“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” So said Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, more than a century ago.
Vionna Valis and Mary Jane Kelly are a pair of hard working psychic detectives experiencing a run of bad luck. A new detective agency, the Femmes Fatales, is taking most of their business. Things seem to change for the better in the form of a new client named Scudder Moran, a wealthy young man with a unique problem; He has been targeted by the very, very late Professor James Moriarty—the Napoleon of Crime in another century, now Lord of the Vampires! Unexpected help arrives in the ghostly person of the Great Detective himself, and they set about unraveling a tangled web of lies and secrecy that reaches deep into each of their lives. Can they find the light before Moriarty unleashes his final, most horrific scheme?
"Chuck Miller," says Tommy Hancock, Partner in and Editor-in-Chief of Pro Se Productions, "is by far one of the most unique talents in Genre Fiction today. He takes the staples and standards of several different types of stories and doesn't just mix them together. Somehow he intricately weaves usually disparate parts into the wildest trip on fiction I think any reader has ever taken. The Black Centipede stands out as a vastly distinct character from the rest of his masked cohorts and You'll most definitely discover that Vionna and her cast of cohorts shine in their own deliciously dark way as well."
VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES by Chuck Miller (Creator of The Black Centipede) is the first volume in the “Moriarty, Lord of the Vampires” trilogy. With a demonically evocative cover by Jeff Hayes and format and design by Percival Constantine, this is definitely an opening chapter to a trilogy like no other in New Pulp.
VIONNA AND THE VAMPIRES is available in print and Kindle from Amazon:
SAMPLE CHAPTER from
VIONNA and the VAMPIRES:
THE GHOST AND THE MACHINE
CHAPTER ONE: SHERLOCK HOLMES DISCOURSES
“Vionna,” Mary said gently. “Whatever is the matter?”
I had just stumbled down the stairs, after pulling on some sweatpants and a t-shirt. I was thinking about the very vivid dream I had just had, and it was making me cry. On top of that, my head was pounding. I don't mean I had a bad headache. I wasn't in any pain at all. It just felt like there was some kind of pounding going on in there-- muffled, but strong and steady.
I must have looked kind of crazy, because Mary seemed shocked when she laid eyes on me. As for me, I was so happy to see her alive, I ran and hugged her as hard as I could.
"Vionna!" she said. "What is it?"
"I had a dream," I said. "A very, very, very strange and bad dream."
"What happened in it?"
I shook my head. "I can't say right now." I let go of her and stood back, sniffling loudly.
"Have you had another of those strange lapses? We need to discuss those, Vionna. I think I may know..."
She didn't finish her sentence because poor little Vionna chose that moment to roll her eyes back in her head and fall to the floor. The pounding had become stronger and faster, and now something else was going on, too. It seemed I was hearing voices, more than one of them, coming from down in the bottom part of my mind. They got louder and louder, but I couldn't tell what they were saying.
“Oh gosh,” I said. “Oh, wow. Mary, I see what’s going on. There’s someone ELSE in here now!” I started pounding on my right temple with the heel of my hand.
Mary grabbed me by my wrists to make me stop hitting myself.
“Vionna,” she said, in the kind of voice you use on hysterical children or people who just aren’t right in the head. “Calm down, sweetheart. Everything is okay.”
By this time, I was bawling.
“No it isn’t!” I shook my head rapidly back and forth, flinging tears and snot all over the place, including onto Mary, who either didn’t notice it or decided to pretend it wasn’t happening.
“It isn’t okay,” I wailed. “I can’t have anyone else living in here. Next, it will be a whole family, and their dogs and cats too. I’m not big enough! I’ll collapse, and we’ll all die! I don’t wanna be Ground Zero!”
“Shhhh,” Mary shushed, pulling me by the wrists over to the couch and making me sit down.
“Darling,” she said soothingly, “you must gain control of yourself. Whatever is happening, you can deal with it. I shall help you.”
We went back and forth like this for quite a while. I won’t write all of it down because I’m sure you aren’t interested in four or five solid pages of me wigging out. I’ll just cut to the chase, which consists of me sitting quietly, wiping my face with my shirtsleeve.
