Friday, March 30, 2018

A New Holmes Story Coming Soon!

I have good news for those of you who enjoyed 'The Case of The Dying Vampire.'

I started writing a new Sherlock Holmes story last week, titled 'The Murder of Sherlock Holmes,' which features two original characters: Maria Holmes, the daughter of Sherlock, and Christopher Watson, the son of Dr. Watson.

The story opens with the funeral service for Sherlock, and expands into a mystery that includes revelations about Maria's past, the whereabouts of Professor Moriarty, and ultimately, solving the murder of the greatest detective who ever lived, Sherlock Holmes.

It is a multi-chapter adventure that I am actually composing long-hand with pen and paper & is slowly developing into a full-fledged novel. I'll be posting the first chapter here once it's typed up & edited, and it will also be posted on my fan account, where I posted the first Sherlock story, which got quite a few favorable reviews & plenty of likes.

That's all for now, folks. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Woman On The Bed

Here's a story I wrote around Christmas that had nothing to do with Santa Claus, elves, or whether you were naughty or nice. It's called 'The Woman on the Bed,' and I hope you enjoy it.


I knew she shouldn't be tied up like that. It wasn't the proper thing to do with a young woman. She was barely in her twenties, and I a hard-nosed sixty. I might as well have been a shriveled eighty as far as she was concerned.

It was half past midnight on a hot Thursday evening. The city of York, Pennsylvania had advised everyone to conserve energy by turning off their air conditioning. I had none to speak of, and the constant sheen of sweat that built up on my skin did nothing to cool me off. That's actually what sweat's for, you know. It's your body's pathetic attempt to lower your temperature. A fat lot of good that did me, sitting on a plastic folding chair, in the middle of a grimy studio apartment on College Avenue.

I heard a siren go down the street, and it hit me like a lightning bolt to the heart. It also made the lady on the bare mattress jerk awake, like she'd been electrocuted by that bolt. She couldn't really sit up with her wrists and ankles bound to the bed frame via handcuffs, but she tried her damndest to.

"You're still here?" she said with a heavy rasp. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Where's the other one?"

"Joshua's getting Chinese takeout at the moment," I told her. Joshua was my brother, ten years younger than I was, and every bit as hard-nosed as I. Perhaps even more so, considering it was his idea to kidnap this woman and spread-eagle her across the bed in cuffs.

"You want to tell me why I'm here?"

I remained silent.

"Oh," she muttered, "there's that look again."

I raised my left eyebrow in her direction. I wasn't aware I had a "look."

"Ever since you brought me here, I've been studying you."

"Didn't know you cared," I quipped.

"I don't." She frowned. "That look I'm talking about? That's the look that says 'I don't know shit.'" She moistened her chapped lips. "So, even if you wanted to tell me why I'm here, you can't, because you never got the memo."

I went silent again. The woman chuckled slightly.

"Oh God," she said, "there it is again."

"You know, you talk pretty tough for a broad without any clothes on," I growled.

It had been Joshua's idea to strip her naked before cuffing her to the bed, and while I wasn't exactly jumping for joy over the idea, it hadn't been all bad. Her skin was a creamy white, and she possessed long legs and fantastic breasts. I hadn't seen a real naked woman in quite a long time, and I hadn't felt the sensation passing through my groin and to my abdomen for longer than that.

"Stop staring!" she shouted.

"Can't help it," I said with a smirk. "Nudity is a crowd pleaser."

"You're nothing but a greasy pig with a fat gut and a small dick!"

"Wow. Did you read that in a comic book, or did you come up with that yourself?"

She huffed and turned her face away. I let out a sigh and looked up at the ceiling fan, hanging precariously from a large hole by a thin array of wires. It was minus two of its four metal blades, and I was not looking forward to fixing that thing should Joshua and I plan on an extended stay.

Three knocks came at the door, followed by two knocks, and then three again. I rose from my chair and let Joshua in before closing it behind him. His hands were full of brown paper bags whose corners were soaked in some sort of grease.

Joshua dumped the bags onto our rickety Family Dollar card table and riffled through them.

"I got you the broccoli and chicken, the lo mein, and the General Tso's," he told me.

"Joshua, we need to have a talk," I told him.

"Can it wait until after we eat?"

"No," I said quietly. "I don't think so."

Joshua turned to me, a styrofoam container in his right hand and a plastic fork in his left.

"You got something you want to say to me, bro?" he said in a politely angry voice.

"Why is she here?" I pointed toward the naked woman on the bed.

"We'll get to that after we eat."

"I think we'd better get to it now, Joshua."

"And I think you'd better sit the hell down and eat your damn Chinese before it gets cold."

My brother dropped his container of food on the table and pulled up a scuffed wooden stool before he sat down to eat.

I was still standing there, looking at him, waiting for an apology that I knew would never come.

"Come on, bro," Joshua said without looking my direction. "Nobody likes cold Chinese."

I turned my chair around to face our Family Dollar special and dug in. Joshua presented me with a large iced tea in a white styrofoam cup, and I took gulps of it in-between scarfing down my Chinese grub. I had no idea how hungry I'd been, and it took me a long time to realize that I hadn't eaten since yesterday. There was something very, very wrong with that.

I was halfway through my meal when the young lady cleared her throat again.

"Can I have something to drink?" she asked, her voice raspy from lack of liquid refreshment.

I reached for my iced tea and went to insert the straw, but Joshua snatched the straw out of the cup and crunched it in his hand.

"You don't deserve a drink, bitch," he said.

"Joshua, come on," I said in a low whisper. "She hasn't had anything to eat or drink in two days."

"Oh, so suddenly you care about her well-being?" My brother gave me a disapproving look. "What's gotten into you?"

"Maybe if you told me why we're keeping her--"

"Hey!" the woman shouted from her handcuffed prison. "It's a studio apartment! I can totally hear you guys and I want some answers! Who the hell are you and why the fuck am I even here?!"

