head was actually turned toward me. I then returned fire and brought down the craven murderer. Now, one or two of my shots may have passed through Duranceville's already-dead body on the way to their target. It took the unfortunate man a while to fall down, you see. Probably one of those rare cases of instant rigor mortis-- there was a very interesting article about that in the New England Journal of Medicine, I think it was, or it may have been some European rag. Nothing you'd have seen. So, if any kind of ballistics report ever surfaces that makes it look like he was killed by a bullet from the gun I was using...Oh, poor Duranceville! I think he was really turning his life around, Stanley. Only to be cut down, right before my eyes! So senseless... So unfair." I shook my fists in impotent rage.

Stanley clapped me on the shoulder. "Nobody's blaming you," he said. "You worked miracles in there. You can't save them all, you know. Anyhow, I don't think we're gonna have to worry about any ballistics reports on this one."

I hung my head in apparent sorrow. It was all I could to not to burst out laughing. That moment completely justified my decision to wear a mask.

"Oh, my darling," cooed Anonymoushka, "you pizdeet kak Trotsky! A master prevaricator! You make me proud."

My faceless "fiancee," along with Prudence and Stymie, had gotten out of Stanley's car after the danger had passed. I was thankful they hadn't been anywhere near the line of fire. But they had witnessed the entire incident from the outside.

"Let's get in the car and get the hell out of here," I suggested. "You three can tell us what you saw."

We piled into the vehicle. Stanley started the engine, put the car in gear, and we were on our way.

Our three companions gave us their eyewitness report of the events they had observed. What had happened had happened very quickly. It had been another invisible dirigible attack, they said. They heard the thing pass over the car, then saw it become visible momentarily as it hovered over the building.

Something had dropped from the gondola. It had looked like a bomb, both Stymie and Anonymoushka said, but it hadn't acted like one. There was a bright flash of light when it struck the roof, but it didn't make a sound. There was no explosion. Instead, something that looked like a tidal wave of frothy, purple liquid rose up and spilled over the edge of the roof, running down the side of the building. At this point, my witnesses heard a loud crackling noise and saw smoke or steam rising from the liquid. It soon became apparent that the glop was a very powerful acid of some sort, because every bit of concrete it touched rapidly melted away. By the time the stuff reached the ground, there was a gaping breach in the wall-- some twenty feet wide, from the top to the bottom. A few small fires had evidently been started inside, possibly by the unknown chemical.

Quite a few of the black-clad guards seemed to have been caught by the purple substance during its descent, because they scattered out onto the grounds, screaming as their uniforms-- and the flesh inside them-- dissolved.

That was when the commandos hit. They dropped down from the dirigible on elastic cords that stretched just enough to stop their plunges two or three feet above the ground. Then they cut the cords, dropped to the ground, brandished all manner of weaponry, and charged into the building, gunning down what was left of the guards as they ran.

According to my witnesses, there had been somewhere between six and a hundred and fifty of these shock troopers, more or less. Approximately. They wore gas masks and dark green fatigues without any patches, badges, or other identifying marks on them.

Exactly what they did once they were inside, nobody knew. Or if they did, they weren't talking. Not to us. By the time Stanley and I had made our miraculous escape from the collapsed tunnel, the whole thing was all but over. We emerged into a world of noise and chaos. Relieving a dead guard of his sidearm, I had opened fire on the marauders, who were now making haste to exit the building they had so rudely entered. Whatever they had come here to do had been done. Ever one to find the silver lining, I had taken the opportunity to finish a little bit of old business, and then it was over.

After that, the surviving guards couldn't get rid of Stanley and me fast enough. They refused to tell us what had happened. We were informed that if we told anyone about these events, we wouldn't be believed, because in a few hours, this building would be gone. Not only that, but it would never have been here. No such building had ever existed on this spot, we were very pointedly told, and anybody who said different would be nuts-- and would be treated accordingly.

I almost challenged them, but, for Stanley's sake, I let it go. We took our leave and joined our companions, and none of the guards paid us any further attention. We found Anonymoushka, Stymie and Prudence, who seemed relieved to see us.

And now, as we zoomed along the dirt road, headed for home, the witnesses wrapped up their tale, giving us the lowdown on what had happened while Stanley and I were indisposed underground.

