- Area 187 News and a Bunch of Other Shit
- Suburban Legend - Fiction
- "Area 187; Almost Hell" Official Release Announcement
- Alley Cat - Fiction
- What is "Area 187"?
- Revolution - Guest Author Fiction
- Area 187; Almost Hell - Audio Prolog
- Avery Nolan-Fiction(Guest Author)
- The Most Magical Place on Earth - Fiction
- Night Lambs - Fiction
Monday, July 21, 2014
Hello all. I know, I know... I've been neglecting you. Unfortunately, the needs of the real world have been taking up most of my life for quite some time now. Bills need paid, things need done, and there just doesn't seem to be enough time, money and energy to get to them all. However, I would like to let all of you know that I just released a new book, titled "The Dead Tell Tales". (Note; blogger is being quite difficult in allowing me to post the cover art by my son, Jordan Rhodes, here. You'll have to click on the link to see it. Apologies.) It's a collection of zombie short stories and novellas from different points in my writing career. For those of you that have read this blog since I started it, you may recognize one or two of the stories. Otherwise, most of the stories have not been published elsewhere. For you "Area 187; Almost Hell" fans, though, pay attention; "The Dead Tell Tales" includes the entire prologue to the forthcoming sequel, "Area 187; Almost Home" (yes, it is a real thing, and yes, I am still writing it) as well as a look back into the Area's past with a story that many people have told me they wanted to see starring everyone's favorite old, grizzled-yet-loveable grave robber, Jasper Connelly. My wife/editor, Anna M. Lowther, even weighs in with a tale of her own in the collection that classes up the pages as well.
No matter how you like your zombies; shambling, running, talking, or even magical, I've got you covered in "The Dead Tell Tales". Want alternate history? Done. Want to hear a zombie pontificate on the human condition? Got it. Want happy endings? Er... okay, maybe, like, one or so depending on your life outlook. But otherwise, you want the dead, I got the dead.
This is the first of, I hope, many new books and novels that will be coming out from Marime Press, a publishing house we have founded with the release of "The Dead Tell Tales". But, for this thing to get off the ground, I need your help. Please, check out "The Dead Tell Tales". And, if you haven't yet, take a look at the reviews for "Area 187; Almost Hell" and act accordingly. As I write this, I have yet to gain a single review for "The Dead Tell Tales", so for those of you that live to be first, here's your chance.
I am still working on "Area 187; Almost Home", and I promise you that it will see release within at least your children's lifetimes. It will likely be another large book, mostly because I don't seem to know when to shut up, and these things take time. So bear with me, and until then take a look at "The Dead Tell Tales". Your support now will allow Marime Press to grow, supporting not only me but eventually other small-press authors. As always, thanks for your readership, your support, and to whoever it is that keeps sending me mackerel, please stop. I have enough.
Just write, damn it
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Welcome back, Constant Reader, and welcome as well to the Casual. Things are starting to move for me on the writing front with the continued great reviews and buzz going for “Area 187; Almost Hell”, and if you haven’t read it yet, well, you really should. I’ve also got more exciting news that is just now breaking about upcoming projects, but you’ll learn all about that on an upcoming post. This time, I’m here to welcome returning guest author Ken Harrelson of Angry Puppy Films. Most of you will remember Ken’s last guest spot, “Clownpocalypse”, right here on my little blog. If you don’t remember it, just click and enjoy. It’s a hoot. This time, Ken stretches his alternate history legs in one of my favorite ways. And, if you’re anything at all like me, not only does your mother weep herself to sleep each night but you’ll also enjoy “The Revolution”.
Note; this work of fiction is provided by and is displayed here with the express consent of the author and is shown here exactly as written by the author. All copyrights and ownership are with the author, Ken Harrelson, following standard copyright laws.
Standing in the arena, the gladiator was almost deafened by the roar of the crowd. Capua was not as large as the Coliseum in Rome, but it dwarfed anything in his home of Thrace far away. Hot and sweaty before the fighting had even started, the man wiped sweat from his forehead with the back of his sword hand.
His opponents stood trembling before him in the sand near a large bloody patch where several others had met their end a short time earlier. Crixus had barely started to breathe hard dispatching that cluster of criminals. Now it was his turn. There were five of them, standing huddled like sheep come to slaughter before a wolf. This gladiator would slay them all. Taking no pleasure in his efforts, he would still give the crowd a show before ending them all.
Afterwards, as the last one fell to the ground with blood spraying from his neck where it barely remained attached to his torso, the gladiator turned his back on the sheep in man’s flesh. He raised his sword and shield triumphantly to the crowd and demanded their adoration. They did not disappoint.
“Spartacus! Spartacus!” they chanted.
Spartacus looked to the place where his master Batiatus sat watching in a comfortable seat, fanned by topless slaves. Spartacus pulled his sword to his chest and then brought it straight out in a salute to Batiatus. Batiatus smiled broadly at the display of fealty from the slave that he had been told could never be broken. Batiatus understood that it was a matter of finding what the man had wanted above all other things and dangling it within reach. Spartacus wanted freedom above all other things, but he also had grown to love the adoration of the people. Batiatus played on these desires, and Spartacus had become his greatest gladiator, rivaling even the fearsome Crixus in his savagery.
Afterwards at the ludus, the men were naked and covered in oil as they wiped away the dirt and stench of the day. The men that had fought would have a night of wine and debauchery to enjoy. Crixus and Spartacus stood near each other and a bit apart from the others. In truth, the others were a little afraid of the pair. None wanted to face either of them in the arena since it would be certain bloody death.
“You fought well today,” Crixus said.
“As did you, brother,” Spartacus replied.
The other men all laughed and slapped each other on the shoulder and back but not the two champions. They were as concise in their speech as they were in the arena. Neither wore the smiles that the others had plastered on their faces.
Crixus finished and walked away, his skin glistening with a thin coat of oil in the torchlight. If Spartacus was a wolf, the Gaul Crixus was a lion. He moved with a powerful grace and confidence, naked through a crowd of men that parted without a word for his passage. All of the men were trained killers. Crixus and Spartacus were natural predators.
As the morning sun began to brighten the sand in the training are of the ludus, Spartacus walked away from the two naked women sleeping in his bed. As champions he and Crixus had the privilege of private bedrooms and their choice of women or men if either had been so inclined. The champion before them had been so inclined and had enjoyed many nights with young men. He had fallen to a pale giant with an axe that seemed unstoppable. The crowd in the arena had roared when the champion had fallen in honorable combat.
The hot sun was blazing down on the sand as the men trained throughout the day, under the watchful eye of their trainer. He was a tall stern man with a whip and harsh demeanor. All feared and respected him. Today he shouted words of encouragement and instruction to the men.
“Harder you bastards!” His whip cracked to punctuate his sentences;
“Do not show any weakness. Weakness is death. Death without fighting is dishonor. You will not dishonor this ludus or the men beside you! You will fight until the blood in your veins boils or you crush your opponents!” The whip sounded like thunder to the men nursing hangovers.
With wooden practice swords Spartacus and Crixus sparred with some of the newer gladiators. Sweat poured from their muscular bodies as they instructed the newcomers and prepared for the next games. Sometimes there would be a glimmer of promise in the new gladiators, and other times the champions would shake their heads and accept the fact that death would come for the new men. Some would try to cover their fear with rage and charge into the champions only to find themselves flat in the sand with a sword point at their throats.
“You must remain in control at all times. Rushing into an opponent only hastens your death,” Crixus told a fellow Gaul in the dirt.
“My name is Altus,” the man said.
“I do not care. If you do not learn better, you will not be here long enough for me to learn your name,” Crixus said as he turned away from the man.
Days passed and the next games approached. Spartacus would face another group of opponents that were said to be impossible to kill. Spartacus didn’t care. If it walked, he could kill it, and he would kill them.
They marched to the arena as usual in a column of twos with Crixus at the front of one line and Spartacus at the front of the other. Batiatus strutted ahead of them in his finest clothes. He loved the attention he received at the front of his gladiators. People lined the streets and cheered their favorites and tried to touch the men they admired. Women flashed their breasts to the men in lewd displays of passion. The gladiators marched a little straighter and appreciated some of the displays.
The fights went as expected. Altus somehow managed to survive his fight and won a lackluster victory over a soft looking man unfortunate enough to be trying to work off his gambling debts by fighting. Crixus fought a visiting gladiator from Pompeii that used the net and trident like they had been born in his hands. Crixus picked up a cut on his ribs and the visitor ended up a head shorter.
Spartacus walked past Crixus into the arena.
“Die well brother,” Crixus said.
“I shall try hard not to,” Spartacus replied.