I jerked in her direction, my blood starting to boil from a mixture of her agitation and my own agitation toward my brother. Joshua wiped his mouth with a napkin, stood from the table, and put a hand on my right shoulder.

"You finish your dinner," he said. "I'll handle this."

My eyes were fixed on the naked woman's body as Joshua pulled his leather jacket off and dropped it to the floor. He followed by unbuckling his belt and unzipping his jeans. Before he went any further, he looked over his left shoulder at me with chilling eyes.

"Go on, bro," he said in his politely angry voice. "Eat up. When I'm done, it'll be your turn." He nodded slowly to me, like a father assuring a child who is learning to ride a bicycle, and straddled the woman on the mattress.

I turned back to my meal as Joshua had his way with her. Sounds of her struggle and his assault splintered through my ears as I shoveled the last of my dinner into my mouth. The worse the sound got, the faster I ate, and by the time Joshua was finished, so was I.

As I took a long drink of my iced tea, one thought ricocheted through the walls of my cranium.

I didn't even know her name.

How could I have kidnapped, stripped, cuffed, and guarded an innocent woman without knowing her name?

More importantly, would I EVER know her name?


Joshua threw his jacket on the back of my chair and dropped his stool at the foot of the bed. The mattress had fresh stains on it from where Joshua had conducted his business with the woman, and it was all I could do not to stand up and pound the hell out of him for what he'd done to her. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't her pal or her savior. I just didn't go for kidnapping and rape. It had never been my thing. Joshua, on the other hand...

My brother reached inside his coat pocket and removed a stubby .38 Special from its confines. It was black as the night sky, and as he opened the chamber, I could see it was fully loaded with six slugs. He gave the chamber a spin, snapped it closed with a flick of his wrist, and sat on his stool carefully, holding the .38 in his right hand with his thumb on the hammer.

The woman on the bed wore a face of humiliation and shame as Joshua aimed the .38 at the space between her thighs.

"Hey," I warned him, "what the hell are you doing?"

"You want to know why we abducted Pussy Galore here and tied her up in this shitty apartment?" Joshua motioned toward her with his free hand. "Here's your chance."

"What do you two want with me?" the woman asked in a shaky voice. Her fiery personality had been doused somewhat, courtesy of my brother.

"Do you know a guy by the name of Jim Lydecker?" Joshua asked her.

"Of course I do," she replied. "He's my grandfather."

"And Jim Lydecker knew a man nick-named Goliath, correct?"

"I've...heard my grandfather mention his name," she said warily. "Why?"

"Goliath was our father," Joshua explained, pointing at me. "His real name was George C. Hemmingsworth, but whenever he got in the ring, they called him Goliath."

"Explains a lot," she said. "The three of you must share the same inferiority complex."

Joshua cocked the hammer on the .38. She bit her bottom lip as her eyes widened in terror.

"Now, back to the story," Joshua said with polite anger. "Goliath was on his way to win the U.S. heavyweight title back in his day."

"Can you speed this up? I've got a doctor's appointment in the morning."

Joshua jammed the .38 against her snatch. She quaked with fear.

"You want to be cute?" he seethed. "Be cute one more time, and the first one's going up the pipe." He scowled at her. "Is that what you want?"

The woman shook her head rapidly. I could see tears building in her eyes. My blood boiled again. I couldn't take much more of this.

"Like I said," Joshua continued, "Goliath was set to win the championship. Then he was introduced to Jim Lydecker, a big fight promoter at the time." Joshua's eyes never wavered from the woman on the bed. "Lydecker told our father that if he threw the heavyweight match, he'd double the champ's prize money and hand it over to him once the match was over."

"You never told me any of this, Joshua," I said. "Why now?"

"Because it just so happens that I owe fifty large to a loan shark and I ain't got a dime to pay it with, okay?!" It was the first time I'd seen Joshua lose his cool in front of anyone, including me. His face contorted into a sneer, and his eyes grew wild like a tiger's. I'd never seen him like this before, and I had to admit, I was terrified.

"What's fifty grand got to do with her?!" I demanded, rising to my feet. Another siren went past, and when the lighting bolt pulsed through my brain this time, all of the facts fell into place.

"There's that look," the woman said. "Only it's a little different now." She jerked her chin toward me. "There's a spark of intelligence behind those eyes."

"Dad was supposed to get fifty grand from Lydecker for throwing the fight," I said slowly, "and when he didn't, he went after the douche bag, and ended up being murdered?"

"Oh my God, bro!" Joshua scratched his forehead with the stubby barrel of the .38. "It took you THIS long to put that together?"

"Look, I don't know what my grandfather did with that money!" the woman shouted from the bed. "He did a lot of shady things back then, and whatever he left undone, he took it to his grave!"

Joshua and I exchanged glances.

"You mean he's dead?" Joshua asked.

"That's usually what happens when people are put in graves," the woman quipped, "or didn't your dip shit daddy tell you that?"

Joshua lifted the .38 in one swift motion and put his index finger against the trigger.

"There you go again," Joshua said in that polite anger of his. "Trying to be cute."

I swatted at the revolver as Joshua squeezed the trigger. The clap of the shot filled the apartment and rendered all of us deaf for a brief moment. The bullet passed through the mattress and into the floor, its path taking it centimeters from the woman's left ear.

Joshua backed up on the balls of his feet, steadied himself, and turned to me. His sneer was longer, sharper, and way more intense than before.

"Now you've gone and done it, bro," he said. "Now I'm going to kill you too!"

Joshua lunged at me, tackling me to the floor. The two of us tangled up into a mess of limbs and slid into the card table, spilling what was left of our dinners and drinks on ourselves.