Stymie, acting as spokesman for the group, said, "After the main bunch of guys stormed the place, three or four more came down from the dirigible. They didn't use the cords, they were lowered on some kind of a platform, and they had a big piece of equipment with them. I don't know what it was, but they carried it inside. It took four of them to do it. Then nothing happened for five or ten minutes. Finally, the four men came back out, carrying that thing with them. It had steam coming out of it. They put it on the platform and then they waited. Pretty soon, the rest of the men came back out, and they had somebody with them. I guess it was a man, but he was about fifty feet tall and he was purple."

"Were they carrying him?" I asked.

"No, he was walking with them. He got onto the platform, and so did a few of the other men. The platform was pulled back up, right into the gondola. The dirigible dipped down a little bit, and the rest of the men got hold of those cords and climbed back up. Then the thing turned invisible again, and that was that. A couple minutes later, you and Lieutenant Bartowski came back out and now here we are."

We were all silent for a few moments, then I asked, "Did you notice anything out of the ordinary? Aside from the obvious, I mean. Anything at all?"

"Well," Stymie said diffidently, "I did see something... I think I did, anyhow. I can't be sure about it, but... It looked to me like there was a picture of somebody painted on the side of the dirigible."

"Doctor Almanac?" I said.

Stymie shook his head. "No, not him. I didn't get too good of a look, but the shape of the head was a lot different. To me, it looked like... It looked like the guy from your movie. You know, Doctor Reverso. Mag DeMilby, Junior. But I could be wrong."

"Yes," I said. "Perhaps you were mistaken. I don't believe for one second that you were, of course, but we can take a sort of vain and fragile comfort in the possibility. It might last five or ten minutes. Because if you saw what you saw, this thing just got even more confusing than it already was."

Stanley used some language that he normally refrained from in the presence of women and children.

I heartily agreed. And I made up my mind to have a very frank chat with Percival Doiley as soon as I could get my hands on him...


CLICK HERE FOR THE NEXT PART

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Return of Doctor Reverso: Chapter Sixteen


I had such a good response to my free PDF file offer that I'm making it again. Just message me on Facebook and I'll send you one-- 136 pages of thrills, confusion, girls, monsters, Doctor Almanac, secret formulas, adventure, Doctor Unknown Senior, and a special celebrity guest: Our Gang's Stymie Beard. This serial is about halfway done now. It provides a bridge from "Blood of the Centipede" to "Black Centipede Confidential," and it introduces a major new character, la belle femme sans visage, Anonymoushka, the faceless Russian assassin who specializes in remarkably disjointed conversation and has taken it into her head that she is the future Mrs. Centipede. Also a fairly silly and absolutely inconsequential villain called Crusher Cranium. (They can't all be brilliant...)

CRUSHER CRANIUM

"I have a certain amount of affection for you girls," I said to Prudence, "I honestly do. But you scare the hell out of me sometimes. You're plugged into something I don't understand. Your boss, too, come to think of it. I'm just glad you appear to be more or less on my side most of the time. If I ever look like I'm in danger of straying away from your good graces, please give me a warning."

Prudence responded by saying nothing (of course) and doing nothing. Her face was as still and unrevealing as an Easter Island statue, though I thought her left eye glittered a little bit-- but that might have been a reflection.

"Here we are," Stanley announced gruffly. "I was not looking forward to this, but after what just happened, I feel like I'm pulling up to the entrance of Coney Island. You and your friends, Centipede, I swear!"

We had reached our destination-- the prison without a name, run by people who didn't exist, on behalf of a division of the government that was just a figment of somebody's imagination.

"You're my friend, Stanley," I reminded him.

"I know, but I'm the only no
rmal one you've got. You oughtta keep me separate from these others."

He braked the car to a stop in the gravel parking lot of the huge, square concrete building that squatted there in a clearing in the woods. The administration was careful not to draw the slightest bit of attention to the place. There was no fence, no guard towers, no signs, nothing to indicate that this was a correctional facility of the most extreme variety imaginable. The actual cells were deep underground, and all the security they needed lay behind those grim, grey walls. If anybody was able to get through that, no goddamn razor wire, chain-link, or machine-gun fire would be enough to slow them down. It was said that there had never been a successful escape in however many years the place had been in existence. Technically, Doctor Almanac had escaped-- or been hijacked-- before he had arrived here.

"Obviously," I said to the crew in the back seat, "Stymie will not be going inside, nor will either of you ladies. I hope I can trust you to sit here and amuse yourselves harmlessly, with a game of charades, perhaps. Try not to kill anybody or anything. And, for the love of God, don't summon any spirits from the great beyond."