“Here,” Mary said, handing me a hanky. “You don’t want that all over your clean shirt.” For a second, she reminded me of my mother, but then I remembered that I don’t remember my mother at all.
“Let me try something,” she said. “As you know, I haven’t been able to sense or communicate with your ‘Roommate.’ But if some new entity is trying to take up residence, I may be able to do something for you. I know where the odd things you've been saying come from. I didn't say anything because I didn't know what to make of it. But something must be done. My psychic powers aren’t all that reliable, but, as they say, it couldn’t hurt.”
Sniffling, I said to her, “You have no way of knowing that, but I don’t care, go ahead. Quickly please.”
Mary got all quiet. A while back, she watched an episode of “Star Trek” where Mister Spock did that Vulcan mind thing with somebody, and it really impressed her. She closed her eyes, twisted her hands into funny shapes, and put the tips of her fingers on my forehead and temples.
I closed my eyes, too.
Mary said, “My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts… Ah, here I am. This is one of those representational telepathic virtual environments I have read about. You’re unconsciously creating it yourself. Goodness, but it’s realistic. Like a big, old castle. You really should consider going into architecture, Vionna."
I couldn't see any of what Mary was seeing. I had my eyes shut tight, in both the actual world and my telepathic virtual environment.
“Ah, there’s the door behind which your ‘Roommate’ lives. My goodness, it’s solid steel. It appears to have no hinges and no handle. Just a tiny opening, like a mail slot. Perhaps your lost memories are in there, too. But that isn’t… Hello, what's this? It looks like a sound stage or a.. a movie lot! Why, it's London, in what appears to be the late Nineteenth Century. What on earth?
"Oh! There IS someone else in here.
“Yes, I can see you there," Mary said, evidently to somebody inside my head; I couldn't hear whoever it was, but apparently Mary could.
"Whatever are you up to? Do you know you are causing this young woman a great deal of agitation? What did you say? You must speak up. Come closer, please, or would you rather I come to you? Very well. Let me just get a look at you, then. Are you… Oh my! Oh my effing God! It’s YOU! This is… I wasn’t effing expecting anything like this! Gee effing dee!
“What’s that? Oh, I know. But this is the twenty-first century. Everyone talks that way now. Even women and children. But never mind. What are you doing here? How did you get here? I see. Yes, I shall help you out of here. It must be frustrating for you. I can lend you sufficient energy for a very clear and stable manifestation. Hold my hand, now. Are you ready? On the count of three, then. One… two…”
THREE! The inside of my head suddenly felt the way it was supposed to. It was a great relief. I opened my eyes, then blinked them several times because they were kind of sore, like they get when you’re really sleepy. When I could see again, I found Mary at my right side.
And on my left was a man I had not expected to see again so soon.
The look he was giving me is what I think they call pensive. He was sort of smiling, but he also looked like he was afraid he was about to get into huge trouble over something.
I turned back and looked at Mary again. I opened my eyes up really wide and raised my eyebrows, which is how you ask “What?” without actually saying it.
“Vionna,” she said. “I’d like you to meet an old friend of mine.” She made her voice sound all formal, in a joking way, if you know what I mean.
“Miss Vionna Valis, may I present Mister Sherlock Holmes.”
“Sherlock Holmes,” I said.
“Yes,” said Mary. "His ghost, at any rate. Mister Holmes, this is my dear friend, Vionna Valis."
“Indeed,” said the ghost, nodding at me." I feel I know you already after what passed between us last night," he told me. If somebody had walked into the room at that moment, and that was all they heard, they might get some funny ideas.
Mary looked surprised. "You two... know one another?"
"Did you put that dream into my head?" I asked, ignoring Mary for the moment.
"I did," said Holmes. "Your mind is a great deal less chaotic when you are asleep. I was able to gather my wits and communicate with you in that fashion. Honestly, Miss, I was afraid I would never be able to get out of your head. You have a power about you... Well, thanks to Miss Kelly, I finally did. What I showed you last night was a series of events from 1888, more or less as they happened. I merely deleted my friend Watson and put you in his place."
"What dream?" Mary asked. "The one you were upset about earlier, Vionna?"
"Uh-huh. But I don't think it was really a dream at all."