Standing in the arena Spartacus watched as his opponents were brought into the arena. Silence fell across the crowd. The rumors had been true; each was at the end of a choke pole. Their handlers released them and ran from the arena, closely pursued by the men. Slamming the door behind them trapped the hissing slaves in with Spartacus. Spartacus faced his master and the crowd and saluted.
“We who are about to die, salute you!,” Spartacus said. The crowd exploded into cheers.
His opponents noticed him for the first time. They turned and hissed at Spartacus. Spartacus slapped his shield with his sword and nodded at them. At that instant, Spartacus could no longer hear the crowd. All he could see were the three men coming to try to kill him. The first staggered toward Spartacus and the stench hit before the thing arrived. Spartacus stabbed straight through the stomach as the fool rushed him. Sinking deep into the man’s stomach Spartacus quickly stepped away to allow room for the body to fall. As he did he noticed that his opponent had his sword lashed to his hand.
Next thing he noticed his opponent didn’t fall dying to the sand, even thought his guts began to fall out. That was definitely not normal. Spinning, he swung his sword in a horizontal swipe that removed the man’s head. Unburdened from his head, the body fell to the sand. Somehow, the smell got worse.
The other two slaves ignored their comrade and approached Spartacus apart. Spartacus attacked the one on his left while the one on his right attacked at the same time. Stabbing his target in the throat Spartacus spun to strike his attacker with his shield edge. Spartacus overestimated his foe’s speed and his shield passed in front of him and missed. The man grabbed Spartacus’ arm.
Spartacus tugged his sword free of the one man’s throat and tried to turn and fight the other man. The other man had latched onto Spartacus’ arm with a surprising strength. Again, Spartacus noticed the sword lashed to the man’s hand. It was ignored as the man endeavored to bite Spartacus on the arm. Spartacus stabbed into the man’s neck and wrenching his sword to the side severed the man’s spine. Releasing Spartacus, the man fell to the sand and lay still.
Spartacus lowered his sword and stood panting until he felt teeth sink into his ankle. The second man had survived the stabbing long enough to crawl over and bite Spartacus.
“Bastard!” Spartacus sliced the man’s head off and he finally lay still.
Spartacus stepped away from the bodies and watched them closely for a moment. As if a gate had been opened, Spartacus could hear the crowd screaming his name as one would invoke a god in a fit of religious fervor. He turned and saluted his master and then acknowledged the crowd. The bite on his ankle had stung but had barely broken the skin. Through the gate he could see the owner of the men he had just slain leave smiling.
“Fuck you, Capua,” the man muttered.
That night Spartacus was feeling particularly fit and selected three women to join him. Each was more eager than the other to please the champion, and he was pleased at their enthusiasm. They left the group and retired to his room and the night with a large bottle of wine.
Later, Spartacus was awakened by a burning in his ankle and a pounding in his head. Shaking his head he slid out of bed and looked at his companions. They had all shared repeatedly of themselves this night. Each woman shuddered in their sleep as if a specter caressed them softly. Spartacus left the room and walked naked into the training area.
His head pounding, Spartacus looked at the racks of training weapons and wooden practice posts. Sections of the post had been worn away by millions of blows over the decades. Sand crunched between his toes as he stood thinking. The villa was silent except for someone snoring in the common sleeping area. Spartacus shook his head and thought about the time before he became a slave. It seemed like a dream now of someone else’s life.
The next day everyone trained hard in the sun. Sweat stinking of stale wine, the men forced themselves to strike hard and often. Crixus sparred like a man possessed with one of the new men. Every blow was controlled but powerful. A flurry of strikes left his opponent on his knees as Crixus roared in fury. Crixus raised his sword to deliver a killing stroke when a hand grasped his arm.
“What?!,” Crixus screamed as he whirled to face the fool that interfered and found himself facing Spartacus.
“He is beaten,” Spartacus said.
Crixus yanked his hand away from the other champion and kicked sand at the man on the ground.
“Get out of my sight,” Crixus said.
Wisely the man crawled away. Crixus turned to face Spartacus and saw his friend looking pale and sweaty.
“You look like death has kissed you.”
“I have felt better,” Spartacus said.
Crixus patted his friend on the shoulder and the two went to get a drink of water. Spartacus drank from the ladle and handed it to Crixus. Crixus also drank from the same water before putting the ladle back. This communal ladle would be used by everyone that drank that day.
“Want to spar?” Crixus asked.
Spartacus nodded and the two walked back onto the sand. Soon the pair were hard at it fighting with each other. The other gladiators stopped and turned to watch their two champions displaying their fighting prowess. It was primal and thrilling to see the best fighters of the day cutting loose with each other. One would press only to have the other take it back. Spartacus finally seized advantage of having the sun at his back and began to wear down Crixus until the other man was hard pressed to deflect any of the blows raining on him.
Suddenly the blows stopped. Crixus looked into the sun and found his friend on one knee in the sand, breathing hard and paler than ever. Crixus walked to Spartacus as the man crumpled to the sand. Spartacus faintly heard someone call for the medicus when the roaring in his ears drowned out the world.
The ludus was in turmoil as everyone realized that their champion was out of commission. Batiatus himself came to check on Spartacus. The man lay on the cot and shivered in the heat. Sweat poured from his body and his flesh had taken on a greenish tint. The medicus was less than optimistic about the chances that he would ever arise again.
Crixus lay on his cot and had nightmares. He dreamed of falling in the arena to a group of weaklings unworthy to face him. Then a demon rose from the sand to devour his soul. Crixus awoke with a pounding head and a weakness in his limbs that left him unable to rise. Death had come to the house of Batiatus.
The slaves that had lain with Spartacus had since lain with others, both gladiator and guards. Others that fallen ill as well. Disease spread through the ludus like fire through straw. Soon nearly all of the slaves had fallen ill. Worse news reached Batiatus that both his champions had fallen and would never rise.
“The gods themselves have turned their backs and shit upon me,” Batiatus said.
Batiatus began gathering clothes, jewels, and gold to leave this house of death. His wife was ready to flee with him. They walked to the gate, realizing that when they left there was no one able to close and bar the gate behind them. Neither desired to remain locked inside with the growing number of dying people.
“Perhaps someone poisoned the well,” Lucretia said.
“Perhaps. It is good that we didn’t drink the water then, isn’t it?” Batiatus said.
The pair slipped away into the dark. Silence filled the villa behind them. Capua was asleep as they fled into the hills. Death stalked the streets behind them.
A day later Spartacus sat up on his cot. Hunger wracked his mighty frame. Insatiable, gut wrenching hunger. He sniffed and looked around the room. Bodies lay everywhere he looked. They were not moving so they weren’t food.
Rising to his feet, the mighty champion struggled to walk out of the room. His limbs were stiff and unresponsive, so his stride where once powerful and graceful became a lurching struggle. Outside in the training area of the ludus, he stood swaying in the moonlight. No breath filled his lungs. His great heart beat no more. Hunger filled the remnants of his mind.
Crixus sat up in his bed stiffly. He was starving. Flesh called to him. Rising to his feet he lurched from the room in the same fashion as Spartacus. Joining his friend in the open they stood swaying. Their eyes met and an unspoken message was shared. They must feed.
The other gladiators and household slaves rose to join their champions in death. En masse they shuffled from the villa into the street as the morning sun rose above Capua and the dead walked the Earth.
“Brains,” Spartacus wheezed. Other voices joined him.
The horde shambled through the streets toward the market. An unfortunate man was caught unaware by them and died screaming under the hands and teeth of his hero gladiators. Soon, he would rise and join them.
In Rome, Praetor Gaius Claudius Glaber was told to take his Legion and put down the problems in Capua. Glaber hated Capua but hated slave revolts even more. He and his Legion marched immediately. Glaber didn’t expect this to take any amount of time since gladiators were brutes and slaves. They couldn’t possibly present any difficulty to a force as sophisticated as his legion.
Soon he faced an army unlike any he had ever faced before. Wounds that would slay anyone were ignored as they fell on his men like beasts. Worse, the ones that were bitten would sicken and die, but then would rise and fall upon their fellows like animals. Weeks became months as they fought across the peninsula.
Glaber and his Legion had no choice but the flee in the face of the things in front of them. This rabble that had no fear and seemed only driven to eat the living. The stench from the slaves was enough to make the strongest man vomit. Numbering in the thousands this army was enough that they might even be able to bring mighty Rome itself down.
Rome sent another legion to support Glaber in the battle. In a valley the legions held the high ground while the horde shambled below. Only the moaning of the slaves reached the ears of the Romans. That and the stench.
