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“The Snowman”

December 2014

by Helen Krummenacker

         A chilly December evening was made cozy not only by the fireplace, but the scents of vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger from baking in the kitchen. Marissa turned the radio to a station playing all Christmas music. Isabella was excited even beyond the average child at Christmas time, for this was her first Christmas tree, her first time seeing fairy lights, and even the radio was a novelty for her. She would sit on the sofa, stare at the tree and get up again every few minutes to better distribute the ornaments for color balance and even presentation.
    Marissa and Lisa were helping Nathan with paper chains, a decoration he remembered from his childhood. The girls were using a ladder to reach high, but Nathan took care of sites out of their reach. Otto, having recently surrendered the kitchen to Penny, who was making a couple of her own favorite treats, had started to show Richard how to wire pine and holly into swags to place around. “So ‘Boughs of holly’ are just branches done up to decorate the place?”
        “Yes. Deck and decorate have the same word as a root.”
      “Ain’t that something. I always wondered about that song. Especially the gay apparel.”
        “That meant jolly, bright colored, festive.”
      “And that makes ‘Johnny Comes Marching Home’ a lot better,” Richard laughed. The professor was all right by him. Strange and a little weird how he treated the boss like a kid sometimes, but when he was around, you always felt a little bit smarter.
      Just then, a new tune came on the radio. “Frosty the snowman, was a jolly, happy soul–”
    “Turn that off!” Otto snapped. Isabella looked at him in shock a moment before heading to the radio and pushing the big circle button she’d learned made these new electric things go on or off. “I’m sorry… I just do not like that song,” he explained, suddenly aware that everyone was watching him, puzzled by his uncharacteristic change of mood. “I really do not like it. You would not like it, either, if you knew how dangerous that snowman could have actually become.”
        “Wait, Frosty was real?” Marissa asked skeptically.
     “There are more things on heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” quoted Otto, then sighed. “Yes. Frosty was real, and he was the result of my missing an important detail and behaving carelessly.”
        “Story time!” Lisa called out.
       “Oh, yes, we have to hear about this,” Marissa added.
       “Really?” Otto asked, as if surprised by the attention.
       “Even I haven’t heard this one,” said Nathan, “and it sounds like a doozy.”
       Otto took a seat on the sofa, next to Isabella, and the others gathered around. Richard kept at it with the greenery, but still cocked an ear and moved so he could see Otto’s face and gestures. Taking a deep breath, the professor began to tell the tale in a rich, melodic voice…

“The Cannibal Killer” Part – VIII The Conclusion: Private Papers of Michael Rhodes June 18th, 2016

     Close up of man's hand reloading pistol chamber

      As soon as I finished re-loading, Nadine headed for the classroom door only to find it locked. “Seriously?” she hissed, “They lock classrooms doors an abandoned school? What did they think kids were going to break in and start rummaging through textbooks so they can catch up on homework or something?”

     Suppressing a smile I joined her and explained, “Teachers always lock the doors to the classrooms when they leave, and when they left this school they had no idea it wasn’t going to reopen. Besides, even if they knew they’d still have locked things up because the school district would still be responsible for anyone, even trespassers, hurting themselves in here.”

     “I know one I won’t mind hurting,” she murmured under her breath and reached for the handle.

     I stopped her, “Too much noise. If the Cannibal’s nearby he’ll hear it. The hinges are on this side of the door. Do you think you can pull the pins out?”

    Smiling she elongated her fingers and with a little super-human strength, the pins were out. Together we managed to silently pull the door out of the frame, then stepped into the hallway.

abandoned-school-hallway-blue-lockers-interior-view-derelict-96512090

   Seeing no sign of our quarry, I quickly determined our location and led the way towards the stairwell leading downstairs. I have to admit, even if we weren’t hunting a psychopath, the old hallways I’d wandered down so many times seemed kind of eerie. The district had been right to close the place down. Some of the ceiling tiles had collapsed, littering the floor with debris and dust. Not to mention the occasional opened locker which revealed cobwebs and abandoned notebooks. I found myself starting to wonder what might be hidden among the closed ones and shuddered.

     Upon reaching the old stairwell, I could see more fallen ceiling tiles and exposed wiring.

    “This place is starting to feel more and more like a horror movie set,” Nadine whispered as we carefully made our way down the steps.

      “And we’re headed for the boiler room where creeps like Freddy Krueger hang out,” I replied in a hushed voice, then a thought hit me. “Hey, Nadine, how about you changing back to your normal form?”

      My companion paused on the steps and gave me a curious look. “Why?”