Silence for a moment, then Stymie spoke:

"Miss Prudence says that those weren't spirits, and she didn't summon them. She just knew what they were when they appeared."

"Well," I said, "if any more like them show up, please don't encourage them."

"I shall read them the Riot Act," said Anonymoushka, "whatever that may be. I believe, however, that our eccentric creator has gotten the dei ex machinis out of his system for the time being. Anyhow, they weren't relevant to the plot of this particular slice of life. Just a dire warning of ghastly events to come-- more for the benefit of the audience than for you."

My normal friend and I walked around to the side of the building, where I knocked on an unmarked, nondescript door. Nothing happened for almost a minute, but I knew better than to knock again. Finally, a voice came from a small speaker grill set into the wall next to the door.

"Identification made:
Bartowski, Stanley Aloysius; Black Centipede, the. When the door opens, please walk to the end of the corridor. Thank you."

I leaned toward Stanley and whispered, "Aloysius? Really?"

"Screw you," he grumbled.

We heard a click and the door swung inward.

The corridor was absolutely featureless-- no doors on either side, walls painted a dull grey, light provided by three or four bare 40-watt light bulbs hanging from the ceiling at intervals. We did as we had been instructed, traversing the thirty or so feet to the end of the hallway and stopping in front of the metal door we found there. It was the same color as the walls, and had neither doorknob nor visible hinges.

"Gentlemen," came the same voice we had heard before, "please prepare to surrender your weapons for the duration of your visit. Mister Bartowski, you are carrying a .38 revolver. Mister Centipede, you are carrying more ordnance than I have time to enumerate. Please hand everything to the guard. Thank you."

With that, the door slid sideways into the wall. In the opening stood a very large man dressed in jet black army fatigues. We couldn't see his face, because it was covered by a strange black mask, part of a helmet that covered his head completely. He stepped back several paces and gestured for us to enter.

We found ourselves in a small room that was almost as featureless as the hallway. The only furniture was a large metal desk, behind which sat a most curious individual. I recognized him immediately.

"Doctor Duranceville!" I exclaimed. "This is quite a surprise. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but you were executed at Winnemac State Prison last month."

He eyed me coldly. Victor Duranceville was very thin and pale, with sunken, yellowish eyes in a bony, cross-shaped face. He had good reason to eye me coldly, since I was the one who had caught him and handed him over to the authorities after I put an end to his rampage of murder and robbery several months previously. He had, at one time, been warden of a small penitentiary in the Deep South, where he specialized in brutal, inhumane treatment of inmates. Then he had tried his hand at the slightly more honest vocation of armed robbery. That hadn't lasted long before he ran afoul of me.

"Obviously," he said, "I was not. After my sentencing and before my execution date, I was offered employment by the management of this facility. My specialized knowledge, they said, would be most helpful."

"You probably shouldn't have told me that," I said, sounding as bored as I was. "But I understand your compulsion to do so. The last laugh and all that. Okay, I'll admit it. You got me. You escaped justice. My faith in the system-- indeed, in mankind itself-- is shattered forever. Curse you, Duranceville!" I stifled a yawn.


Duranceville glared at me for ten seconds, then looked away.

The masked behemoth collected Stanley's revolver, then proceeded to search me. That took a while, and it took even longer for him to write down an inventory of the items he found. It was rather amusing, especially in light of the fact that I still had four weapons on me that he hadn't found, and wouldn't have discovered in a thousand years.

Duranceville made some notes in a ledger, then nodded to the guard. He didn't look at me or speak to me again. The guard-- who was toting a Thompson submachine gun-- led Stanley and me to a wide double door in the wall opposite the entrance we'd used. He pressed a button and the two halves of the door slid into the wall. We stepped into the elevator.

"Jesus," Stanley said as the cage descended, "I thought that guy was gonna croak us on the spot after you mouthed off to him like that. You gotta work on your conversational skills. How come you've always got to needle people?"

"Stanley," I said, "you remind me of the archetypal nagging wife. 'Oh, Centipede, you should talk nice to the murderous psychopaths! Oh, Centipede, killing criminals in cold blood is murder!' Your pacifistic nit-picking would get on even Mohondas Ghandi's nerves. I knew it was a mistake to let Duranceville live after I caught him-- and that was a direct result of your badgering, if you recall. I hope you're proud of yourself."