Glaber had his men gather logs and bind them into a large round bundle. These they coated in oil for use against the undead army of slaves below. Glaber had suffered much at the hands of these slaves, but the most hurtful was the damage to his pride. (It was known throughout the empire that an army of slaves had managed to defeat his legion repeatedly.) Runaway slaves across the land ran to join the rebels in hopes of gaining their freedom. To their surprise they were quickly liberated from their lives. The rebellious slaves shambled in aimless circles and milled about below. After losing sight of the legion they had forgotten what they were chasing.
Now Glaber faced a horde of the undead that outnumbered his Legion two to one. Glaber understood now that these were no ordinary runaway slaves. They were an undead army of monsters that conventional weapons didn’t work against. Trapped on the side of a mountain they faced the choice of fight and win or die and join the undead things below. As silently as possible they built the weapons that they would use against the dead. Crassus was coming with a legion to support but had not arrived yet.
By early afternoon everything was ready. Fires were lit and battle armor tightened. The armor had been changed to cover most of the arms and hands to protect from the teeth below. Archers made ready their arrows. The legions formed their ranks and girded their courage. If they didn’t stop the things below, who could say they would ever be stopped?
On a signal from Glaber, the order was given and each soldier slapped his sword against his shield. The noise echoed through the valley. The archers notched their arrows.
The creature that had once been Spartacus in life was on the other side of the undead things from the army. They had forgotten about the men they were pursuing. Now something in their brains triggered that noise meant food. As one they turned toward the sound.
On the side of the mountain the centurions and legionnaires watched as the things began to shamble toward them. Some of the things had missing parts and most looked rotted. Some were only a few weeks old and looked more intact. Spartacus was trapped behind them and unable to get through as they shambled uphill.
Next to the archers young soldiers touched the arrows with torches and set them on fire. The archers were given the order and they unleashed a cleansing volley of arrows deep into the ranks below. Early on they had discovered that the dead flesh could be stopped in two ways, fire and decapitation. Fire from a distance was safer than close up decapitation.
Onward the horde came towards the waiting ranks of Romans. More arrows flew into the undead. Each struck one of the things and set it alight. It took several long minutes of burning for the things to fall to the ground and move no more.
A trumpet blast gave the order for the ranks to part. On the ground behind them were the logs soaked in oil. A lit torch was stuck into each of the logs handle-first then pushed down the hill towards the undead. In seconds the logs burst into intense flames and struck the front ranks. Decaying bodies all but exploded when the flames hit them. The effect of the fire on the undead was astonishing. Though they were being wiped out, they continued to attack the Romans above.
Some caught fire below the waist and continued onward until their legs were destroyed and then drug themselves by their hands with their lower bodies burning below. Eventually the flames destroyed enough of them that they stopped crawling. The stench of burning flesh was almost overpowering.
“I thought they smelled bad before,” one Centurion muttered.
Massive numbers of the undead perished in the first minutes of the battle. The archers continued to fire volleys of flaming arrows into the horde. Now the numbers were diminished to the point where many arrows fell on empty ground.
A centurion ordered the legion to lock shields and they immediately formed the nearly impenetrable wall of metal and blades that had built the empire and crushed the world beneath Rome’s heel. Soon enough the undead arrived and the most dangerous part of the battle commenced.
Swords struck undead necks and teeth gnashed at living flesh. Fear lent desperate strength to the soldiers and many heads left the undead shoulders. No blood sprayed. If a soldier was bitten his fellow Romans would slice off his head as soon as someone noticed the bite. Fear of becoming one of those things outweighed their sense of camaraderie.
Soon enough the shields separated and the battle became one of desperation. Even though the fire had wiped out massive numbers of the things there was still a lot of them left to fight. The undead only knew there was food ahead. Some of the things had decayed to the point where they no longer had stomachs but they still tried to eat.
When it seemed that even with their cunning weapons and strategy the Romans were about to be devoured, Crassus and his legions arrived behind the undead. They attacked from behind and began hacking their way through the undead slaves. Heads littered the ground like pine cones in winter.
Finally, there were only a hundred or so of the undead left. The Romans were nearly spent from their efforts to wipe these things out. Crassus himself gave the order for choke poles to be used to capture the remaining things. Spartacus found himself captured by the Romans again.
Across from Spartacus, Crixus snapped his teeth at the man he could see but somehow couldn’t reach. Wagons arrived and the things were forced inside giant cages. The choke poles were kept in place and the things were trapped inside. When they ran out of room they simply decapitated the things.
Glaber rode his horse to speak with Crassus.
“These things must be destroyed,” Glaber insisted.
Crassus looked at Glaber as one would look at a child.
“They will be, but this must happen where the people can see what happened to them. This revolt cannot be allowed to continue.”
Glaber looked shocked. Crassus was going to try to use this for political purposes.
“What do you mean to do with them?”
“I am going to nail every damned one of them up between Capua and Rome and let every slave that even thinks about revolting see what happens when they do!”
From the first wagon of things Spartacus managed to remember a word.
“Spartacus,” he wheezed.
Other undead voices joined in saying “Spartacus”.
That was exactly what he did. In most cases he had to have them tied to the crosses because the nails pulled through their rotted flesh. For every four that he had nailed up, one of his men was bit and had to be put down. Glaber spotted Spartacus and was happy to see that he was crucified last. Glaber had food brought out and pitched a tent and stayed until Spartacus was no longer moving and the weight of his body caused the wire holding his head in place to pull through his neck, finally ending the slave revolt. He returned to his home a much more sober and thoughtful man than when he left to squash a bunch of foolish slaves.
The undead things hanging from crosses from Capua to Rome didn’t stop moving for weeks. More chilling was the moaning of “Spartacus” from them until their bodies fell apart. For the rest of his life, Glaber was tormented with the nightmare of one of those things escaping and spreading across the empire.
Thanks for reading and, just write, damn it. - ERL
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Hello again, Constant Reader, and welcome to New Friends. I know I keep promising new, free fiction for you, and I'm sorry I haven't been able to keep everything moving at a better speed. Life has been a bit of a challenge of late, and my novel, "Area 187;Almost Hell" still continues to take up my time but is proving to be quite popular. If you haven't checked it out yet, well, why the hell not? Anyway, I did give you some great offerings from good friends in the form of guest author posts by Ken Harrelson and his "Clownpocalypse" and the first chapter of Mr. Tony Faville's great noire offering, "Avery Nolan; Private Dick of the Dead" so at least I didn't leave you adrift in a sea of mediocrity.
This doesn't mean my sleeves are empty, though, Constant Reader. Two other projects are marching along to completion as we speak, so don't think I've just been sitting on my ass over here. But until those are deemed ready to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world, I'll give you this little tale known as "Suburban Legend". This story was originally published in the anthology "Bump in the Night" by Drollerie Press. Unfortunately, Drollerie was recently forced to close its operations but I believe you can still get a copy of the anthology. It's filled with dozens of stories by names great and small, and I highly recommend you pick up a copy. I hope you enjoy this little collection of words, and I certainly hope you have read or will be reading "Area 187;Almost Hell". It's the right thing to do, and the undead way to do it. - Author
Josh should have been in Columbus by now, trying to finish his presentation. Every mile of the twisting, back-road detours in the pelting rain meant that much less preparation, that much less sleep. Suddenly an odd glimmer of white rushed past. He turned his head, only for an instant but just long enough for a barricade to appear before him. Josh slammed the brakes and tried to compensate. A loud bang shook the car as he fought to keep from spinning out. When the car finally stopped, he was mere feet from the barricade, a crude, hand–lettered sign proclaiming the ROAD was CLOSED.
He opened the glove box, pulled a flashlight and got out. Cold rain soaked him as his light revealed the shredded front tire. He got in, wiped his face and pulled out his cell phone; no signal. So much for fine German engineering and the auto club, he thought. He sighed, popped the trunk release and went back into the rain-soaked night. After a short yet decisive battle, he was finally able to pull the spare from the well. His clothes already a lost cause, he carted the tire and jack around to the front of the car.
Now that he was soaked, the rain was more a hindrance than anything else. Setting the jack, he went to loosen the lugs but found the wheel cover refused to budge. He smiled despite himself and scanned the ground for the special tool to defeat the anti–theft device.
"I think you dropped this…"
He startled and fell against the fender, turning his light in the direction of the voice. A pair of old–fashioned black saddle shoes and bobby socks stared back at him from his ground–level perspective. A white skirt started about mid-calf and was, of all things, an honest–to–God poodle skirt. He let the light trail up to a simple blue blouse covering an ample and, thanks to the rain, well–defined bosom under a too-large letterman's sweater. Her face was young yet devoid of the scars of acne or age and her bright blue eyes glinted in the flashlight's beam. She blinked a few times and held up a hand to ward the light away from her eyes.