   “Because I watched enough of those old slasher movies to know the only girl left always makes it out alive. But any guys with her, especially if they’re black like me, they’re toast,” I told her.

    Rolling her eyes, she glared at me. Then a wicked smirk crossed her face and she whispered, “See you downstairs,” and took off down the steps in a blur.

     Cursing myself for having said anything I quickly followed. And for the record I wasn’t the least bit annoyed with her for abandoning me like that. I knew damn well if she had sensed the Cannibal anywhere nearby she would never have left my side, even for a joke.

pennhurst-basement-chair-w-scott-phillips

     Just before I reached the last step a light came on and I saw my partner standing near the switch staring into the most unnerving area we’d encountered yet. Old white brick walls surrounded us on all sides, with the occasional dark hallway staring at us almost begging us to come and take a look. There was an old chair and abandoned pallet in one corner, along with some big old rusted bins that had seen better days.

     Then I noticed Nadine’s breathing sounded louder and faster. “He’s getting near… and so is someone else.” Closing her eyes she trembled slightly as she concentrated.

   ‘Going back inside his head,’ I told myself and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She seemed to appreciate it as the shaking stopped and her eyes flew open. “That way,” she snapped, pointing at one of the dark corridors.

cage

    Gun drawn I led the way. As we moved I could here noises up ahead including moaning. Quickening our pace we soon found ourselves in a huge room filled with machinery, boilers and God help me… a fucking cage with a young woman inside it. She was curled up in a ball in one corner of her prison, rocking back and forth in a rhythmic fashion that told the entire story. From what little remained of her torn clothing it was obvious she had suffered much at the Cannibal’s hands.

     This time Nadine didn’t hold back. She rushed right up to the door to the prison and ripped the thing right off its hinges and flung it aside. The sound of tearing metal seemed to cut through the girl’s almost catatonic state as she looked up and stared at the two of us, not certain if she could believe what she was seeing.

     I placed a hand on Nadine’s shoulder and whispered, “Gently, she’s been through a lot.”

      She gave me an annoyed look and then nodded. “Got it,” she replied and was about to say something else when the young woman stood up and rushed into her arms crying uncontrollably. In the distance I could hear the sirens of my fellow deputies’ cars drawing closer. No doubt the killer was nearer too.

     That’s when I heard the first hint of footsteps coming down the stairs. He was close than I’d thought.

      “Nadine!” I murmured, cocking my revolver.

      “I know,” came her muffled reply.

    Puzzled I turned and saw my companion’s face buried in the girl’s neck. “What are you…?” I began, when she turned and faced me.

      To my relief, there was no blood on her lips. “What did you do?” I asked.

    “Gave her peace,” Nadine replied and gently placed the now strangely calm victim into my arms.

     “You wiped her memories?” I hissed, in disbelief.

    “No, just gave her some strength to cope and recover with time,” my partner answered as she stepped past me.

      So she’d given the girl a bit of herself, that was a relief.  I was about to say more when our rescuee blurted, “Don’t! He’ll get you too.”

     Nadine paused and gave us both a reassuring smile. Then without saying a word, she headed out of the room.

      “What’s she going to do?” the girl asked me.

     Before I could answer a voice bellowed from the other room saying, “JOANIE! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME? I’M GOING TO…” the rest the words were lost on a cry of despair.

      The girl in my arms stiffened for a second and then became calm. “That cry, it was his voice, not hers. What’s happening?”

    “Let’s find out,” I told her and led the way out of the boiler room and down the hallway. As we moved I could hear Nadine speaking softly as we drew closer.

       “It’s all right, I’m here,” she was saying.

isolated-fight-fighting-peace-silhouette-caught-man-hand-hands-J8YFM5

     As we stepped into the white bricked room I could see my friend approaching the Cannibal who was slowly backing away until his back was pressed against the far wall.

      “DON’T TOUCH ME! I’M FINALLY THE STRONG ONE, NOT YOU!” the killer wailed, his face contorted in a mask of fury as his hands clenched into fists. Yet in spite of all that rage, his hands remained seemingly pinned to wall. But why? Then it hit me, the Sangui-Sapio was holding him back. It wasn’t about to let him harm the one who had shared her life with it.

     Nadine took another step closer then stopped and said softly, “It’s okay, you can let you go. I’ll catch you.”

     It was hard to make out in the dim light of the room but then I noticed the bullet holes in the Cannibal’s shirt began to move as if of their own accord. Peering closer I finally made out particles of deep red were slowly exiting the tears in the fabric and floating across towards Nadine’s extended hand. Once there, they seemed to disappear into the flesh of her palm, and I could see a sense of relief take over my friend.