Joshua was on his feet first, smacking me across the face with the .38 and making a solid connection with my nose. He followed that up by slamming his wrists into both sides of my head, knocking me dizzy, before he brought his knee into my solar plexus as the grand finale.

I fell to my knees, desperately trying to fill my empty lungs, as Joshua grabbed me by my hair and jerked my head back. The .38 was in my face before I could utter any sound, and as Joshua cocked the hammer, I had the funny feeling I was going to follow in my father's footsteps.

"You made a big mistake today, bro," Joshua whispered. "You went against my wishes, and NOBODY goes against my wishes!" His breath was hot against my face. "Have I made myself clear?"

"Crystal clear," I said, finding enough oxygen to utter the words. "There's just one problem."

"Oh, I'm dying to hear what it is," Joshua replied in an ingratiating tone.

"The ceiling fan you wanted me to fix?"

"What about it?"

"I never did."

Joshua looked up at the swaying ceiling fan, loosened by our struggle, as the wires holding it in place snapped one by one. Joshua screamed as I shoved him beneath the fan at the moment the final wire severed. The metal blades, sharp as they were, sliced through Joshua's flesh, tearing his chest and abdomen to ribbons.

As my brother's blood gushed out onto the floor and pooled under his body, I turned to look at the woman on the bed, still naked, still handcuffed, still looking at me like I was her enemy.

I fished the .38 from the mess of Joshua's hands and blasted the cuffs off the lady in question, who promptly kneed me in the nuts and slapped me stupid for a good five minutes. Who knew she had that much fight left in her?

As she collapsed onto the floor, I put a hand under the mattress and retrieved her clothes. She looked at me with grateful eyes this time, but as she started to slip into them, a siren blasted out front of the apartment building and made both of us freeze.

"Go," she said. "Get out of here!"

"Are you crazy?" I said back. "I'm not going anywhere!"

"They won't believe anything you tell them! You're still one of the bad guys, remember?"

"I’ll take my chances."

I tossed the .38 on the floor, got down on my knees, and put my hands behind my head.

"Don’t you get it?" she said. "They’ll put away for life!"

"I know."

A look of stark realization passed over her face as pounding footsteps announced the arrival of the York City Police Department. They burst in with Glocks drawn, shouting things I no longer heard, as they read me my rights, slapped handcuffs around my wrists, and drug me downstairs to the squad car.

Six months later, I was sentenced to sixty years in prison, with the possibility of parole in thirty years. By then I’d be ninety years old. I’d probably die in prison, that much I knew, but I felt I deserved whatever was coming to me.

One day before my sixty-first birthday, the woman on the bed came to see me. She was dressed in a Penn State hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans, and black Converse hi-top sneakers. She didn’t look any different, but I could tell the ordeal Joshua and I put her through had taken a toll on her spirit.

She took her seat across from the glass partition and grabbed the phone. I grabbed mine and waited for her to speak.

"I’m sorry for what’s happened to you," she said. "You didn’t deserve this."

"Yes, I did," I told her. "What I did wasn’t right."

"But you made it right in the end. Don’t you see that?"

I shook my head. I don’t think I’d ever see any of it as "right."

She leaned toward the glass and whispered into the phone. She seemed distraught over something.

"When Joshua..."

"Raped you?"

"...he made me pregnant."

I leaned back in my chair, the air leaving my chest in one long, sad sigh. As if this couldn't get any worse...

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

Tears welled up in her eyes. "You mean did." A tear trickled down her face. "I aborted it." She stifled a sob and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.

"Do you regret it?"

"Every day...but I didn't want to have a rapist's child."

I nodded.

"Why didn't you testify at my trial?" I asked the woman.

Her eyes widened a bit, as if she were casting her mind back to that awful summer night six months ago.

"I couldn't bring myself to do it," she explained. "I was still too traumatized by it all. I didn't want to relive that again." She closed her eyes. "Please try to understand."

"I do," I said. "Don't worry."

A security guard stepped toward me and pointed to his watch.

"My time's up, I'm afraid," I said. "Thanks for stopping by."

The woman nodded and went to put the phone back on the cradle. I caught her attention and pointed to the phone. She put it back up to her ear and listened.

"I never got your name," I said.

"It's Rachel," she said with a chuckle. "Rachel Lydecker."

"I'm Gus Hemmingsworth," I replied. "Hello, Rachel."

"Hello, Gus."

The security guard stormed toward me and pointed to his watch again. I stood from my chair, as did Rachel, and I looked her in the eye for the first time.

"Goodbye, Rachel."

"Goodbye, Gus."

We hung up our phones at the same time, and neither of us looked back.

Rachel never came to visit me again. I like to think she met a nice guy and is having some kids of her own at the moment. I also think about what I could have done differently that night, in order to make things come out where nobody had to die and nobody gets a sixty-year sentence, but all the scenarios I've played out in my head never end well.

The simple fact is I could have stopped Joshua at any time. I could have stopped him from kidnapping Rachel, cuffing Rachel, and raping Rachel...but I didn't. I was scared of Joshua and what he'd do to me and her. But I've also learned an important lesson: every action has consequences, and while my consequences landed me with this eight by eight cell, Joshua's consequences cost him his life.

And damn him to hell anyway.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Case of The Dying Vampire

This Sherlock Holmes story takes place in the Conan Doyle era, where Sherlock and his brother Mycroft travel to Transylvania at the request of Count Dracula in order to find out who is slowly turning him into an invalid. It was submitted to Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine in late 2014, and Marvin Kaye, the editor at the time, said he admired the story & my writing style. A week later Marvin informed me that he couldn't use the story, due to Conan Doyle's rule of never mixing fantasy in with his Holmes work. 

Then Marvin had the nerve to ask me if I could turn it into a pastiche. I felt that tearing the story down to its base pieces and removing Sherlock's personae from the plot would leave the story uninteresting, bland, and a total waste of time. I turned Marvin down and was now stuck with what amounted to a piece of Sherlock Holmes fanfiction.