The elevator jolted to a stop and the doors slid open. We had descended at least ten stories down into the earth, by my reckoning. We stepped out into a corridor that was more like a tunnel, bored into the subterranean rock. The floor was made of concrete, but everything else was rough striated rock. It was cold down here, and poorly lit. We followed the guard to a massive iron door set into the stone wall at the end of the tunnel. It looked like it belonged on a bank vault.

This was the home of the hapless mad scientist turned experiment gone awry, Doctor Robert Bruce Bodog.

The guard worked a combination dial in the center of the door, which opened a panel about four feet square. Behind this was a barred window, and behind that was the incredible creature we had come to see.

"You can't go in there," the guard said, his voice muffled by his mask, "and he can't come out here."

"Fine by me," said Stanley.

Crusher Cranium, as Bodog was now called, was a mere slip of a lad, no more than nine feet tall and weighing less than three-quarters of a ton. He looked up when the panel swung open. He was completely hairless, with dark blue or light purple skin. He peered at us through the thick lenses of his specially-made tortoiseshell spectacles. If any of the speculation about him was even remotely accurate, he was both the most intelligent and the most physically powerful single organism on the planet. In a truly Darwinian society, he would have been king.

"What is this?" he said irritably. "I have calculated pi to the two-hundred-billionth decimal point today, and I think I have detected a repeating pattern. How am I to get anything done with all this banging around?"

He stood up and moved toward the barred window. I stepped up and gave him a friendly little wave.

"Hello, Crusher," I said jovially. "How's it hanging?"

"Sweet Jesus," he said, "it's the goddamn Black Centipede! You've come to taunt me? I should have pinched your head off when I had the chance."

"Don't flatter yourself," I said. "You never had a chance. Not even close. You may be a couple of geniuses smarter than I am, and you're certainly stronger, but I've got something you don't."

"And what is that?"

"You don't think I'm going to tell you?"

At this point, Stanley made his presence known, edging me out of what was, admittedly, an unproductive line of conversation.

"I'll make it quick, Bodog," he said, shoving me aside and putting his face close to the window. "Somebody has been using your formula. We want to know if you've got any idea who that might be."

"Impossible," scoffed the prisoner. "My formula won't work on anybody but me."

Stanley shook his head. "Sorry, but it will and it did."

"Who?" Crusher demanded.

Stanley couldn't answer that question because I had not told him about Doctor Almanac. He had no choice but to hand the conversational reins back to me.

"Somebody you don't like," I said. "And somebody who obviously thinks he's smarter than you are. And, if he's managed to duplicate your formula, he might be right."

"I don't believe you," said the giant.

"Yes, you do," I said.

He sneered at me. "If you think you're going to gull me into giving you information by playing to my vanity..."

"...then I am absolutely right," I finished for him. "And I'll tell you why. Because you can't be sure, can you? Somewhere along the line, someone may have gained access to your formula. You may not know who that someone is, but I'll bet you could come up with some contenders. I may be spinning you a tale-- for no conceivable reason-- but I'm probably playing straight. Somebody is fiddling around with your work, and they may be doing a better job than you. If I turn and walk out of here right now, how long will it be before it eats its way into your core and you're shouting for an audience with the Black Centipede? Just give me a day and time, and I'll come back."

Crusher Cranium was seething. The look he was giving me would have terrified a lesser man. Possibly even a greater one. Me, I just avoided eye contact.

He bounced it around in that vast cranium of his and made quite a show of weighing the pros and cons, but we both knew the conclusion was already foregone.

"Okay," he finally said. "There is a... possibility. While I was still working on the formula, long before I thought of experimenting with it, I was approached by someone who represented a mysterious criminal cabal. They wanted to buy everything I had done so far and hire me to complete the work for them. They made a very attractive cash offer, and it was with a hint of genuine regret that I told them where they could stick it."

"I can imagine. And what was the name of this organization?"

He eyed me skeptically and said, "I'm wondering if you don't know already. Have you never heard of the Cult of the White Centipede?"

I was about to confess my ignorance when I was interrupted by the harsh blare of a siren.

"Holy shit!" barked the guard. "That's an alpha-level threat alert! This facility is under attack!" He slammed the panel shut, twirled the dial, and told me and Stanley to stay behind him as he crept back toward the elevator, submachine gun at the ready.

We were almost halfway to the double doors when there was a deafening explosion and part of the tunnel caved in.

Which part, you may ask? In front of us? Behind us? Or maybe right on top of us?

Well, there's the rub...


The answer is: All of the above.