     As the last of the stream of particles disappeared back into her, the Cannibal slumped against the wall and sat there staring at nothing.

   Then Nadine turned to us and I could see her shoulder had finally began to heal properly. Within seconds there was no trace of the injury she’d suffered earlier. Smiling she said to the girl in my arms, “It’s over, he’s done for. Let’s get you out of here.”

     I caught the faintest glimpse of green mist waft from her hand into the girl’s nostrils as she spoke. No doubt the sight of red particles coming out of the Cannibal and going into Nadine’s hand would be forgotten.

      ‘Good job,’ I mouthed to my partner as we led the girl upstairs.

    We’d just reached the top of the steps when Sheriff Parkes and several deputies appeared down the hallway. Upon seeing us they called out and quickly joined us.

     “What are you doing here…” my boss began, when he and the others unknowingly inhaled some faint green mist. After a moment, he continued, “You found her! Good job you two. What about our suspect?”

      “He’s just down those stairs in the basement…” I began when.

     “JOANIE! JOANIE YOU BITCH!” came the Cannibal’s voice from the stairwell. “I won’t let you get away this time. I’ll prove I’m stronger than you… you bitch.”

      “Get this girl out of here!” Parkes barked at our back-up.

     Two of my fellow deputies took care of our charge and moved her down the hallway to safety, while the rest of us turned to face the nightmare figure coming up the stairs.

    As the Cannibal came into view I noticed fresh blood stains had appeared exactly where he’d been hit by our bullets earlier.

     “Joanie…” he said spying Nadine, his voice was husky and his breathing more labored. “You keep coming back to prove I was never enough of a man for you… I joined the army to become stronger… and proved it overseas. I practiced on the whores I found there and found it wasn’t me it that was the problem… it was you. You never knew how to satisfy me… but they did. I taught them how, with they’re screams, their blood, their flesh.. And then I came back to show you but you’d left… and I had to find you. I had to find you over and over… and prove and prove it all over again, and again and…”

     Suddenly the man’s eyes rolled up into his head and he toppled back down the steps, ending with a sickening thud at the bottom. Even before we reached him I knew our quarry was dead.

      “It’s finally over,” one of my fellow deputies breathed.

    Parkes nodded, then turned to me saying, “You and Collins two did great tonight. Finding the girl while we had him on the run was a great move. Speaking of having him on the run, we heard from the hospital while we were chasing the bastard. Terri’s awake and identified her assailant as our friend here.”

     A wave of relief swept over me. Knowing she was out of danger really brought the entire chapter to a close for me. I made a mental note to head to the hospital as soon as we were done here. Unfortunately, there was one last piece of business to attend to here, and I wasn’t looking forward to it.

     I glanced over at Nadine who gave me a sad little smile. We had agreed back at the bar that it would probably be best for no one to remember her or her part in all of this, but I was having second thoughts about it.

     As Nadine approached I said to my boss, “You know to honest I couldn’t have done any of this without Detective Collins help. I think it would be good for us to keep her in mind if we need her expertise again down the road. She’s something of an expert in handling unusual cases.”

     “Is she?” Parkes remarked turning to her. “I know asking you to become part of our team would be a step or two down for you, but I would appreciate it if we could call upon you again in the future.”

    For a pregnant moment I half expected to see more greenish vapors, but instead Nadine smiled and extended her hand saying, “Of course. Michael… I mean Deputy Rhodes knows how to get a hold of me.”

      “Glad to hear you say that,” my boss replied taking her hand. And he wasn’t the only one. I had grown rather fond of this ‘other’ side of my Uncle Nathan, and I was happy to know may get to see/work with ‘her’ again one day.

handshake

An Entry From The Private Journal Of Doctor Jack Tyler – September 2nd, 201-

 *Greetings one and all.  Today I take great pleasure in introducing you to yet another character from “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home”.  Meet Doctor Jonathan “Jack” Tyler, or Doctor Jack as everyone calls him.  He’s another member of Nathan’s extended family, as well as a dear friend to Brian and his family.  Jack of course knows Nathan’s secret and being the town surgeon, keeps a good supply of blood on hand for him.  But Jack didn’t always know about Nathan, and he’s here to tell you all how he found out.  I hope you enjoy meeting him and hearing his tale…

Things were busy at the clinic today, as they’ve been most of the week.  With the start of school there were a lot of last minute immunizations, check-ups, summer sniffles and whatnot to deal with.  Things should quiet down for a bit, but soon it’ll be cold and flu season again.  Then of course there’ll be the holidays, not that I mind.  I love helping decorate the clinic with my staff.  I’ll also get to help with the decorations at home as well, but that won’t be for a few weeks.