So, here for your reading pleasure, is the almost-published Sherlock Holmes adventure, "The Case of the Dying Vampire."

My dear Watson,

I am writing to you in the hopes that you are in better health.  I regret departing London on this arduous journey to Transylvania without you at my side, but Mycroft has proven to be an adept partner, although he is not particularly bright or very agile, considering his size.  Nevertheless, I must report to you the events that occurred during my brief but memorable visit to this sad and lonely part of the world, and the adventure that awaited me at Castle Dracul, home to none other than the king of the vampires, Count Dracula.

You will note from our prior experiences with the supernatural that I do not believe in such things as ghosts, specters, and poltergeists.  There is a simple, logical explanation for every occurrence in our universe, Watson, and if I cannot find it, then I'm afraid to say that nobody can find it.  As Mycroft and I rode inside a rickety stagecoach up into the Carpathian Mountains, I realized for the first time that our surroundings had changed from the brightest of days to the blackest of nights, and that a wicked wind was blowing through the peaks and canyons.  It was almost as if God himself were attempting to stop our arrival at Castle Dracul.

But alas, Watson, not even the Lord Almighty could put a stop to the strong black stallions that carried us to the very peak of the mountains, where a flat plateau existed.  On that plateau sat Castle Dracul, an ominous force that rose into the sky like a black obelisk.  As rolling thunder echoed from the horizon and vicious lightning danced across the Heavens, I got the impression that Mycroft and I should be departing the stagecoach and entering the castle, lest we disturb the good Lord's intentions.

The driver of the stagecoach, a queer-looking fellow garbed in black, from top hat to coat and even to his shoes, waved Mycroft and I forward as we stood on the plateau and took stock of our surroundings.  The sky had grown darker still and the lightning had grown fiercer.  By the time Mycroft waddled his way up to the front gate, it had started to rain, and by the time the gate opened (by what you might call "magic," Watson) and allowed us passage into the castle, it had started to pour in a raging, angry manner like I had never witnessed.

Standing inside the foyer of Castle Dracul as the gate closed behind us, I was struck by how decrepit the structure looked on the inside.  The draperies were yellowed with age; the carpets worn ragged from years of use; and the hearth had not been used in quite some time.  Mycroft and I wondered if anybody lived here at all, but upon that ponderous thought, a young woman appeared before us.  Well, to be clear, Watson, she didn't so much as appear as she scared Mycroft and I to near-death; she descended a spiral staircase from the upper floors of the castle, and when her shoes struck the limestone floor, it made quite the clatter.

She introduced herself as Adrianna Moonstone, the Count's nursemaid and caretaker.  Wondering what the mighty Count Dracula required a nursemaid for, she led a leery Mycroft and I down a narrow hall and into Dracula's study.  The carpet was heavily worn in this room, and I noticed several blood stains scattered on various sections of the material.  Mycroft noticed them as well, and acknowledged the observation with a nearly imperceptible nod.  Apparently his brain synapses were firing at full capacity all this time, Watson, and I had never truly realized it. 

Adrianna stood in the darkened left-hand corner of the room, behind an aging man with thin white hair, a long, white beard, and skin so wrinkled it was almost hard to categorize him as human.  He was locked to a wooden wheelchair, and attached to the back of the chair was an apparatus that seemed to be transfusing him with blood at a constant rate.  I had never seen such a machine before, let alone heard of one, but the slight sucking noise it made as it transfused the blood kept my curiosity at bay.

I suppose it's time I told you, Watson, why I even agreed to travel the long distance to Transylvania and visit the dreaded Count Dracula.  It started over a month ago, when he scribed that letter to me that you so graciously read aloud in the presence of Inspector Lestrade (the one that made him leave our flat in terror, you'll recall).  The letter requested our presence at Castle Dracul to solve a matter of "great urgency."  I had heard of the Count before and how he was the terror of his nation, but for me, the intrigue did not lay in having an audience with a so-called vampire (again, I do not believe in such beings).  The intrigue was that the Count never described what this matter of great urgency was.  I remember your comment that perhaps he felt himself too important for explanations, but when I stood before the man in the wheelchair that had once been the mighty Count Dracula, I realized that ego had nothing to do with it--he had no time for explanations.

For you see, my dear Watson, Count Dracula was dying, the cause of which was a mystery...a mystery that was now up to me to solve.

Adrianna left the Count's study after Mycroft and I were seated across from him.  I noted that Adrianna wore a rosary and a crucifix around her neck, as if having both would offer her two layers of protection against Dracula's powers.  I had little time to ponder the meaning of her wardrobe choices, however, because Dracula had started to speak.

The once-mighty vampire pontificated in a voice that sounded as though he had spent the last hundred years wandering the deserts of the world.  If sand would have expelled from his mouth, Watson, I would not have been surprised.  He explained to Mycroft and I about his brief history as the king of all vampires and how he rose to power in Transylvania.  Mycroft inquired as to how the Count could even be real, due to Bram Stoker, the author, claiming that his novel was a work of fiction.  This Dracula chuckled and informed us that Stoker was a "stupid old sod" who had discovered pages from a collection of journals that Dracula had attempted to burn.  He did not expound on why he had burned the journals, and I did not press the issue, for the memory seemed to come from a very dark place and time for him.

Mycroft asked the next question on my mind before I could articulate it: Was the vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing real?  Dracula laughed boisterously, which I'm sure required a lot of effort on his part, and confirmed our suspicions that yes, Van Helsing was a real individual as well.  Dracula explained that Stoker had consulted with Helsing before writing his book, and that Helsing's ego "seeped from the pages like blood from my fangs."  The Count then revealed his fangs to us, which sent a shiver running down my back and right into my soul.  The fangs were real, Watson, as completely in tune with his mouth and upper teeth as our normal incisors are.  I was beginning to doubt my belief that everything supernatural was all imagination when I asked the Count how he ended up in such a crippled state.