And I do mean above...


click here for chapter seventeen

Thursday, October 3, 2013

BEWARE the White Centipede!

This excerpt from a private lecture given by Doctor Unknown Sr. sums up everything that is known so far about the sinister and mysterious White Centipede. This arch-villain was defeated and imprisoned in Blood of the Centipede, and was freed from his bondage in "The Abominable Myra Linsky Rises Again." The White Centipede is currently at large, and our heroes are nervously waiting for him to make his first move...

ORDER Blood of the Centipede HERE: 

... and Pro Se Presents #13 ("Myra Linsky") HERE:


"There is a cult at work," said Unknown the Elder. "I know very little about them, apart from the fact that they were responsible for freeing the White Centipede from his imprisonment, and that they used the unfortunate Myra Linsky to achieve that end. What little I have learned has come to me second and third-hand from acquaintances of mine who are of rather questionable reliability. I must stress that what I am about to relate to you cannot be verified, but it seems to me to be logical in light of the scanty data that can. I have made a few surmises-- educated guesses, really, but extremely well-educated-- and here is what I believe:

"This cult is an offshoot of the Order of the Centipede. Very
 little is known about the original organization. They were notoriously secretive and left nothing in the way of records. What is known-- or assumed-- is that the Order was subverted by Jack the Ripper in the 19th Century, and subsequently split into two different factions. The leader of the original Order was the White Centipede, a title and position that was passed down from one White Centipede to another by some unknown process. The Ripper enslaved the reigning White Centipede, and kept her alive until he could create and groom his own successor, who would be under his complete domination. 

"This White Centipede was a composite being. That is, the Ripper somehow fused two living organisms into one. One of these was the infamous Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the so-called "Mad Monk," who wielded such disastrous influence over Tsar Nicholas II, through the Tsarina Alexandra. Early in 1917, Rasputin-- who was believed to have been assassinated in St. Petersburg in December of 1916-- arrived in the United States. Nothing is known of his activities for the next several years. Certain rumors suggest that he hired himself out as an enforcer and tactician to a number of organized criminal organizations in New York and Zenith. This was part of the training the Ripper required of him.

"But Rasputin comprised only half of this creature that would become the new White Centipede. The other half was... a colossal enigma. Here, rumor veers off into the wildest speculation-- if not outright delirium. This being, so the stories go, arrived on earth in 1897, having traveled here in an extraordinary vehicle-- from another planet. The Ripper had made contact with this being-- whether by scientific or sorcerous means, no one is prepared to say-- and had made what must have been an extraordinarily attractive proposition.

"This creature-- I'll assign it the male pronoun for the sake of convenience, though nothing is known of the creature's gender-- crashed his vehicle into a windmill in a small Texas town, and was presumed dead by the dumbfounded earthlings who found him. In fact, he had only become dormant from the shock of the collision, and the Ripper was on the scene later that day. Posing as a doctor working for the office of the Governor of Texas, the Ripper declared the creature dead and allowed him to be buried in the local cemetery.

"There the comatose being lay until 1903, until he was exhumed by Rasputin. Presumably, whatever abominable process fused the two together took place shortly after that. In appearance, the new organism was indistinguishable from the 'old' Rasputin. When it was stable, it returned to Russia, and Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin strutted and fretted his catastrophic hour upon the stage of world history. By late 1916, the work the Ripper had assigned him was done. His apparent murder and clandestine emigration followed, and Rasputin and 'friend' were free to assume the mantle of the new White Centipede when the time came."

"Why did he stay in Russia so long?" I asked.

"Well, Jack, he had other duties to perform before he could claim his title. For many years, the Ripper had been manipulating highly-placed people and significant events on an international scale. He was, in fact, shaping the destiny of the 20th Century to further his personal agenda. This much is verifiable fact, thanks to the Black Centipede and Amelia Earhart, who discovered the truth and thwarted the Ripper's scheme eighty years ago. Mary Jane Gallows was there, too. 


"At any rate, it appeared that the Ripper had been destroyed. The White Centipede sustained some grievous injuries, and went into a sort of mystical coma. I was present for the aftermath of that strange affair, and helped bind the White Centipede and imprison him in the grave of one of the Ripper's many victims."

"Mary," Vionna said in a near-whisper.

"Yes," said Unknown with a nod. "Miss Mary Kelly. She, too, aided in the Ripper's defeat. I am pleased that things have worked out for her the way they have. She is a very deserving woman."