God I love this time of year, seeing all the leaves turning it’s as if mother nature whipped out her most vibrant paints and started dabbing at the trees.  Looking up I saw the sun was already setting and quickly got into my car.  From there I drove out of town and soon found myself driving down some the most beautiful country roads, bordered by forest on both sides.

Turning down a well-known side road, I headed deeper into the woods until I started seeing cars dotting both sides of the street.  But I could see people heading back to their cars.  Not many folks like to wander the trails after the sun started going down, but me and my wife love it out here.  I manage to find a good spot to park near where the street actually ends in a wide circle, designed so folks can turn around and head back the way they came.  There’s also a fence with an opening that puts your right on the walking path that leads into the woods.

Getting out, I recognized a number of my patients and neighbors.  This is a popular stretch of woods and in autumn, none of us can get enough of this area.  As I make my way down the picturesque path I’m transported back to another time, some thirty years ago, when my life had taken a much darker outlook. My mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly my world of popularity on and off the playing field had become so meaningless…

My ruminations are suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a red fox who is standing in the middle of the path a dozen yards ahead of me.  The animal is looking at me and cocks its head in a curious fashion.  There had been a fox back then too, I remember.

The animal starts to swish its tail excitedly and then proceeds to trot towards me, stopping occasionally as if to check me out.  Finally, when it’s just a few feet away, it gets excited and then races around my legs and then starts heading off to the path.  It pauses briefly to stare at me and I just know I’m supposed to follow him, which I do.

Soon, I find myself deeper in the woods, listening to the crunching of the leaves beneath my feet, as well as enjoying the canopy of gold, red, yellow and green  above me.  I also keep track of my guide who keeps stopping to make sure he hasn’t lost me.  As we venture deeper into the woods the sounds of a running water reach my ears and I know for sure where I am and who’s waiting for me.

We come to a clearing that overlooks a large stream with a waterfall just off to my left.  Ahead of me there’s a big blanket spread out with my wife Cheryl setting out plates.  My son and daughter, Joe and Darlene are with her.  While over by the edge of the stream stands my mother and the man who saved her, Nathan.  Although she’s still in her late sixties, I have to admit she’s still a fine looking woman.  The fact that she wouldn’t still be here if not for our family friend and guardian, has never been lost on me or my wife.  She and I had been high school sweethearts and I’d nearly pushed her away when my mother got the cancer diagnosis, but Nathan kept me from losing her as well.

He’d found me in this very spot all those years ago and given me hope when I thought there was none to be found anywhere.  That was the day he’d also shared his secret with me and showed me that even when life throws you what seems to be the ultimate curve ball, that hope can appear out of that darkness if you just keep your eyes open.

I look up and see the sun is fading.  Soon the stars will be out.  I wonder if tonight will be the night that Nathan shares his secret with my children?  A part of me hopes so.  The truth can be frightening, but it can also be wondrous as he showed me that lonely autumn night so long ago…

TO BE CONTINUED…

“Home For Christmas: A Para-Earth Holiday Tale” – Part Two

icy barbed wire

FRIENDS AND STRANGERS

     “We have company,” Nathan heard his friend murmur, and simply nodded.

     He’d heard the approach of the car but hadn’t bothered to look up.  His mind was solely focused on the barbed wire stained with blood.

     More than one being had passed this way earlier, but the snow had already covered the tracks.  The blood appeared to be human, but he had been fooled before.  Touching a finger to the barb, he found the blood was still wet.  Without hesitation he tasted it…

     Veronica was keeping an eye on two men kneeling by the barbed wire fence across the road.  Her original intention had been to stop and ask if they’d seen a little girl, but now then she saw the one in the full length parka reaching out to the barbed wire.  He touched one of the points and then began sucking his finger.

     Normally this wouldn’t have seemed all that odd, but it was the way he’d done it.  He hadn’t pulled his finger back quickly or yelped, as if he’d hurt himself.  Instead he’d moved slowly and had the most intense look on his face.  It was that, which really caught her attention.

     She’d seen that kind of expression before on some of her fellow officers.  It was one that said a clue had been found.

     Studying them carefully she noted that neither man appeared to be armed, nor were they dressed for hunting wild game.  ‘So what were they doing around here?’ she began to wonder when a figure appeared beside her.

    “They seem to be searching for something, don’t they, Sergeant?” the newcomer observed, quietly.