The Count's fervor seemed to fade quite a bit when he realized what I'd asked, and as he launched into the story, I could understand why.  Dracula claimed that after he had slain Abraham Van Helsing in battle (a fact I was not aware of), Transylvania fell into a great depression.  Food was scarce, even for vampires, and if they did not feed every twenty-four hours, according to the Count, their bodies would slowly deteriorate.  Disease spread through the crops in the farmer's fields, and many of Dracula's subjects died from food poisoning.  As the situation grew more and more dire, Dracula shut himself off in his castle and began taking blood transfusions with Adrianna's assistance.

The problem, Dracula explained, was that with every transfusion, he grew weaker and older.  He could barely see across the room, he said, and did not possess the strength to push his own wheelchair.  He suspected that someone was poisoning his blood supply, with what he didn't know, but that the apparatus on the back of his wheelchair was the only thing keeping him alive.  It was also, he suspected, the very thing that was killing him. 

Adrianna entered the room and brought us all some warm tea.  The rain outside was slamming against the windows of the Count's study, lashing out in fury at the unholy creature that was contained within the castle walls.  I caught a glimpse of a lightning bolt striking just outside the castle windows, and it startled everyone in the room, so much so that we did not see the individual who entered the room in its wake.  He was quite tall and well-muscled for his age, which appeared to be somewhere in his fifties, and possessed a shock of white hair and a scar across the right side of his face that had sealed his right eye shut.  With his gait strong and his stride purposeful, I knew this individual could only be Abraham Van Helsing, the legendary vampire hunter the Count had claimed to be dead.

Adrianna was busy pouring my tea when Van Helsing joined us, and once she laid eyes on him, the teapot crashed to the floor and spilled all over the carpet.  Mycroft stood from his chair as Van Helsing strode past, one step at a time, measuring the distance between himself and the invalid vampire in the wheelchair.  I told Van Helsing to stop where he was and explain his purpose for being here, since the Count had not summoned him, and his words shook me to my very core. 

He said, "I am always welcome in my daughter's home."

Dracula turned his weary eyes toward Adrianna, who hid her face in shame, and then looked to me for supplication.  In truth, Watson, I had already suspected she was Van Helsing's daughter, and this only confirmed it.  Mycroft started making wild accusations, throwing his hands this way and that, but I rose from my chair and silenced him with a curt nod.  As you know, Watson, once my brother gets started, sometimes it's hard to get him to calm down, and I suppose I am like that at times as well.  But Lord love a duck, Watson, the last thing I needed at that moment was Mycroft calling the greatest vampire hunter of all a yellow-bellied coward. 

Van Helsing ordered me to sit down, but I politely refused, and launched into what I consider one of my best pontifications of crime and punishment ever.  I started by explaining to Count Dracula that yes, his nursemaid was not Adrianna Moonstone, but Adrianna Van Helsing, and she had been sent by her father to keep an eye on the Count after their last confrontation, the one where Dracula was certain he had slain Van Helsing.  The man in question scoffed at the idea and presented us with a clearer view of his scar, saying that the tumble he took off the castle wall cost him his dignity and his right eye, but that he had survived to fight another day. 

Admonishing Van Helsing for interrupting my dissertation, I continued, explaining that Count Dracula was indeed being poisoned, but not in any method known to current medical academics.  The perpetrator would have to know the specific weaknesses of a vampire, such as their vulnerability to wood, in order to perform the crime and escape without being caught.  For my final stroke, I pointed out that when Adrianna had first introduced us to the Count, she had been wearing a rosary and a crucifix, and upon returning with the tea, the rosary was gone. 

Adrianna faced her father and Count Dracula and reached into the neck of her dress.  She removed a small pouch, and in that pouch were each of the wooden beads from her rosary, ready to be dropped inside the Count's blood transfusion machine.  Adrianna explained that once inside, they would eventually dissolve and enter Dracula's bloodstream, where they would slowly cripple him to the state he was now living in.  If this treatment continued, the Count would surely have perished in a few months.

The interesting thing about all of this, Watson, was that during Adrianna's confession, she had tears in her eyes, and when she was finished, she shed them.  Here was the daughter of the great Abraham Van Helsing, who had tried to dispatch with Count Dracula in her own way, and she was weeping over what she had done to the poor fellow, like he was a treasured friend.  It made me realize something else, Watson, something I hadn't considered before.  Adrianna wasn't doing this on her father's orders.  She had come to Transylvania of her own volition, and any action she took was her own choice, and not her father's will exerted over her.

Van Helsing had heard enough, apparently, for he drew a wooden stake and mallet from his coat and held them above Count Dracula's withered body.  To his credit, the Count didn't flinch or recoil in any way; he merely smirked at the great vampire hunter and asked him if this was the way he wanted to end their relationship.  Mycroft and I were about to intervene when Adrianna wrenched the stake and mallet from her father's hands and threw them out the study's windows, shattering the glass and ushering in the storm, which was brewing like a tempest outside.  Rain soaked the carpet and the wind tore at everyone's clothes as Adrianna explained why she had come to Transylvania to kill Count Dracula.

I would paraphrase, Watson, but I am running out of space and paper.  The key element in Adrianna's vociferation was her desire to kill the Count and see her father's obsession with him end, so he could live his last days in peace.  When Van Helsing saw the tears in his daughter's eyes and heard the desperation in her voice, a change came about him.  His face appeared ragged, old, and I noticed several wrinkles and lines in it that I hadn't seen before.  If I were to guess, I would say that Time, being the cruel mistress that she is, had finally caught up to Abraham Van Helsing, and he realized how much of a toll that mistress had taken on him.  He turned to Adrianna, lowered his head, and told her to pack her things, for he planned to leave within the hour.  He then exited the room without so much as a backward glance at us, or even a sneer at Dracula, who relaxed in his wheelchair and let out a long sigh of relief.