"Oh… sorry…" he called out over the rain.
"I didn't mean to scare you."
"Scare? Oh, no… just not expecting is all."
She extended her hand and displayed a small steel tube. "You dropped this back there," she offered. He took it, careful not to touch the girl's hand for fear of frightening her.
"What are you doing out here, anyway? No kind of weather to be out in," he grunted as he put the tire tool to the lugs.
"My date got a little too fresh so I got out. He just stranded me here," she answered. "Here, let me help." She picked up the flashlight and held it steady on the wheel.
"That's too bad," he said as he got the last bolt off and worked the jack. "Do you need a ride back to… well, from wherever we are?"
"That would be great! I thought I'd be stuck out here forever!" She leaned over and braced a hand against his shoulder as she looked inside the fender, her right breast mere inches from his face. He moved away from her gently enough not to throw her off balance and rolled the old tire out of the way.
"What's your name?" he called out as he hefted the spare.
"Sally… Sally Witherow."
"Well, Ms. Witherow, I'm Josh Morgan…" Josh looked behind him and saw she'd already picked up the old tire and had went to the trunk. "Hey! You're going to get dirty."
"More than I already am?" she giggled. He joined her and let the real humor of the night sink in through her infectious laughter. "I think the rain's already seen to that."
"You may be right," he agreed as he closed the trunk. "Hop in," he offered as he went to open the door for her. She joined him just as he started to feel around for his keys. He frowned for a moment then realized how close she had moved beside him. A simple shift in either of them would bring them into direct contact. The idea wasn't repulsive, but the last thing he needed was some under–age sex scandal. "Let me see the light." He shined it into the car and saw his keys dangling from the ignition, taunting him. "Son—of-a…!" He walked around to the driver's door, tried the handle and cursed anew. The rain and wind picked up even more, further adding to their dilemma.
"I'm sorry," he yelled across the roof of the car. "I…" The girl was gone. Suddenly the car door opened against his body. He jumped back several paces as the girl's face appeared awash in the courtesy light.
"Guess my side was unlocked," she said.
"Thank God," Josh mumbled. He started the car then looked at her. She was an incredibly attractive young woman, the kind of beauty time hadn't yet had the chance to work over. Her skin seemed to glow and her eyes were an even brighter blue than he'd thought. He opened his mouth and found he was literally stunned.
"Mr. Morgan? Is something wrong?" she asked.
"Huh? Oh, no, I…" just then, the car's courtesy light died away leaving them alone in the dark. Josh Morgan had been around the world and had seen women in all shapes, sizes and guises. But he'd never been affected by one like this. Seventeen will get you twenty… he kept repeating to himself silently. "And please, call me Josh."
"Sure, Josh. What brings you out this way? This road's been closed for years."
"Lost I guess, detour out on the interstate." Sighing, he checked the gauges and dials on his dashboard to hide his embarrassment. He turned back to her just in time to watch as she peeled off the too–big letterman's sweater. His breath caught in his throat and he swiveled his gaze back to keep from staring. She stretched like a cat and swung her sweater around, leaving it draped over the back of her seat.
"Nice car," she remarked as she ran her hand over the leather-covered gearshift. He caught the motion out of the corner of his eye and swallowed hard. "What do you do?"
"Me? I'm in sales."
"Oooh, sounds exciting."
"It's not, really."
"Oh, I'm sure it is. Nice car and all, you must make a lot of money. I've never seen a car like this."
Josh attributed her rather forward nature to her youth and settled into his seat. "I do all right, I guess. So, where exactly are we, anyway?"
"Just a few miles outside the city."
"Columbus, silly! Boy, you really are lost, aren't you?" She gave him a playful tap on the arm, sending tiny electrical jolts through his skin. He repeated his mantra several times and counted backwards from ten. "Well, I guess it was a good thing for both
of us you stumbled back here. I don't know how I would've ever gotten back."
"I guess you're right there," Josh said.
"Brrr! It's cold in here. Must be the rain," Sally said suddenly then crossed her hands just under her breasts to rub her arms. The motion served to warm more than just her arms as her breasts swayed with the motion. Josh couldn't help but stare before polite gesture crept back in.
"I'm sorry," he said and turned on the heater. "Better?"
"Much…" she purred as she leaned towards the dash, letting the warm air bathe her face. "You wouldn't happen to have a towel, would you?"
"No, sorry. I really should be better prepared, huh?"
"How could you've known you'd break down? But if we're not careful we could catch our death of a cold." Sally shivered in spite of the warm air and rubbed her arms even more vigorously. Then she undid her ponytail and let her long blonde hair spill out over her shoulders to let the warm air dry it. Josh leaned away as if stung as ice-cold drops of water landed on his face. "Oh! I am so sorry!" she gasped, a hand of embarrassment over her mouth. "Let me get that." She wiped softly at his face with the back of her hand. Josh could feel his arousal despite his mantra. He had never felt a touch so soft yet firm enough to make his blood rush to boil. She let her hand linger on his face longer than the errant drops had made necessary before removing it.
"It's okay, really…" Josh managed to say, his voice threatening to crack like a teenager's.
"No, it was very rude of me, and after you've been so nice and all. Nothing like that creepy John."
"Well, I'm sure he's just young and hasn't learned any better."
"I know one thing I've learned though; if you sit around in wet clothes you're bound to catch cold," Sally said. He turned to face her just as she was unbuttoning her blouse. Sally finished the job and leaned forward, struggling out of the wet garment. Things like this only happened to salesmen in Penthouse, not on some lonely Ohio back road. She draped her blouse over her sweater on the seat and started to struggle with her skirt. She stopped at midpoint and looked at him with a giggle.
"Oh! I'm sooo sorry! It's just that I'll never get warm if I stay in these clothes. It doesn't bother you, does it?"
"I… I mean no, I mean, ah… it's…" There was no denying his obvious excitement now. She finished with the skirt and got up on her knees, facing the back so she could spread her skirt out on the rear seat then kicked off her shoes and peeled the socks from her feet.
"Oh, that is so much better. Don't worry, there isn't a house for miles," Sally assured him as she ran her fingers through her damp locks. "You know, you should get out of those clothes, too. Big, important man like you can't risk getting sick now, can you?"
"I… you, no, you see…" This wasn't happening, couldn't be happening. He tried to count to ten, the mantra reduced to a sigh as his mind realized the other side of the biology had wrested control. She leaned across the console and started working at his tie.
"Brrr! You are soaked!" she commented as she finally undid the knot.
"Sally… Ms. Witherow, we really shouldn't be doing this," Josh whispered impotently. She unbuttoned the first few buttons of his shirt and slid her hand onto his bare chest.
"What, we shouldn't be getting warm? You don't want to catch your death, do you?" Sally asked. "I'm sure you have someplace very important to be if you're out this late on a night like this. It just wouldn't do for you to get sick," she purred as she finished with his buttons and slid his wet shirt tail from his trousers. Josh reflexively arched his back to allow the soaked silk to pull free from his belted waist.
"Sally, please… I don't think this is… proper for a young lady…" Josh said. He raised his hands weakly and put them over hers as they continued to trace his chest and abdomen. Sally turned and moved her body over the center console to straddle his legs, the heat from her body radiating like a furnace against his chest.
"Ssshhh," Sally sighed, her lips dipping towards his ear, her teeth making a playful nip against the lobe. "I want to thank you for getting me home tonight, Josh. I'm so very grateful you came along." He arched against her as her teeth played across him.
"Sally, you're just a kid," he protested softly. She may have been young, but the way she ground and moved against him, matching the reflexive bucking of his chest and hips told him she wasn't without experience. "I could get in a lot of trouble."
"Don't be silly," she whispered as she undid his belt. "I turned eighteen last Wednesday." The shreds of his resistance fled him as her lips touched his. There was certainly something to be said for getting lost.
They rode in comfortable silence as she guided them around the suburbs and finally to a large home at the end of a cull de sac. She giggled and thanked him for the ride then gave him directions back to the highway. Josh watched her sway up the sidewalk and waited until she disappeared inside the house before pulling away from the curb.
Josh cruised along the quiet, tree–lined streets, reliving the best bits of the last hour. He was still smiling when he stopped at a light and stretched his arms, the left coming in contact with something wet and cold, the smile leaving his face at the sight of the letterman's sweater still draped over the passenger seat. He thought about just throwing it away or keeping it as a souvenir, but he figured Sally had rented the '50s get–up for the party she never made it to and would need it back. He sighed and hooked a right, threading his way back through the suburbs to the girl's house.