     Turning she saw the familiar profile of Jason Cloudfoot, the missing girl’s uncle.  He didn’t even glance at her.  His focus was solely on the two strangers across the road.

    “Or someone,” she whispered back and stepped forward, while keeping one hand close to her gun.  “Excuse me? Have either of you gentleman seen a little girl, around nine years old, come by here?”

    The two men exchanged a look and then the younger one stood up.  “No, but someone’s come through here recently and pricked themselves on this barbed wire,” he told them.

     ‘Oh dear God let this be a lead,’ she thought and quickened her pace, totally oblivious to the fact that Jason had not followed her.

     As soon as she reached the pair, she bent down and saw that indeed someone had cut themselves on one of the points.  At a guess, she suspected it was just the right height for a nine year old girl to try and climb through.

     Unfortunately, the wind and falling snow had already erased any footprints.   “Damn, if only we knew whether it was really Julie’s blood and not some poacher who cut through here,” she muttered.

     “Is that the girl’s name?” asked the younger of the two men.

     Veronica nodded and looked at him.  From beneath the hood of his long parka, she could see he had blonde hair and a pair of eyebrows that seemed to give him a perpetual scowl.  But the warmth in his eyes hinted at a much kinder and caring nature, she hoped.

     “Yes, it is,” she told him and then asked, “How long have you two been in this area?”

Instead of answering, the young man turned to his friend who replied, “Hmm… I’d say about an hour so.”

     “I see,” she nodded and fixed her gaze at the one in the parka.  “Neither of you are from around here, may I ask your names?”

     This time the older man spoke up.  “Well, in spite all the snow that is making my beard turn white, I am not Santa Claus.  My name is Professor Otto Hofstadter, and this is my research assistant, Nathan Steward.”

     The young man smiled and gave a slight bow, which made her wonder.  For someone who had to be her age, his manners seemed a bit old-fashioned.

     She smiled politely, but silently raised her guard again.  Why had the one called Nathaniel had to check with his friend about how long they’d been here?  She’d seen similar behavior between suspects when they were being questioned when they were trying to keep their stories straight.

     Eyes narrowed she asked them, “And neither of you saw anyone else during that time?”

     The younger man shook his head. “I was inside the trailer until about five minutes ago.”

     “Doing what?” she asked curiously.

     But before either man could answer Jason joined their little group saying, “Resting, from the look of things, Sergeant.”

     “And how do you know that?” she demanded, shooting an annoyed look at him.

   “Because while you were over here asking questions, I went inside the trailer,” the tall Native American replied.  “It was wrong of me to do so I know, but as a police officer you have to follow certain rules.  Whereas I am simply a man looking for his niece, and I don’t have time to worry about social niceties.”

      She just stared at him for a moment and then shook her head.  A part of her couldn’t blame him.  Julie was his responsibility and he was obviously very afraid for her.

     Sighing she turned back to Nathaniel and his friend and briefly caught the two men exchanging strange looks, but then it was gone.  But she was sure something had just passed between them.

    But before she could form her next question the professor asked, “How long has the girl been missing?”

    “Since this morning,” Jason answered, “She developed Chicken Pox two weeks ago and had to stay with me and my family, while her parents and older brothers headed back to sea.”

     “They went on a cruise?” the one called Nathan frowned.

     “No,” Jason corrected him, “My brother and his wife are marine biologists.  Then this morning I got a call that my brother’s research vessel had been caught in a storm and all contact had been lost four days ago.  The searchers had found nothing and were now turning their efforts into a… recovery operation.”

     “And the poor girl she overheard everything and took off crying; am I right?” Professor Hofstadter asked.

    “I’m afraid so,” Jason nodded.  “Julianna has gotten into the habit of running off into the woods when she’s upset.  She says it helps her calm down and forget her troubles.”

    Veronica watched Nathan’s eyebrows furrow, giving him a more intense look than before as he asked, “What kind of troubles does she have?”

     It was a good question, she had to admit.  No one had bothered to tell her back at the station why Julie had run off.  Whoever this fellow was a part of her was starting to like him.

     “My niece is a bit overweight and has become more sensitive about it recently.  She’d been teased a lot back at school and even my own children started giving her a hard time about it until I made them stop.  They hadn’t meant any real harm since she was their cousin, but her feelings had been hurt so she was still feeling very emotional.  Then when the call came she overheard and took off before any of us realized what had happened,” Jason explained.

     “The poor thing,” Veronica sighed, feeling more determined than ever to find the girl.  “Assuming the blood on the barbed wire is Julie’s…”

     “It is,” she heard Nathan murmur almost inaudibly, and did a double-take.