I must say that events wrapped up rather neatly thereafter, my dear Watson.  Adrianna unhooked Dracula from his blood transfusion apparatus, and within the course of a few minutes I saw his condition improve dramatically.  Adrianna asked him if she should stay and nurse him back to health, and while I thought that would have provoked a bitter response from the Count, he merely walked over and embraced the girl, ordering her to go with her father and to "watch out for vampires."  Adrianna thanked the Count, thanked myself and Mycroft, and left Castle Dracul with Abraham Van Helsing, who never once looked back.

I shook the Count's hand as he thanked me for my efforts, his once-cold flesh warming up considerably.  Mycroft shook the Count's hand with a wary glance, because--and this is the strangest part of my escapade in Transylvania, Watson--Count Dracula had fully returned to his former self.  I was about to inquire as to how he had achieved such a marvelous recovery and to the sloppy appearance of his mouth and lips when the Count saw us to the gate, where the queer stagecoach driver and his stallions were waiting for us once again.  Mycroft and I climbed aboard and were led down through the Carpathian Mountains, and during that rickety trip I had time to consider Dracula's sudden recovery, and I came to this conclusion.

Dracula's lips appeared sloppy because he had recently drunk someone's blood.  He had drunk Adrianna Van Helsing's blood when he embraced her, for the briefest of moments, and she had probably only felt something comparable to an insect bite.  Unfortunately, there's another side to this coin that troubles me, Watson, for if I am to believe the legends about vampires, then it would mean Count Dracula's bite has turned Adrianna into a vampire...and I can think of no crueler revenge to take upon a foe than that.

Your dear friend,

Sherlock Holmes

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Father & The Gun

Here's a butt-kicking hardboiled story to kick off the new year. It's about a Catholic priest living in a small Mexican border town who gets involved with a bunch of drug traffickers in a very bad way. His name is Father Gibbons, and this is his story.

In El Concito, a little town near the Mexico/California border, there lived a priest. His name was Father Gibbons.

Father Gibbons lived and preached in a small one-room church situated in the center of El Concito. He slept upstairs in the church attic, with its creaky floorboards and rotting wood. The townspeople thought it strange that a white man had been sent to their town to preach in their language. Regardless, Father Gibbons preached every Wednesday night, Sunday morning, and Sunday night, no matter how many or how few parishioners came to hear his message.

Father Gibbons knew the people of El Concito didn't like him. He could see it in their sideways glances, could hear it in their lowest whispers, could feel it when they shouldered past him. They hated him, not because he was white, but because he preached a message nobody wanted to hear.

El Concito served as a stop for drug traffickers. The cocaine, produced in Mexico, was driven through the desert and up into California, where it was sold for profit. The traffickers always spent a night in El Concito before they traversed the sand to the California border.

One fateful night, a trafficker by the name of Suarez entered the little blue church that served as Father Gibbons' home. Father Gibbons, with the oppressive summer heat and the lack of air conditioning, wasn't in a preaching mood. Suarez asked the priest if he could confess his sins. Father Gibbons stepped into a confessionary, and Suarez took his place on the opposite side.

"Please forgive me, Father, for I have sinned," Suarez began.

"Cut that shit out," Gibbons replied. "When is the shipment crossing the border?"

"Tomorrow. One o' clock. Two at the latest."


"Toward Yuma. Then Winterhaven. It's picked up by another crew from there."

"What's the signal?"

"I'll piss inside my canteen."

"Shit. Seriously?"

"Seriously, amigo. These fuckers don't fool around."

"Fine. My agents will be waiting for you."

"Should I look for them?"

"No, you imbecile," Gibbons snorted. "You look for them and you'll draw unwanted attention to yourself." He sighed. "Have you got that?"

"Got it."

"Good. Now get lost, my son. Find yourself a whore for the night. There's plenty of them in this dump."

Suarez exited the confessionary and walked out of the little blue church. He made his way up to Rita's, the local brothel, and stepped inside. The townspeople gave him a curious glance and wondered if he had confessed sins he'd already planned to commit.

Father Gibbons stood on the front steps of his church and reached for the flask of whiskey he kept in his robes. A loose chicken clucked at him.

"Go with God," Gibbons told the future McNugget, "and all that good shit." He took a slug of his whiskey. Took another. Replaced the flask. He didn't want, or need, to get drunk tonight.

After all, if everything went as planned, tomorrow would be Father Gibbons' last day in El Concito.


Father Gibbons woke with a start when he heard a mighty fist slam against the side of the confessionary he was napping in. Gibbons snatched up the wrinkled Playboy he'd been reading before he fell asleep and stuffed it under his robes.

"Father Gibbons!" a voice called from inside the church. The voice sounded angry and carried enough venom to kill a snake.

"Over here, my son," Gibbons replied in his priestly voice. He slid his side of the confessionary open and waved. There were three men, all of them of Mexican origin. One of them, the angry one, stormed over and dropped into the confessionary's seat.

"Well, we meet at last," the angry one said. "Wait a moment. I don't believe we've been properly introduced." He drew a large revolver from his back pocket and cocked the hammer. "My name is Alberto Ricardo Rodriguez." He grinned. The teeth he had left were all yellow. "But you already know that. Right, Agent Gibbons?"

"Do you have something to confess, my son?" Gibbons said. "If you do not, then please leave this--"

Rodriguez fired his revolver. The weapon roared inside the small church and tore a hole through the confessionary, past Father Gibbons, and out through the wall next to him. Lord only knew where the bullet went after that.

"Let's drop the bullshit, shall we?" Rodriguez said with a twitch of his neck. "I heard all about you from your buddy Suarez. You remember Suarez, right?"