"Darn right she is!" Vionna said in something considerably louder than a whisper.

"And there the White Centipede lay," Unknown continued, "until Myra Linsky sacrificed herself to free him. It simply is not possible that she did that on her own. The question is, who put her up to it?"

Dana shook her head. "I have no idea," she said, "but you're right, that stunt was way above her pay grade. She made a few cryptic remarks that suggested she had a very powerful backer. Of course, she didn't mention any names."

"It's cause for concern," Doc said, "and maybe even alarm."

"I'm alarmed," Vionna said.

"Me, too," I said, just to get into the conversation... 


*

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Paranormal Paranoia

A DIFFERENT KIND OF PEOPLE
by Chuck Miller


Mary Black mounted the rickety steps and pounded on the front door of the little shack.

"Mister Carl!" she yelled. "You in there?"

John Jones stood at the bottom of the steps, looking around the area in front of the cabin. There was junk everywhere, parts of old washing machines and things.

"Good grief!" came a voice from inside the shack. "You don't hafta tear my door down!"

Mary stepped back. The door swung open and there stood an old man. He could have been sixty or a hundred, John thought.

"Don't you remember me?" Mary said, giving a name John had never heard before. The man chewed on it for a little while, then his eyes lit up.

"I do remember you, sure enough!" he said. "Took me a minute. You and that other little girl used to go fishing down in that old creek."

"That's right."

"I'll be dang! This is sure a surprise. Come on in and sit down."

John and Mary took seats on a couple of packing crates in Old Carl's cramped living room. The old man sat down in a well-worn armchair. They had evidently interrupted his dinner; a plate of half-eaten food sat on top of  another packing crate next to the chair.

"It's nice to see you," said Mary. "But we didn't come just to be sociable, I'm afraid. It so happens that I work for Air Force Intelligence now, and I want to know if you've seen anything up here lately that ought not to be here. For example, have you seen anything weird in the sky at night? Especially on that other hill over yonder, within the last few days."

"Yeah," Carl said, "I seen some funny lights. Red ones-- big and quiet, not like airplanes. Five or six nights ago, I guess. Looked like something big mighta landed, in fact. I couldn't see whatever the lights was attached to, though."

On September 12, 1952-- barely a week ago-- three young boys had seen a "ball of fire" cross the sky and alight somewhere near the top of a hill. The boys rounded up a couple of adults and went to investigate. When they reached their destination, they were confronted with a horror from out of this world-- a hissing green monster that "looked worse than Frankenstein," according to one witness. It was ten feet tall, they said, with an enormous head and burning eyes, and it appeared to be wearing a "pleated skirt." It gave off a horrible stench. The witnesses fled and made a report.


Mary Black, a native Appalachian who had lived in Flatwoods as a child, and had been placed in charge of the investigation. She and Jones did not work for Air Force Intelligence-- this was being looked at by a more shadowy agency. The Cold War was on, and one never knew when a purported flying saucer might actually be something from behind the Iron Curtain. "We're going to a little cabin about halfway up this hill," she had informed John shortly after their arrival. "From there, a person has a fine view of the hill where those people saw their monster. A man known as Old Carl lives in that cabin, and I want to talk to him first. I bet no one else has."

So here they were. And it didn't look as though Mary's brainstorm was going to bear fruit.

"Ever seen a green monster?" John asked.

The old man eyed him curiously and said, "Can't say I have."

"I remember hearing stories about you," Mary said with a smile. "People used to say you were friendly with the skunk apes."

"I'm friendly with everything that lives in the woods," the old man said proudly.

"What's a skunk ape?" John wanted to know.

"It's a thing that supposedly lives out here," Mary explained. "There are different names for it. Some call it a 'skunk ape' because it looks like an ape and it smells terrible."

"Like rotten eggs," Carl added. "And there ain't just one of 'em-- they're a whole race of people."

"People?" John repeated, astonished. "You're saying they're human beings?"

"Naw," Carl replied. "They ain't human, they're a different kind of people. They're smart. They know how to use tools, and they have a language. That's what people say. It's just stories, something for fun. Imaginary. But you ain't here about that. What you're asking about sounds like them flying saucers. I've heard of those. Is that what I seen the other night? What are they?"

"We don't know," Mary said. "Some think they come from outer space."

"Sure enough? Somebody lives out there?"

"Some people think so."

"Huh." Carl sat back and closed his eyes. "I don't know nothing about outer space. Say, if something alive did come from out there, would they be people like us, or just animals?"