He pulled up to the sidewalk and sat for a moment as he tried to come up with a good story as to why he had Sally's sweater. He finally decided he'd sneak onto the porch and just leave it with hopes her parents would think she'd dropped it on the way in. He gathered up the sweater and got out of the car, careful that the keys were safely in his pocket this time around and made his way up the walk the way Sally had gone just a few minutes before then gingerly tested the steps on the darkened porch to make sure none of them would squeal under his weight. But just as he gained the top, he heard a harsh, low yell from the house. Josh imagined the girl had come in so late after curfew that her father was giving the little vixen a piece of his mind. He couldn't blame the man, though. He'd probably do the same if he had a daughter. Of course, since he was at least partially responsible for her tardiness his best course of action was to leave the sweater and drift off into the night like a playground stalker. He held the sweater over a chair and made to drop it just as the front door swung open.
A man stood silhouetted in the doorway, not as tall as Josh and with a few pounds and years on him. The man reached to his side and flicked on the porch lights. In the balanced light Josh could see he was in his late forties or early fifties, the type of man that had a five o'clock shadow before lunch and more hair in his ears than on his head. He wore a slack, dun-colored necktie and had his shirtsleeves rolled up at the cuffs; the typical middle manager after a long day at the office. Josh froze and tried to come up with a good story as to why he was on the man's porch with an article of his daughter's clothing, fighting the creeping guilt as he faced her father with the evidence of their dalliance dangling from his hand.
"Let me guess; you brought her home?" the man asked.
"I… yes, I mean, no… I found this sweater and I…"
"Oh, knock that shit off! Do you think you're the first to bring her back here like this? If she did whatever she did with you, don't you think she'd do it with just about anybody?"
"Sir, it wasn't like that! It was raining and…"
"Oh! Of course it was raining!" The man stomped across the porch and let the screen door slam behind him. A woman's voice drifted out and he turned his head back. "In a minute, Margaret!" He walked near the steps and dug a battered pack of Camels out of his shirt pocket. He lit one and pushed the smoke out in a long hiss. "Let me guess; she was so wet and so cold she just had to get the wet clothes off. That how it went?"
"I, really don't think…" Josh stammered.
"I can't believe how gullible we are, men I mean. Just take up with any slut that drops in our laps, huh?"
"Now hold on a minute…" Josh started.
"Save it!" he barked and took several drags from his cigarette. "That little slut… been awhile since she's been back, should've known it wouldn't last forever. If guys like you could just keep your pants on."
"Mr. Witherow! With all due respect, this is
your daughter we're talking about!" Josh said.
"First, she's a little slut, a whore, a professional whore. That's all she ever was, and that's all she is now! Second, she's no daughter of mine. And the name's Jensen. Bill Jensen."
Josh stood mute. Perhaps the man was Sally's uncle, maybe a foster father. He tried to gauge the man to see if he'd turn violent. Jensen's forehead was flushed with color as his blood pressure trip-hammered in his chest. "Mr. Jensen, may I ask…" Josh paused and looked down at the still-damp sweater then willed his fingers to unclench.
"That damn sweater," Jensen growled, his eyes narrowing to it. "Throw it away, burn it, ship it halfway across the world… damn thing comes back." The porch light suddenly flashed as brightly as it could without the bulb bursting. "Great! Just great! Thanks, mister."
"Just what the hell is going on here?" Josh asked. There was something here, something that went far beyond a tryst with a questionably–legal girl.
Jensen sighed, turned his back to Josh then sat down on the top step and lit another cigarette off the dying stub stuck between his fingers. "We stumbled onto this place 'bout ten years ago; dirt cheap, too. The realtor said the place was owned by an old lady that'd died the year before. Of course, the old bat's children didn't want anything to do with it, wanted to move it quick for pennies on the dollar. It was our dream place, didn't even need much work. So we sunk our life savings into it and moved in." They were silent for almost a minute while Jensen smoked and thought. "The first year or so was great. My job was going well and Maggie and I started planning a family. What's the sense in having a big house if you weren't going to fill it, right? Well, Maggie got pregnant, and we thought we had it all. About three months in though, things started happening."
"Things? What do you mean?" Josh asked.
"We were sitting here on the porch. This guy comes up from the Dispatch, says he's doing a piece on the haunted houses of Columbus. Now, we'd seen a few things around the house. You know, stuff misplaced, doors that were shut would open… nothing serious. We attributed it to being an old house, or we'd joke we had a ghost in the place. We told him he must have the wrong address and that we'd never heard anything about the place being haunted, not even as color commentary from the realtor. That's when he pulled out a binder with all kinds of news clippings. It seems that the place was owned by a sweet little old lady, ran a halfway house for "wayward girls" back in the seventies and early eighties. But what she really ran here was a whorehouse. From what the papers said, they had a big black Buick they used to pick up the johns' so there wouldn't be a bunch of cars sitting around. Since she wasn't a real halfway house, nobody bothered to check her out."
"I find that hard to believe," Josh interrupted.
"Believe it, mister. He had it right there in black and white," Jensen shot back angrily over his shoulder. "You want to hear the rest or not?"
"Go on," Josh said warily.
"About five years before we bought the house, one of her customers went nuts and shot up the place, killed a bunch of the whores. He might have been able to escape if it hadn't been for dear, sweet Sally Witherow. The house had been sound–proofed for obvious reasons and there was enough distance between here and the next house that nobody outside knew the shooting was going on. But Sally had been to a costume party and was late to meet one of her customers, according to local legend, anyway. The guy was coming out, blasted her right here on the porch. The neighbors heard that one and called the cops. As it turns out the guy killed half a dozen hookers all through the house. We were stunned. No wonder the place came off so cheap. A little plaster, a little paint and voilá! Like it never happened. We moved here from Parma, never heard about the 'Whorehouse Slaughter' as they called it around here. The neighbors never brought it up with us. Probably in everybody's best interests at the time to just brush the whole thing under the rug and let it be. The least they could've done was told us about lights coming off and on in the windows, even when the power was out, or even that a lot of them had seen dear, sweet Sally walking around the neighborhood from time to time in that damn fifties get-up."
"So what did you do then?" Josh asked.
"What'd we do? Just went on with our lives," Jensen said. "Maggie or I'd never been what you'd call superstitious. We just chalked it up to our luck for buying a death house. I mean, what the hell else could we do? We exhausted our savings just buying the place. We didn't have anywhere else to go and since we knew about the house and with the new article coming out we'd have to give full disclosure. We'd have been lucky to get out of it what we put into it. The reporter's visit was enough to throw the place into high gear, though."
Jensen stood up and placed his hands at the small of his back as he stretched then turned and came back towards the door. He chuckled and shook his head, a man defeated. "See? She's at it already." He pointed to the porch light. Josh turned and found thin streams of what could only be blood running down from the bulb and over the fixture. Josh took a step back and stared at the congealing mass as it dripped to the porch.
"What the hell?" Josh whispered.
"The old bleeding wall trick? That's kid stuff, seen her pull that a thousand times. Must be for your benefit," he said. "That night, after the reporter left, we went to bed. I was sound asleep. Maggie told me later she'd heard a sound downstairs, thought maybe she'd forgot to bring the cat in. When she started down the stairs, something tripped her. She fell hard and didn't stop until she hit a small table we kept at the bottom. By the time I heard her screaming she'd already started bleeding… you know, from the baby and all." His voice hitched in his throat and he lit another cigarette to try and cover it. "I tried to take her to the hospital but the front door wouldn't open, like it was stuck or something. I tried every door in the house but none of them would open. By the time I broke out a window she'd passed out from the blood loss. We lost the baby, almost lost her, too."
"Isn't it possible she just tripped? I mean…" Josh started.
"What's your name?" Jensen asked suddenly.
"Josh, Josh Morgan."
"Okay then, Josh, does that look like fucking Kool–Aid to you?" Jensen asked, pointing the glowing end of his cigarette at the pooling blood on the floor. "The bitch killed our baby and almost killed my wife. Oh, at first we wrote it off as an accident, pretty much the same way you just did." He walked over to Josh and stood beside him, staring at the blood as if he were a farmer looking over his field. "We tried that for about two years but we never did try for another baby. I think, deep down, we both knew what was going on. But neither one of us wanted to admit it. About three years ago though, the little whore really started showing her teeth. Knives flying all over the place, shit breaking, electricity shorting out, even a few small fires."
"So why didn't you get out then?"