Remember Suarez? In Father Gibbons' eyes, using that word when it came to a person was never a good sign.

Rodriguez cocked the hammer on his revolver again. "You're wondering what happened to Suarez. You're wondering what happened to your little squad of D.E.A. agents." Rodriguez snapped his fingers at his closest comrade. "Julio! Bring me the bag!"

Father Gibbons didn't like the looks of this. Rodriguez was a psychopath and had a gun that could blow a hole through the thickest Bible. He was also blocking Gibbons' only escape route.

Julio returned with "the bag," which was nothing more than a leather sack that looked better suited to Indiana Jones than Mexican drug dealers. Rodriguez laid his revolver down, undid the clasp on the bag, and emptied it onto the wooden shelf in the confessionary. What Father Gibbons saw nearly made him throw up--Rodriguez had gathered Suarez's index finger, and those belonging to Gibbons' squad, and lined them up in a neat display of savagery.

"Well, Agent Gibbons?" Rodriguez said with another twitch. "What do you think?"

"I think you're a sick fuck, Rodriguez," Gibbons replied. "I also think I'm going to kill you."

Rodriguez stared at Gibbons through the confessionary's latticework window. Then he burst out laughing.

"You? Kill me?" Rodriguez asked through his tears of laughter. "That's, that's...what's the word you gringos use?"

"Rich?" Gibbons offered dryly.

"Exactly!" Rodriguez roared with laughter. "How do you plan to kill me when you don't even have a gun?!"

"I don't need a gun," Gibbons said. "I've got yours."

Rodriguez searched his side of the confessionary. His revolver had vanished into thin air.

"What--the hell--?" he stammered.

"Adios, amigo," Father Gibbons said. He squeezed the trigger on Rodriguez's revolver and delivered him into the devil's eager hands. The recoil from the gun threw Gibbons against the wall and made him slide to the floor, as Rodriguez recoiled from the confessionary and blasted across the floor, his blood mixing with the dusty sand that coated the ceramic tiles.

Julio and the third bandito knelt alongside Rodriguez's dead body as Father Gibbons kicked the confessionary open and dove for the floor. Julio spun around and drilled the wall with his Uzi, emptying half of his clip into the picture of The Holy Virgin that hung on the wall.

Father Gibbons snaked across the floor, following the path of the wooden pews, as Julio took careful steps down the center aisle, which led up to the pulpit and the baptismal. The third bandito stayed by the entrance and watched for any escapees with his wild eyes and his finger tickling the trigger of his Ruger M-12.

Julio stepped up to the pulpit and stared at the picture of Jesus Christ on the wall behind it. Sunlight was filtering down from the attic windows, and it landed right on the picture, making Jesus look almost life-like. Julio seemed overcome with the Holy Spirit at that moment, took one hand off his Uzi, and crossed himself. He finished up by closing his eyes and whispering a short prayer in Spanish.

Father Gibbons couldn't believe his eyes. He also couldn't believe Julio could possibly be so stupid as to take his hands off his gun. Gibbons lifted the beastly revolver, cocked the hammer, and fired, the bullet tearing a hole through Julio's head and exploding it. Gibbons slid back against the wall and crashed into a clay pot, which shattered on impact, leaving shards of hardened clay in Gibbons' back.

Gibbons looked up in time to see the third guy sobbing and screaming at the top of his lungs. He took his Ruger in both hands and fired it in every direction but Gibbons', destroying the holy place and everything in it. Gibbons crawled to the front pews, trying desperately not to get shot, and ducked out from his cover long enough to pop a bullet in the bandito's right ankle.

The man fell flat on his face, screaming and cursing in Spanish, while his Ruger slid across the floor and stopped next to Gibbons' feet. Father Gibbons stood, keeping both hands on the revolver, and gave the bandito a kick in the groin before he stepped outside.

The sunlight had never felt better. The stickiness of the heat almost felt cool against his skin. The clucking of that chicken almost made him smile.

That's when Father Gibbons noticed the white Ford Pinto pulling up in front of the church. He sat down on the front steps, sat the revolver next to him, and removed his flask of whiskey. As he drank it straight down, a short, spectacled man in a plaid suit and bow tie emerged from the Pinto and combed his thinning hair back.

"Who are you supposed to be?" Father Gibbons asked.

"Father Gibbons," the rotund man replied. "Who are you?"

The priest threw his empty flask at the chicken and limped toward the Pinto.

"Nobody, apparently," the priest managed to say. He pointed to the church. "She's all yours." He climbed into the Pinto's driver's seat, but stopped and waved for the real Father Gibbons' attention.

"Yes, sir?" Gibbons asked. "What is it?"

"Watch that trap door on the first confessionary," the priest said. "It's a killer."

The priest closed the door on the Pinto as Father Gibbons, carrying three suitcases and a laptop bag, found his way to the church. The priest smiled, put the Pinto in drive, and headed for Yuma. Maybe he could get in touch with his D.E.A. contacts and set up another operation there. Maybe he could find a nice church with a nun who had loose morals. Or maybe he'd just get drunk and dance the night away.

The latter sounded like a good idea. 

It sounded like a real good idea.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Basement Dweller

Here's a funny little story I wrote that's a departure from my usual hardboiled work. It's called "Basement Dweller" and follows the adventure of a young boy and his fear of the "creature" that lives in his basement. Hope you guys like it! 

Something's living in our basement.

I've come to this conclusion because nobody in our family has ever gone down there. The basement door locks from the inside, and once when I tried to turn the knob, it clicked and these humongous feet pounded up the basement steps. I ran to my room, closed and locked the door, and armed myself with my Nerf dart gun. The next thing that came through my door, whether it be vampire, werewolf, or Bigfoot, was dead meat.

Turns out the next "thing" was Mom, inquiring as to why I had pelted her forehead with foam darts. I told her about my experience with whatever lived in our basement and how it never seemed to come out.