      Staring at him she said quietly, “I though you said you hadn’t seen anyone come through here?”

“I didn’t,” he replied and looked her straight in the eye.  “But every fiber of my body is screaming that it was her.”  Then he turned and stared out into the field.  “There’s a little girl out there and she needs to be found NOW!  It’s going to be dark within the hour and the temperature is dropping fast.”

     Hearing the same thoughts she’d had back at the station, struck a tone within Veronica.  “I take it you both want to help?”

    “Absolutely,” Professor Hofstadter, “Now since we already suspect she came this way, I suggest the four of us start searching from here and stay in contact by radio.”

     Veronica looked at him, “Do you have any on you?”

    “Back in the trailer, come.  You can call in more help from your station while we’re at it,” the older man suggested as they headed back across the road, while Jason and Nathan remained at the fence.

 trailer

      Nathan stared out at the white expanse.  A part of him had hoped that the girl’s uncle would have gone with Otto and the policewoman, so he could send out a small search party of his own.  But the man had stayed behind and was watching him out of the corner of his eye.  The fellow obviously suspected something.  He’d admitted to going inside the trailer to search for the girl.  Had he found the refrigeration unit with the supply of blood bags?

      As if knowing his thoughts the tall man said quietly, “You have been places where no other man has set foot before, haven’t you?”

    Nathan caught the unspoken hint in those words.  The first time he’d met Otto back a similar conversation had sprouted up between them in a similar manner.  He studied the man for a moment and noted his skin tone and long black hair.  Surely he was of Native American descent.  He also held himself in a manner that more than hinted at authority.

     “Yes,” he said finally.  “Do any of the stories or legends of your tribe speak of strange places that few have ever suspected were real?”

    “They do,” his companion nodded, “In fact I know them all.  You see it is my responsibility to know all things pertaining to my people: our traditions, medicines, and folklore.”

     Upon hearing this Nathan turned to his companion and looked up at him in surprise.  “You’re a shaman?”

The man nodded.  “And I know many things, including that such places as you and I have been discussing do exist.  One of my people from long ago, before we called ourselves Seneca, entered one of those places.”

     “By accident?”

     “No, he went by choice to find a way to save our people from a being that did not belong in this world.”

     “And did he succeed?” Nathan asked quietly.

    “Indeed he did,” said his new acquaintance with pride, “There was no way to send the thing back, but he brought an object with him that allowed us to imprison the creature and keep it from harming others ever again.”

     Nathan smiled and nodded, but a part of him was troubled.  “Was he the same when he came back from that other place?”

     “Yes, but he was more wise than before.  He had seen and learned much during his period in that other reality that was so much like ours, yet so different,” here the man paused to at him and added solemnly, “You were not as fortunate.”

     “Depends on who you ask,” Nathan replied with a sigh.  “My life has been extended far beyond that of any man.  But my body’s requirements changed.”

    “Yes, I found that which you keep cold and hidden from sight,” the one called Jason nodded.  “Tell me, did you enter that other place by choice?”

     “No, it happened purely by chance,” Nathan told him.  “I was a soldier, fighting to protect others.”

     “Drafted?”

     “Volunteered.”

     “Then you had a good heart,” his companion nodded, staring out into the empty field.

     Behind them Nathan could hear Otto and the police sergeant starting to head back their way.  “Our friends are about to rejoin us,” he murmured just loud enough for the other man to hear.

     “I know,” Jason replied without looking at him.  “Can you tell me one thing?  Did you find that your heart had changed after you came back?”

     Without pause, Nathan shook his head.  “No, I’m still the same man I was before.”

     Jason studied the stranger carefully.  Deep down he sensed that the man before him, was indeed a good person.  But still he had to be sure.  “Then please show me,” he told the fellow.  “If you have any gifts that can help me find my niece, please use them and know that you’re secret will be safe.  It getting dark and the snow is getting worse.”

     For several seconds nothing happened.

    Then he noticed the young man’s brow furrow in concentration.  A moment later, the fellow’s right hand disappeared into the sleeve of his jacket. This was followed by the arm of the jacket slowly ‘deflating’ as if the arm that occupied it was shrinking or withering away.

   As Jason stared in wonder, his sharp eyes detected movement within the rest of the coat, as if dozens of tiny creatures were racing down towards the man’s feet.

Suddenly a flurry of mice, the color of blood, began emerging from beneath the edges of Nathan’s floor-length parka.  The creatures began racing across the open field began to slowly spread out in various directions.