"Couldn't. I'd had a few setbacks at work, ended up we had to refinance the place. We couldn't get out from under it if we'd tried." The chair beside them suddenly burst into flames. Josh cried out and fell back against the porch rail while Jensen shook his head. "She'll quit in a minute." He turned his back to the fire and joined Josh at the railing.
"Uh… then what?" Josh asked quietly as the flames died, leaving the chair without a mark.
"We tried a few things. We tried ignoring it. 'Course, that didn't work. Little Sally just wanted to make us go nuts. We never got any of that Poltergeist type crap out of her, no leave now spelled out in blood on the walls or anything. She just likes to torment us, like we're her entertainment or something. We finally found something that we thought would work, though. We got a priest in to bless the place."
"And that worked?" Josh asked as black puss started to ooze down the pillars and across the railing. He jerked his hand away just as the stuff moved close to him. Jensen moved away nonchalantly and threw his cigarette into the pool of blood on the floor. It sizzled for a moment then died away.
"The blessing? Hell no. Get this; she raped the poor bastard," Jensen said, a dry chuckle in his throat. "We were just going through the house as he blessed each room. We came out of the guest bedroom ahead of him and the door slammed shut before he could get out. It took 45 minutes and three cops before we could break down the door. He was strapped to the bedposts by his vestments, naked and babbling and completely alone in the room. Last I heard, he was still at one of the special hospitals those nuns run. Hell of a thing, to keep a vow of chastity through sheer will just to have it ripped from you by a little slut like that."
"You can't be serious," Josh said.
"No? Check out the story sometime. Priest's name is Bates. Heard somebody was going to make a movie about it. Not in a way that I'd get anything out of it, of course, but all the same," Jensen said roughly. "The bright side was that Bates's deflowering got the diocese's attention and they sent Father Roberts. This guy was their heavy hitter; a real, honest-to-God, fire-breathing exorcist like you see in the movies. The guy came in here and made us leave for three days. We got a call at the motel on the fourth day and came back. Roberts looked like he'd went ten rounds with Tyson, but he told us she was gone."
"So then what happened?" Josh asked.
"About six months later, a young guy came to the house. Had that same sweater," he motioned to Josh's hand. "Said he'd dropped Sally off earlier when he'd picked her up hitchhiking and that she'd left it in the car. We put up with it for another month or two then had to call the priest back in. He got rid of her again for about a year. That's when I found the damn sweater out here on the porch. Never did know how it got back here that time, but I bet it was a guy a lot like you."
"I don't understand…"
"Don't you get it? Christ! You guys keep bringing her back here!" Jensen screamed, his face red and blotchy. "Every time we get rid of the little whore, she keeps hitching a ride back!" Jensen spit out a mouthful of smoke, seemingly more disgusted with than afraid of the spectral prostitute. "Well?" he said after several tense moments.
"I'm sorry, what…?"Josh stammered.
"Are you gonna' give me the damn thing or not?" Jensen asked.
Josh looked down at the sweater clutched in his grip. Suddenly, his mind was awash with the intense memories of less than two hours before. He stumbled against the railing and closed his eyes as a wave of heat and lust rolled through him. He could feel her hands on him, caressing him, pulling at his belt. He opened his eyes, expecting to see the girl groping him, tearing at his clothes, bringing her heat against him. Instead he found himself at the top of the porch steps, his heels hanging precariously off the edge. A shiver ran down his spine as he lurched forward, his brush with falling from the high porch to the concrete slab below enough to break her hold on him. He grabbed the sweater in both hands and threw it violently to the floor. "It's all yours." he said, teeth bared against the invisible woman. Josh stumbled away and down the steps. Jensen watched him stagger across the yard, get in his car and rocket off down the soaked, silent street. He plucked the sweater from the floor and threw it over his shoulder, just another burden to bear.
"Bill?" a voice called out. A moment later a middle–aged woman appeared and opened the screen door. She glanced down at the pool of blood and the black ichor that still seeped down the columns and sighed. "Everything all right, honey?"
"Same as it ever was!" he growled at her.
"Should I call Father Roberts?" she asked, her voice light and only slightly tinged with concern. Even the stress of their ghostly harlot couldn't diminish her graciousness.
"Yeah, call him. Tell him Sally's found her way home again."
So until next time, just write, damn it. - Author
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Hello again, Constant Reader, and a fresh hello to new friends. Things are still going well with my novel, "Area 187; Almost Hell", and the promotion and continuing projects have just been kicking the ass of your favorite biguglyhairyscary. But, that's no excuse for neglecting all of you out there by slacking on giving you something to read here in my little corner of the web. I was talking to another author, Tony Faville, and he's been kind enough to fill in for my blogging shortcomings by giving all of you Chapter 1 of his new novella, "Avery Nolan; Private Dick of the Dead" free of charge and right here on my little ole blog. The good news is, if you like it you can get an electronic or paper copy (after you pick up "Area 187; Almost Hell", of course…) of your very own for a steal over at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. I've read this one, folks, and it carries my personal seal of approval. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a little taste of old-fashioned noire with a twist from Tony Faville.
Note; this excerpt provided by and is displayed here with the express consent of the author and is shown here exactly as written by the author. All copyrights and ownership are with the author, Tony Faville, following standard copyright laws.
September 22, 1959
New York, New York
It was a quarter to six on a Tuesday afternoon as I walked out of the
42nd Street movie house. I had just finished watching the latest singing
cowboy movie to come out of Hollywood and I had hoped the last hour and
a half would help to ease half a lifetime of pain and suffering.
I should have known better than to expect a miracle.
It was late September, and the skies were dark with a storm front
blowing in from the northwest. I pulled my fedora down low over my head
and popped the collar of my overcoat up to shield my neck from the now
blowing winds and cutting rain. Stepping around the corner and into the
partial shelter the alleyway provided, I pulled a half empty pack of
Lucky Strikes from my pocket, shook out a smoke, and tapped it against
the side of my zippo.
Rolling the dented and scratched hunk of brass around in my hand, I
watched it as it moved in the quickly fading daylight. I couldn't help
but remember it's former owner, a Navy Corpsman that lit my smoke for me
as I lay there bleeding into the black sands of Iwo Jima. Of course I
could never forget, just as he flipped it shut he took a Jap round in
the neck. When he fell over dead across my body, the lighter the must
have fallen into my gear because it was with me when I finally got home.
I have carried it with me every day since.
I flicked it open and rolled the wheel, bringing the yellowish flame to
life with a small spray of sparks. Lighting the small filterless
cigarette, I heard a noise down the darkened alleyway behind me.
Turning, I squinted through the wind and rain and saw a lone bum on his
hands and knees, looking for all the world like he was throwing up the
remnants of last nights nickel hooch and canned baked beans.
This is New York City and the sight of a bum in an alleyway is nothing
new or earthshaking, so I make my way down the street towards my office.
If recent business had been better I might have caught a taxi to take me
the few blocks, but times are tough, even more so for a twenty dollar a
day, private dick such as myself.
Because of the rain, I covered the distance in under fifteen minutes, a
little double time jog harkening back to my days in the Marines. Running
full bore through the jungles of Guadalcanal with forty pounds of gear
and a Garand rifle in my hands was a lot different than sprinting
through the city streets of the concrete jungle. Rotating through the
door of my building, I stepped into the foyer and shook my whole body as
if I were a cocker spaniel who just came in from taking a crap in the
Joe, the old coot of a doorman, sat in his chair and failed to even look
up at me as he sat there snoring his way through his golden years. I
stepped past him and the broken elevator, and headed up the three
flights of stairs to reach the landing that held my ramshackle office.
Pausing momentarily to look at my name painted in gold on the frosted
glass of the door, I made a mental note to remind myself to ask the
building super to freshen up the paint when he had a chance.
Reaching out, I took the doorknob in my hand, and stepped back a step as
the door slowly opened inwards under my touch. Instinctively, my right
hand shot into the gap of my open overcoat and whipped out my pistol,
bringing it out to bear on the darkened office before me. Stepping in to
the room slowly, I attempted to let my eyes adjust to the darkness.
Cursing my inability to afford an office with an exterior window, I
reached behind my back with my left hand, feeling for the lightswitch.
Suddenly, a lighter flicked to life in the dark shadows of my office.
Even in the darkness, I could see the dame that was sitting in the chair
at the side of my office with a cigarette dangling between her ruby red
lips. In the brief moment her face was illuminated by the flickering
yellow glow of her lighter, I could see she was something special.
It was either that, or she just has a habit of thinking she is special.
Flipping on the overhead light with my left hand, I continued to hold my
pistol in her general direction.
With a smokey voice that was gently touched by expensive scotch, she
said, "Unless you tend to hold all of your clients at gunpoint Mister
Nolan, I would kindly request that you put your pistol away. You men and
your guns, I believe Doctor Freud was right, that is an awful big gun."