"Nobody knows," Mary said. "But if they could build vehicles to come here from there, they would have to be intelligent."

"I reckon so," the old man allowed. The idea seemed to trouble him. He looked tired and seemed like he was all talked out.

"Well," Mary said, rising from her crate, "we'll be on our way so you can finish supper."

The old man seemed startled and aimed a funny look at his plate. He did not speak again as Mary and John took their leave.


*

The next morning, they interviewed the witnesses who had seen the "green monster." They still seemed shell-shocked, and the agents got nothing from them that hadn't already been in the newspapers. They were just played out.

"I'd like to have a look at where it happened before it gets dark," Mary said after the fruitless interview was over. They changed into rough clothing and hiked up to where the monster had appeared. They found nothing of interest, and soon went tromping off in the general direction of Old Carl's hill.

At a point halfway between the two hills, John nearly tripped over an incongruous object in a clearing . It was part of  a wrought iron fence that had collapsed. Crooked stones stood here and there in the immediate vicinity. A few of them bore barely-legible inscriptions.

"This is the old cemetery!" Mary exclaimed. "I forgot all about this! It goes waaaaay back. The last interments here took place before the turn of the century."

"Then what is that?"

John pointed to what appeared to be a fresh, unmarked grave. They walked over and took a close look. The earth appeared to have been turned very recently.

"I'd like to see what's under there," Mary said.

"Why?" John asked. "This can't have anything to do with why we're here."

"Maybe, but it's going to bother me until I make sure. I have intuition, and it's nagging me."

John sighed. "Okay," he said. "What do we do?"

"We come back. Tonight, after dark. We don't want to be seen by... whomever."

*

The walk seemed twice as long as it had during the day. It was dark and it was quiet. John Jones found himself stealing swift, apprehensive glances into the trees. He wasn't nervous, exactly, but he was hyper-aware. The sensation was familiar -- he had experienced it many times when he was in the OSS during the war.

They were still a quarter mile away from the old graveyard when Mary called his attention to something.

"Look there," she said softly, pointing toward the sky. "What's that?"

It was a red light, a pinpoint in the dark sky.

"It's below the clouds, whatever it is," John said. "Wonder what the ceiling is tonight."

As John watched, the red dot swelled. It was large and it was moving. He closed his eyes and listened and heard nothing.

When he opened his eyes again, he almost jumped back, the thing was so much larger-- so much closer. And then, all of a sudden, it was right on top of them. In an instant, it had passed over their heads.

"My God," he said. "It's heading for the cemetery!"

*

"That doesn't look like a green monster," Mary whispered. "It looks like a deer."

"The head does," John said. "But the body is human-like. Two arms, hands with thumbs."

They had thrown down their shovels and raced to the old cemetery to find a remarkable scene. A large, saucer-shaped object stood on three squat landing legs. A hatch in the side stood open, and in front of that...

A large metallic cylinder hovered above the over the spot where the mound of earth had been. It was vertical, perhaps six or seven feet tall, and had several vertical grooves running from top to bottom, giving it an appearance not unlike a "pleated skirt." The upper part was open, and from it protruded what appeared to be the upper body of a most extraordinary creature. The torso and arms were human-shaped, but the head was elongated. It reminded John of  the Egyptian god Anubis. The cylinder-- obviously a vehicle or tool of some kind-- glowed green, and the creature's skin reflected the glow.

This was no Russian.

The grave had been excavated. The creature pointed a device that looked vaguely like a submachine gun down into the rectangular hole. It emitted a soft blue beam, in the glow of which a dark shape rose into the air. This appeared to be another creature of the same kind, but the body was incomplete. Both legs were missing, as was the left arm. The mutilated corpse floated toward the saucer and passed through the open hatch.

Mary and John looked at each other. Before they could think of anything to say, a movement off to the left caught their attention. Something had just emerged from the woods. Looking that way, the agents saw that this night of wonders had yet another surprise.

The figure was bipedal, and something about it suggested a human being-- albeit a large, shaggy, misshapen one. It had a huge head and enormous red eyes. It stood there for a couple of seconds, then set out at a loping run across the clearing, making a beeline for the creature from the saucer. As the newcomer passed in front of them, the agents caught a nauseating odor-- a stench like rotten eggs.