    “If they find any trace of your niece, I’ll know,” he heard the young man whisper as the last of the mice emerged and joined their brethren across the snow.

   “Thank you, my friend,” Jason smiled placed a hand on his companion’s shoulder, knowing full well that there was no longer an arm attached.

snowfall at night

TO BE CONTINUED…

“Home For Christmas: A Para-Earth Holiday Tale” – Part One

A note from the author:  My original intention had been to complete this particular holiday story and release it as a free short story on Smashwords on Christmas.  Unfortunately, due to time constraints I was not able to create a cover or do most of the usual more serious editing that I wanted.  So instead, I’m presenting this tale in installments, that will continue until Christmas Day where the last part of the story will be told.  

I will do another in this style for next Christmas as well, thus starting my own tradition for you my readers.  But I will also be re-releasing this story in full as either a very small novella/short story on Smashwords complete with full editing, a proper cover, AND… hopefully some pen and ink illustrations to accompany the tale.  

I do hope you’ll enjoy this tale of the season which includes my first crossover.  What I mean by that is that this is the first time Nathaniel will be meeting some of the established characters from my first published novel “The Bridge”.  Those familiar with that novel will see some familiar faces here, but set sixteen years in the past before the events of the novel.  Will we see these characters and my vampyre Nathaniel meet again?  We’ll have to wait and see.  In the meantime, please enjoy this story.   The next installment will be up tomorrow followed by more each day until Christmas.  Enjoy…

town

A LOST GIRL

New Swindon, Connecticut, December 23rd, 1999

     “She’s only been missing for eight hours, Sarge,” said the patrolman, shifting his feet uneasily.  His superior had her back to him as she stared out the window, not moving.  Even the looser strands of red hair, sticking out of her ponytail seemed unnaturally still.  This made him uneasy.

      Ever since the summer she’d become solemn and hard.  She could also be more unpredictable than a volcano.  “Technically, it’s not a missing person case until twenty-four hours have passed,” he added nervously.

      Finally she broke her silence and replied in a quiet voice “The temperature is already dropping and it’s starting to snow.”

      “Everyone’s keeping an eye out for her already, Sarge,” he pointed out and immediately regretted it.

       Sergeant Ross spun around so fast that her pony tail wound up slapping her in the face, which did not seem to improve her mood.  “Keeping an eye out isn’t the same as actively searching for her!” she snapped.  “We’ve already got one girl missing with no leads.  I… we don’t want another.”

     The patrolman took a step back.  He’d heard that red-heads could have a fierce temper, but up until now he’d never believed it.  A part of him silently began praying for some kind of diversion that would allow him to leave the room as quickly as possible.

       Just then another voice joined the conversation.

      “No we don’t, Sergeant.”

      ‘Note to self,’ he thought breathing a sigh of relief, ‘Stop by the local church and drop a few extra dollars in the donation box.’  Then he turned his head ever so slightly and watched their boss enter the room.

     The man’s craggy features made him look like he was always scowling, so you always had to watch his manner and tone of voice.   But even then he could prove quite disarming and trip you up before you realized what had happened.  More than one suspect had fallen into that trap which was what had led to his appointment as head of the New Swindon Police Department seven years ago.

      Since his arrival, Chief Petersen had made a number of improvements in their department. They had doubled the number of officers and would soon be moving to a new and much larger facility.  For now they were still located in the town’s original station which was located in the middle of downtown.  He’d also brought in Sergeant Ross to act as his second-in-command, two years ago.

      Unlike their boss she had a manner that could be quite disarming, which had been a big help in dealing with the local youths.  In fact she’d proven to be one of the most effective officers in helping the more troublesome offenders.

      But ever since the night that girl disappeared from the Graham estate, she’d become harder and less patient, even with her subordinates.

      Just then, Petersen turned to him and said, “Why don’t you round up as many volunteers as you can to start looking for little Julie, Jenkins?” their boss told him.

      “Don’t you mean men, Chief?”

    “Women too,” his boss replied, “Remember we’re dealing with a little girl.  According to her Uncle Jason, she was pretty upset and might respond better to a woman being around.”

      “In that case I’ll head out as well,” Sergeant Ross announced, “Where was she last seen?”

      Petersen held up his hand to stop her before he answered.  “She was heading off into the woods to the east of the Cyrus Graham’s home.”

      Jenkins noted the look that passed between his two superiors and quickly left.

      He moved quickly down the hallway thinking, ‘Great, that place again.  We’re going to need a lot more people, the grounds there are huge.’