Walking across the office to behind my desk, I placed my pistol on the
corner, and took off my coat. Shaking the wet topcoat, I hung it to dry
on the wooden rack in the corner, then took a seat in my squeaky wooden
and leather chair. "It's not the size of the gun lady.."
She interrupted me before I could finish, "Yes Detective, it's knowing
how to use it, correct?"
I could see that from her ten dollar shoes to her forty dollar dress and
all the Chanel no. 5 all between, she was a dame that was truly used to
money. Old money was my guess, and from the looks of things, a lot of
My only question was, what was a dame with money doing in the office of
a guy like me. Sure, I was no slouch as a private investigator, but I
was the guy that lonely housewives paid to take pictures of their
husband in a cheap motel in flagrante delicto with the latest bimbo du
"Since you have me at a distinct disadvantage Miss, could I at least
have your name?"
"Of course Mister Nolan, my name is Anna Winters." She stood from her
chair and slinked across the room like a jungle cat to take a seat in
the chair in front of me. If this were all an act, she was laying it on
awfully thick. Problem was, it was working. Flicking her ashes into the
ashtray on my desk, she continued, "My father is Doctor James Winters, a
geneticist that does his research at New York University."
She could have said her father was a platypus and I would not have cared
any more at this moment in time. As I said, she was a world class dame,
with a set of pins that led all the way up to there, and with more
curves than the Pacific Coast Highway. Sure, there were plenty of
lookers in New York City, but a lady of this caliber only comes along
once in a blue moon.
Pulling a photo from the manila envelope she had in her hands, she slid
it across my desk, then she settled back and took a long drag from her
cigarette before gently exhaling a stream of smoke into the air.
The man in the photo before me looked like a professor, a true to life
egghead. From his white lab coat, to the bow tie and eye glasses perched
awkwardly on his narrow face. Yeah, I would say he appeared to be the
epitome of a professor.
"My father is missing Mister Nolan, and I would like you to help me find
"Please call me Avery, my father was Mister Nolan. At least that is what
my mother told me. So, you say he is missing?"
"That is correct Mister...Sorry, Avery. Nobody has heard from him for
the last two days, not my mother, nor any of his colleagues from the
Looking back at the picture, I was able to rule out that he was lost on
a bender in some alleyway, as he did not seem to be the type to wile
away his time with booze and loose women. "Have you filed a police
report? Missing persons is more up their alley, not mine."
"My fathers situation is a little more, shall we say, sensitive than the
New York Police Department is capable of handling. I need someone with
more of your skill set."
"Look, Anna, I get a pair of sawbucks a day to take pictures of guys
cheating on their wives. Now, if you simply want me to find your father
and take pictures of him, then maybe I do in fact have the skill set you
are looking for, if not, then maybe I am not your guy."
"Sergeant Avery Nolan, United States Marine Corps. Enlisted on December
eighth, nineteen-forty-one. You were made a squad leader after
Guadalcanal and were decorated for bravery on several occasions, a Navy
Cross, two Bronze Stars and four Purple Hearts, the last of which was
received on Iwo Jima. No Avery, I believe you have exactly the skill
sets I am looking for."
She impressed me as she had obviously done her homework, so I said so.
"Okay, so you have read my file, that still doesn't make me your guy."
"No Avery, I paid a man a sawbuck a day, as you put it, to find me the
right man. As the children in the school yards are fond of saying: Tag,
you're it Mister Nolan."
In the distance I could hear a police siren screaming through the city,
the typical sounds of the city that never sleeps. "Okay, so you need
someone that can handle themselves, that tells me there is more to the
story than just a missing professor. And since you have not been very
forthcoming with additional information as of yet, I am inclined to tell
you that my fee is thirty dollars a day, plus expenses, with one week
paid in advance."
She stamped out the remnants of her cigarette in the ashtray and
promptly lit another. Reaching into her handbag, she pulled out an
envelope and tossed it across the desk. It landed with a weighty plop
and then slid off the desktop and into my lap.
Picking up the envelope, I opened it and found a cool grand in twenty
dollar bills. She slid the original manila envelope across my desk and I
looked inside, finding additional photos and notes with names, addresses
and phone numbers.
Expertly blowing another cone of smoke in my direction she said, "A
thousand a week and all expenses paid Mister Nolan. Not only is my
father missing, but so is much of his research. Most importantly, his
specimen is missing from the lab."
"Specimen? What kind of specimen are we talking about, rat? Monkey?"
"I feel it would be best if you found the answer you seek at my fathers
lab. I have already contacted the school and you will be granted full
access to his lab, and cooperation from his research assistant, Tommy."
Opening the bottom drawer of my desk, I retrieved a bottle of cheap
scotch and two dirty glasses. Pouring a glass, I offered it to her, but
she politely declined. Sliding the bottle and spare glass to the side, I
raised the glass to my nose and took a whiff of the mossy spirit before
savoring a small sip.
"Okay Miss Winters, consider me your man. Since I prefer to give my
client daily reports of my findings, how do I get in touch with you?"
Standing up, she placed her lipstick stained cigarette in the ashtray
and pulled her royal blue overcoat on and cinched the belt tight around
her narrow waist. On any given day, with her red hair and subtly
freckled skin in that shade of blue she could have passed for a movie
"My number is in the envelope, you can feel free to call me at any time,
day or night."
"One more question before you go Anna, what exactly was your father
"He was working on a project for the Department of Defense. He said it
had something to do with battlefield first aid capabilities for
soldiers. Avery, truthfully, I really don't know anything more than
"First aid is not exactly something people tend to disappear over. Are
you sure his disappearance is related to his work."
"It is only my assumption. My last phone call with my father was three
days ago, he said something about going to Mischka's. I thought nothing
of it, assuming he meant a colleague, but none of them claim to have
knowledge of a Mischka."
Rising from my chair, I extended my hand to her and shook her hand. A
gesture she readily returned with a strong grip, stronger than most
women of her stature. "Don't you worry Miss Winters, I will find your
father for you, you have my word on that."
I walked her to the door as she thanked me for taking the case, then
stepped her through the open door. I watched with a certain pleasure as
she walked down the long hallway to the stairs.
Walking back to my desk, I poured myself another drink and looked at the
stack of money peeking out from the open envelope on the desktop. A cool
grand a week to find a stodgy old professor that is likely lost in some
dark and dank archive hall? Yeah, I guess a Private Dick with a skill
set like mine could get used to those kinds of numbers.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Hello again, Constant Reader. I know, I know… I've been neglecting you and for that you have a thousand apologies. Things have been a bit busy for the old biguglyhairyscary and I promise there's more good stuff to come. The biggest news, and the biggest drain on my time, is that my novel, "Area 187; Almost Hell" is doing very well over at that Amazon thing. Just about 1000 copies have already shambled their way onto Kindles and into mailboxes around the world, and as I write this the book has stayed on the top 100 paid Kindle Horror genre (print and electronic) lists for the 4th straight week without falling off. I know this may not seem like much to some, but it certainly makes me feel pretty damn good to have a book so large (600+ pages print, 230,000+ words) and from a "1st time" novelist reach this level with virtually no real (read "paid") promotion and carrying a Kindle price of $4.99 and paperback $18.00. Even though there are many, many, many much cheaper and smaller works in the horror genre (remember, I'm up against literally thousands of $0.99 books, here) not to mention in any genre, sales have been steadily climbing since its release in June and it's been getting great reviews on Amazon as well as from other genre reviewers. If you haven't checked it out yet, maybe it's time you did. Here are some links to check out a free preview, read the reviews and buy the book. It's primarily available through Amazon, and I haven't forgotten my more worldly friends. Canada, Germany, Japan, the UK and probably a few other Amazon markets and 3rd party book clubs I haven't stumbled upon yet carry it, too.
There are 12 total reviews on Amazon for the book; 10 5-star, 1 4-star and 1 2-star (and that one was from a reader that admits he only read the prolog). Check them out here.
You can also get the limey (1 5-star and 1 4-star) reviews at Amazon UK.
Living Dead Media also has a review up for the book.
While not a review (though he does give his $0.02 in an Amazon review), you can find an interview with me conducted by Author / Blogger / Podcaster Keith Latch over at his site. The good folks over at Wicked Channel, a Fearshop.com site, also did an interview with me some time ago. You can check that one out here as well.
I've set up a youtube channel where you can hear a full-production audio drama of the entire prolog. A free preview and you don't even have to turn a page or read or nuthin. Check it out. You can also read a synopsis at Amazon, where you can also use the "Look Inside" feature for a random selection.