"Oh," she said, sounding surprised. "That's your brother."

My brother? Since when did I have a brother? Where had Mom been hiding this revelation at, and why was my brother locked in the basement, out of sight and out of mind? This would require further investigation, along with the acquisition of some new darts.

The next day I trekked to the basement steps, silent as a ninja, and twisted the knob on the basement door. To my surprise, it opened, and below me was a dark pit, the ultimate styngian death trap known as the basement steps.

I lifted my Nerf gun and fired a dart into the blackness.

I never heard it land.

The black hole at the bottom of the steps had swallowed it. Frightened for my life, I slammed the basement door shut and put all of my weight against it. The giant feet were assaulting the steps, each one creaking under each foot's mighty weight, until they reached the top. The door bucked against my back and threw me to the floor, and before the giant could do me bodily harm, I raced to my room and closed and locked the door.

I'd only gotten a partial glimpse of the giant that lived in the basement, but now I was convinced that he was not my brother. He was big, at least the size of an eighteen-wheeler; he was tall, about the height of the Empire State Building; and he was hairy,

Was that it? Was the giant that lived downstairs the mythical, elusive ape man known around the world as Bigfoot? Was Bigfoot my brother?

I couldn't sleep that night after Mom tucked me in. Did Bigfoot really live in our basement? If he was my brother, how were we related? And if we were related, why wasn't I big, tall, and hairy like him?

The next day I ventured to the basement steps once more, Nerf gun in hand and extra ammo strapped to my belt. I studied the various signs on the basement door. One of them read "The Otaku Lives Here." Another one read "Baka on Board." A third one read "This Is The Mole Hole--Enter At Your Own Risk." I wondered if breaking into the basement was such a good idea with all of these warning signs posted on the door, but the last thing I wanted to be called was a chicken, so I turned the knob and let the unlocked door swing open.

The basement steps were black as pitch as I took them one at a time, doing my silent ninja thing, until I reached the bottom. I let my eyes adjust to the darkness, and soon I could see a door to my right that led to what looked like a separate room inside the basement. Was this where Bigfoot lived? Was he holding my brother captive inside? I had to know!

I walked to the door and turned its knob. The door opened a little too easily, and I entered Bigfoot's residence with caution. The only light came from the blue glow of the television, which was playing some kind of giant robot cartoon. Fast food sandwich wrappers, Chinese takeout boxes, empty soda cans, and wadded-up tissues littered the floor of Bigfoot's living room. A couch to my left had dirty clothes draped all over it. A makeshift kitchen to my right was smothered with moldy dishes and drinking glasses. And for the grand finale, Bigfoot's smelly sneakers were hanging from a blade of the ceiling fan overhead.

Wait a minute. Bigfoot didn't wear sneakers. Bigfoot didn't wear clothes. And Bigfoot didn't eat off dishes.

What was going on here?

The floor creaked under my feet. The whole room shook, like in an earthquake, as the giant stepped into the living room from the adjoining bedroom. His eyes, like burning, smoking coals, fell to me, and I did the only thing that came to mind.

I let the giant have it with all six darts in my Nerf gun.

Unfortunately, this didn't faze the giant, for he plucked each of the darts off of his body and threw them on the floor. Then he growled at me, roared his rage, and spoke the words that today still haunt me to my very soul.

"You're gonna get it now, dweeb!"

I'll admit to being chicken right about then. Silent ninja skills don't amount to crap when a giant comes after you. I dumped the Nerf gun and sprinted up the basement steps, the giant eating up the ground as he tore after me, yelling incoherently in his fury. When I reached the basement door, Mom was standing in my way, holding a much larger Nerf gun that was aimed at the giant.

"Oh, good!" she said. "You two are just in time for dinner. Care to join me?"

I stepped into the kitchen and saw the table completely laid out for dinner. The giant paused behind me, grunted curiously, and took a seat across from Mom. Mom kept her Nerf gun at her side as we ate, with my eyes on the giant, and Mom's eyes on me. She smiled whenever I glanced her way, and she asked the giant questions like "Is it good?" and "How was your day?" and also "Did you clean your apartment?" The giant made guttural responses to each question, and I couldn't tell if they stood for yes or no. As soon as the giant was finished with his cheeseburger casserole, he stood from the table, growled at me, and returned to his basement dwelling, locking the door in the process.

I asked Mom who the giant was that lived in the basement and why he had joined us for dinner.

"Silly," Mom said with a smile. "That's your brother. He's too old to live upstairs with us, so I gave him the downstairs apartment in the basement."

I asked Mom what the giant did down there all day.

"What all guys his age do," she answered. "Watch anime, play video games, update his Facebook status, read comic know, the usual."

It didn't sound all that different from what I did all day, but I didn't tell Mom that. I didn't tell Mom much of anything, especially when she was still carrying that humongous Nerf gun around.

"Besides, it's only for the summer," Mom said as she rose from the table. "When college starts up again, he'll be off to the dorm, and he can make a mess out of their stuff."

Mom cleaned dishes while I finished my dinner and went to my room. So the giant living downstairs in the basement was my brother? I still didn't believe it. How could I have a brother who spent all of his time in the dark and didn't clean up after himself?

I went to bed that night a little nervous and a little wary of what the giant might do now that I knew the layout of his secret dwelling and his true identity. As I reached for my Nerf gun, just to have it handy, I realized it wasn't there, and remembered where I had left it: in the giant's living room, downstairs in the basement. He had it now, along with a full complement of darts, and my thoughts turned to the gruesome possibilities of the revenge he would exact on me now that he was armed and dangerous.

As a precaution, I climbed out of bed and went to lock my bedroom door. When my fingers brushed the lock, the door blew open and the giant stormed inside, aiming my Nerf gun at my head.

"It's time for some revenge, dweeb!" the giant growled at me. 

And I screamed...