In very short order, the foul-smelling thing grabbed the creature round the neck and yanked it out of the cylinder. The alien-- if that's what it was-- was human-shaped from the waist down, too. The monster twisted the alien's head around until its neck snapped, then  threw it onto the ground. Emitting a shrill noise, it jumped up and down on the body. After half a minute of this, it reached down and lifted the limp corpse by the throat.

Then, incredibly, the skunk ape-- what else could it be?-- clambered up onto the still-hovering cylinder and slid down into the compartment. Holding the alien in one hand, it punched at something inside the cylinder with the other. The machine wobbled, then started to move. The green glow increased and the skunk ape let out a gleeful whoop as he picked up speed and shot toward the tree line.

Yeah, John thought, it does look worse than Frankenstein.

At the same time, the hatch on the saucer snapped shut and the craft began to glow red. Then the red turned to white. John and Mary felt the heat from where they stood. The saucer warped and drooped and bubbled, and the whole structure flowed onto the ground. The agents clapped their hands over their eyes, but the light seeped into their skulls, creating an awful pressure.

Within seconds, they both lost consciousness.


*

When Mary came to, they were no longer in the cemetery. It took her a moment to realize she was on the floor of Old Carl's cabin. John, still unconscious, was stretched out next to her.

"You okay, missy?" said the old man, kneeling beside her.

"I think so," she said as she struggled into a sitting position. "What happened?"

"All manner of things. After you talked to me about them flying saucers, I got a little bit upset. My friend brought me that thing the same night I seen them lights. I didn't put the two together at first."

"What thing?" Mary asked. "What friend?"

Carl ignored her questions.

"I mean, it looked like a deer!" he went on. "That's what I thought it was. I shoulda paid more attention to the body, I guess. But it was dark and I was hungry, so I just... Well, that was before I knew it might be a kind of person, you understand."

"I don't..." Mary began.

"Hush, girl," Carl said, not unkindly. “Just listen. I got to thinking about what you said, and worried that it might have been a person from outer space, not just an animal. I felt bad, so I took what was left down to the old cemetery and give it a proper burial.

"I was hoping that was the end of it, but dang if that durn fool didn't bring me another one last night! And took another joyride in one of them contraptions. He may be smart enough to figger out how to run them things, but he ain't got a lick of common sense.

"Them old stories was right. I been friends with the skunk apes for a lot of years. Since I got too old to hunt and too broke to buy groceries, they been killing game and bringing it to me. Reckon when my friend saw that thing land, he figured it was some strange kinda deer.

"Here's the queer thing: After I ate that outer space person, I started thinking different. Seemed like I knew a lot more things than I used to, and more than I ought to. Seems like it made me smarter, and I feel different, too. Like the space people are in my head now. I know they do come from outer space, and they don't want humans to know they're coming here. I don't know why, but I hafta respect that, so I can't let you two leave here. That's just unavoidable. Maybe if I eat the new one, I'll understand better. No harm done, he's already dead. The good news is, I figgered out a way you can be useful!"

Mary started to speak, but something happened just then that made her mind blank out. The light in the room got dim. Something had come up the steps and now stood in the doorway. Her vision was blurry, but she didn't need to see the thing to know what it was. The smell of rotten eggs told the tale.

"If eating smart people makes you smarter," Carl said, "this idiot here could do with a good meal. I'm right sorry about it, but I reckon it's the thing to do."

END


THE FLATWOODS MONSTER:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The New Adventures of Diamondstone The Magician


There's a Full House...The Lights are Dimmed...The Audience is Seated..and The best seat in the house is saved for You in the Front Row for THE NEW ADVENTURES OF DIAMONDSTONE THE MAGICIAN from Pulp Obscura by Pro Se Productions in conjunction with Altus Press! Created by master Pulp author G. T. Fleming, Diamondstone the Magician was a seasoned sleight of hand artist and stage illusionist who dabbled in the investigation of crime as an amateur detective. Aided by his friend and assistant, Absalom, Diamondstone uses his skills, tricks, and wits to confound, confuse and capture criminals who believe that they can outsmart justice using smoke and mirrors! From out of the past comes New Tales of the Magician Sleuth written by Chuck Miller, Russ Anderson, Jr., Lee Houston, Jr., and Nicholas Ahlhelm! Watch as Diamondstone gives some of his finest performances ever as he steps into the spotlight to solve strange cases and exciting new mysteries in THE NEW ADVENTURES OF DIAMONDSTONE THE MAGICIAN from Pulp Obscura!

ON AMAZON:


Tuesday, September 3, 2013