"It wasn't," Holmes said. "There really isn't a word for what it was. It is simply something that I found myself able to do. I induced it, but I did not have full control over it. Miss Valis, you seemed to pick up on things of which I was unaware at the time. In some fashion, we may have actually gone back there, to that time and place."
"Yeah," I said. "Or one just like it. When I was there, I didn't know anything about my actual real life here in the present. I met you there, Mary, but I didn't know who you were."
Holmes smiled. "You perceived facts and made deductions that I was unable to, the first time I experienced those events. I believe you may have learned things I still do not know."
Sherlock Holmes turned his attention to Mary. “Miss Kelly,” he said, “I am so terribly sorry I was unable to prevent your murder, or lay my hands upon the fiend that slaughtered you. Of course, I knew you had returned, and I'm pleased to see that things have turned out so nicely for you. It’s good to see you."
“And you, sir,” Mary said. “As for the Ripper, trouble yourself no further. That is long in the past.”
“Indeed,” said the ghost. “But I cannot help feeling responsible for drawing you into my deeply-flawed plan, and for what happened to you as a result.”
“Mister Holmes,” Mary said, “I willingly entered into your plan. But there were factors of which both you and I were unaware. The Ripper was not at all what we thought he was. You could not have known, any more than I could have. We were unlucky, that is all. I would do it again without hesitation.”
The ghost made himself look super-humble and said something about how touched he was by her saying that.
“Mary,” I said into the silence that fell after he was done, “you never told me you knew Sherlock Holmes.”
“You never asked,” Mary replied. “I’ve done a great many things and known a great many people I’ve never had cause to bring up. You never told me you knew him!”
"I didn't until a couple of hours ago."
Mary turned to Holmes and said, "I am eager to hear the story of how you came here, and what your purpose is. I don’t believe you’re the sort to flit back from the afterlife for a lark.”
“No. In death, as in life, I am ruthlessly pragmatic. I think. I find that I can remember almost nothing about the other side right now. Undoubtedly this is a product of my descending from a higher sphere into a lower one.”
“I am familiar with the phenomenon,” said Mary.
”Yes, you would be, of course,” replied the ghost.
He turned to look at me. “Again, Miss Valis, I apologize for insinuating myself into your mind the way I did. It isn’t quite what I had intended.
"I wanted to communicate my information to you without actually coming here myself. That is incredibly tricky, in the absence of a medium. But I applied myself to it, and I found you, Miss Kelly. And when I did, I discovered that your friend, Miss Valis, is a great deal more attuned to the 'wavelength' I was on, so I tried to communicate with her instead When I touched her mind, it drew me like iron filings to a magnet. I was pulled completely from the afterlife into her head! I managed to hang on to most of what I wanted to tell you, but it took a great deal of effort, and it cost me much of my ability to actually communicate the information.
"And now, most of the knowledge I had while I was still on the other side is now unavailable to me. What I know is this: There are vampires at work in this world right now, and their leader is Professor James Moriarty. He is, in fact, the reigning Lord of all vampires. I know that he plans some course of action that will have the direst consequences for mankind if it is successful, and I know that this game is even now afoot.
"How," Mary asked, after a minute or so, "did you know to come to us with this information? It seems you were in Vionna's head before Scudder told us his story."
"That, I fear, is difficult to explain. You lack the necessary frame of reference, as I myself do now that I am fully here. The best I can do is to say that time is not the rigid, linear construct most people believe it to be.
“And now here I am, and now I have told you all that I retain of my earlier knowledge. I’m grateful indeed that I don’t make a habit of crossing over this way. Robbed of one of my greatest assets—memory—I fear that I am worse than useless.”
“Nonsense,” said Mary. “That’s rubbish and you know it. Memory and intellect are not the same thing. As far as I can see, your fine mind—or its ectoplasmic analog—is in perfect working order. And I hope Vionna and I can count on you to employ it to the full on our behalf as we investigate these bizarre events.”
The ghost smiled. “I was rather hoping you’d say that, my dear Miss Kelly. I should like nothing better than to be of assistance to you and the charming Miss Valis. And let us hope that we may, once and for all, put an end to the seemingly endless machinations of Professor James Moriarty.”