The book is listed on BookDaily.com where you can also read a long sample and try before you buy.
Where to get it;
Amazon, of course (UK too). As I said, it's also listed on BookDaily as well as Goodreads, Twisted Press (publisher's website, aka "The Library of the Living Dead"), GetGlue, Zombiefun and many other places. It's a really real book with pages and a cover and its own ISBN number and everything, so you can also get it through the Ingram catalog from most brick-and-mortar stores as well. Hurry before they all shut down. My publisher, Twisted Press, is also developing a version for Smashwords that will support e-reader and Nook. I will announce availability as soon as I get confirmation.
Swag and other stuff;
I've opened a storefront on Café Press where you can get t-shirts, mugs, shot glasses, totes, bags and a bunch of other "Area 187" stuff. If you liked the book, show the world. It'll be like having coffee with me every morning and a tankard of your favorite beverage with me every night…
If you have read the book, you have my thanks and I hope it was everything you wanted in a zombie survival novel. If you haven't read the book and you like what you see on my blog, you really should check it out. I firmly believe it's my best work to date and there are more than a few others who agree. Also, if you've read the book in either Kindle or paper and would like it signed but don't think you'll get the chance (or don't want me writing all over your Kindle), I have special postcards suitable for display that I will gladly sign and mail to you if you like. Drop me a line at ericrlowther (at) yahoo, and don't worry, I'll delete the address as soon as I mail it unless I find you really stalkable.
Even I get tired of pimping "Area 187; Almost Hell" (available in paper and Kindle at Amazon), so let's talk about some other stuff.
I'm in the final stages of getting the cover together for my first foray into self-publishing with my forthcoming 1-author anthology "The Dead Tell Tales". This will contain eight zombie short stories (with one possibly hitting novella length) and will be available on Smashwords. I hope to have this one out in time for Halloween buying, and while it won't be free it'll still be a steal.
I am still working on a free audio anthology of 7-8 short stories of the not-zombie variety that will help launch my new website (yes, I'm finally doing something with the damn domain name I bought years ago). I hope to have the fully-produced audio dramas available by Halloween as well. Did I mention they'll be completely free? It will also be a bit of a concept piece in that I'm recruiting podcasters/authors to record various characters. I already have a few confirmed but if you're a podcaster or a podcaster/author and want to get in on this project drop me a line at the e-mail address above. I will be attaching promos for the shows to all who participate, so you get in on a fun project that will surely attract podcast listeners to hear their favorites play character roles and introduce listeners to different podcasts and hosts.
Of course, you can still read and hear my genre movie reviews over at The Witch's Hat blog and blogcasts operated by the venerable pod-father, Root Rot. I'm also producing stand-alone segments on an infrequent basis for Joanie Loves The Witch's Hat where I conduct audio interviews with directors, authors and other artists from the various horror-related genres. It's a great blog and a fun set of shows, so I hope you check them out.
I'll be producing more short fiction free for the reading here on the blog in the coming months, as well as starting another book from the world of Area 187, so make sure you stay tuned for more. I'm also looking for other un-published or under-published authors to sit in right here on my blog with some free short fiction. If you're so inclined, drop me a line and show me what you've got. I should also tell you to check out the great line of books from my publisher, Twisted Library Press, with separate imprints for all your horror and fantasy needs as well as the blog and forums you'll find there. So, until next time Constant Reader, just write, damn it.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
The book has gotten a few great reviews and some really great buzz, but I'm not ashamed to say I need your help. So please, spread the word. You can check out the synopsis in the previous post as well as at the Amazon site. Now, the paperback version may seem a little pricey at $25.00 (with the Kindle at $4.99). However, please remember you're getting over 230,000 words of zombie goodness and government conspiracy for your money. That translates to over 600 pages and 2 pounds of, and I'm not afraid to say it, some pretty damn good fiction. It's also one of the few zombie books that, in a pinch, you could actually use to crack open a zombie's skull should the need arise. It also qualifies for free shipping all on its own without having to seek out another cheap item you don't really want to make the cut-off for the shipping dollar amount.
Since I'm asking you to shell out your hard-earned money, I thought it only fair that I give you the chance to try it out before you buy. Along with the free preview pages and "Look Inside" feature on Amazon, I have produced a complete audio dramatization of the novel's prolog as a sneak peak free-of-charge over at youtube. I encourage you to give it a listen.
So, to those of you that have purchased the book, you have my heartfelt thanks. If you have read it, please take a minute and leave a review on Amazon. You can also find me at my Goodreads profile or over at the Library of the Living Dead. All comments, even negative ones, will be appreciated. My work may not be for everyone, but I sincerely hope it will be for you. I'm still hard at work on both a new self-published anthology set for release this summer as well as an audio drama anthology coming in the Fall so keep watching here for more information on future projects and more about Area 187. So until next time,
Just write, damn it. - Author
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
So, what's it all about, you ask? Well.....
In the year 2007 an accident at a clandestine U.S. government facility in rural West Virginia releases several test subjects infected with a necrotic virus. Within weeks the U.S. military and the Department of Homeland Security are forced to declare the bulk of the state under quarantine. Defensive lines are fortified and nothing is allowed in or out, damning those missed in the short period of evacuations to a living hell and locking away the real truth of the virus’ creation.
The government transfers the responsibility of maintaining the quarantine from the military to the Department of Homeland Security, which christens it “Area 187”. Suits and claims are dismissed under anti-terror legislation as the rest of government scrambles to cover their involvement in the original project, distancing themselves and their reelections.
Seven years pass.
Homeland Security enforces a total news blackout on all things Area 187, and as with other disasters before it the bulk of America is more than willing to move on. Conspiracies continue to thrive outside the now-immense defensive wall and fortifications, and mercenaries known as “grave robbers” regularly slip in and out of the Area, stealing valuables and taking contracts to bring back specific items for well-paying customers. Our story follows Josephine Terrell, a television reporter and John Heath, once an Air Force search-and-rescue team leader that escaped the Area after five years of fruitless searching for his wife, as they risk their lives from both the dead and the living inside Area 187 to rescue a group of survivors.
Josephine is looking for the story of the century, one that will prove living, breathing Americans still await rescue inside the Area and that Homeland has been covering up their existence. Heath joins her mission after he sees what may be his wife, Eileen, in a video message from the survivors. Personal rivalries, government conspiracies and a simple man’s simple promise weave together with death incarnate to follow their every step as they make their way through a blasted, nightmarish landscape full of the hungering dead. But the peril offered by the mindless corpses behind the wall becomes second to the danger presented by the living beyond it…
Unlike most zombie stories that show you either the beginning of the death of the world or throw you into a world already dead, "Area 187; Almost Hell" shows you what could happen if the apocalypse was contained before destroying all as we know it. What lengths would government and the military-industrial complex go to absolve themselves of blame and responsibility in the aftermath? How would those outside the territory now given over to the dead go on and how would their old world adapt to the presence of this new one? How do those left behind to be ruled by the dead survive, and how do they affect their loved ones forced to leave them behind? It's one thing to be a survivor in a whole world gone mad, to accept that everyone you've ever known and loved is either dead or worse. It's quite another to live among the dead knowing there's another world just beyond the quarantine wall, a world filled with your family and friends, a world you can never again inhabit due to factors and politics beyond your control. The biggest difference between my story and many others is that in most zombie tales, no one can ever go home again. In this one, you can't go home again.
The book is available now at Amazon.com and through the Ingram catalog for those that still like to buy their books from the brick and mortar stores, and the Kindle version should be live shortly after this post goes up. You can also "look inside" the book and get a preview of the world of Area 187 there as well. Now, I know the $25.00 cover price is a bit high. However, at that price it automatically qualifies for free shipping (no more searching for another cheap item you don't want so you can get free shipping on the $24.99 item you do want). You're also getting 620 pages in a 6x9 print format. That's just about 230,000 words of fiction, and if I do say so myself, it's some pretty damn high-quality fiction.
Keep watching here for more about the book as well as my upcoming projects. I'll soon be releasing a zombie-themed anthology through Smashwords tentatively titled "The Dead Tell Tales" (my first foray into the self-publishing world) and will have an audio anthology free for the download coming out near the end of summer as well. In the meantime, please take a minute to check out "Area 187; Almost Hell" at Amazon. It makes a great gift, and at 620 pages it also makes a great doorstop. You can also hear me most every week on The Witch's Hat podcast and read genre movie reviews on the blog of the same name. In fact, you never know just where I may pop up, perhaps even under your bed. Who knows?
So until next time, Constant Reader, I'll simply say; just write, damn it.