     Leaving the station, he headed for the local tavern just a block away.  There was always a good crowd there at this hour.  And most of clientele would have just gotten off work and would only be on their first or second drink.  He should be able to round up a good number of volunteers there, plus he could use a quick shot himself.  He’d also grab a little brandy to take with him just in case they needed it for the girl when and if they found her…

     “I can handle going out there, Roy,” Veronica told her boss evenly.  They were alone, so she knew it was okay to call him by his first name.  He had been her first partner back in New York City, ten years ago.  And in spite of the fifteen year difference in their ages, they’d become the best of friends.  So when he left to become chief of police way up here in northern Connecticut, she’d felt as if a part of herself had gone away.  Of course she’d had other partners, but it had never been the same.  Plus, the city seemed to become meaner over time.

      So when Roy came back to visit her two years ago, she was more than ready to accept his offer to become his second-in-command, in this this rural community of twenty-five thousand.  She’d been able to do so much good since coming here, but she’d also suffered some failures…

      “Are you sure?” her old partner asked gently, interrupting her reverie.

       Looking up at him, she nodded.

     Unfortunately, he didn’t seem convinced.  “I know you, Ronnie.  You’re still upset about what became of that girl who disappeared the night Cyrus Graham had that heart attack that put him in a coma.”

      “Yes, I am,” she admitted in a controlled voice.  “And I’m still hoping he’ll come out of it one day soon and be able to tell us what happened to Rachel.  But right now we have another girl missing out that way and she needs to be found before it gets too dark out.  The snow is already falling and we’re wasting time.”

      Roy studied her for a moment and nodded.  “All right, get over to Jason’s place.  It’s located on the grounds of Cyrus’ estate near that old stone bridge.  That’s where the girl took off from.”

      As she started for the door, he added, “Be careful out there, Rookie.  I don’t want you getting lost in the snow.”

    That made her smile.  Even after ten years, she still found the nickname amusing.  “I’ll be careful,” she assured him and left.

     Halfway down the hall she could feel his eyes watching her.  So she decided to give him some of his own medicine.

     Upon reaching the front doors she called over her shoulder, “Don’t wait up for me, Oldtimer!”

She barely caught the words, “Who are you calling old, you snot-nosed…?” as the door closed behind her.

*   *   *   *   *

snow-covered-barb-wire-fence-12653362

      Parked off to the side of the road at a rest stop, sat an old station wagon, with a box-like travel trailer attached.  A picnic table with benches stood nearby.  Both table and seats were covered in a layer of snow at least four inches deep.  But this was old snow which had lost some of its white luster.  Another layer was already building, giving both bench and table and icy layered cake effect.  Beyond the table a gradual slope rose up a dozen feet or so, before sinking downwards and disappearing among the trees.

    However, the driver of the vehicle was taking little notice of the wintery scene around him.  Instead, he was standing near the edge of the road where the asphalt ended and frozen ground began.  He was an older man, with curly greying hair, and a matching beard and moustache.  Standing up, he placed his hands on his slightly pronounced abdomen.  “Yes, most curious,” he said to himself in a heavy German accent.

      “Find something, Otto?” came a voice from the vicinity of his vehicle.

    Turning the driver smiled at the sandy-blonde young man who was stepping from the travel-trailer.  He had a slender build and was dressed in a heavy winter parka that stretched all the way down to the ground.  Although he had just emerged from the warm compartment, his face seemed awfully pink.

    “The sun is still up, albeit behind the clouds,” the older man called Otto remarked.  “I didn’t expect you to be up until after it had set.  Is something the matter, Nathan?”

    “I’m not sure,” the young man replied scanning their surroundings with his eyes.  “I… I felt a presence.”

     “Blonde, brunette or red-head?” Otto teased.

      But his friend didn’t answer.  Instead, he found Nathan staring into the open field across the road.  A barbed wire fence had been erected to keep interlopers out of the rows of corn that normally grew there.  On this day however, the field hosted only a wide expanse of snow that ended at the line of woods that bordered it on three sides.  The uniformity of the treetops was interrupted by the occasional sloping of a hill, where some pines rose above their brethren and silently stood watch over the open field.

      “What do you see?” Otto asked after several moments had passed.

     “Nothing, but I smell something,” Nathan replied and quickly made his way across the road.  Once there he started to examine the barbed wire carefully.

      From what Otto could see there was nothing unusual or odd about the fence, no wait.  One section seemed newer than the rest.  It was hard to notice at first, because the wire had built up a layer of rust over the years, but the posts it was attached to were fresher by comparison to the others.

     Suddenly Nathan stopped and knelt down in front of one section of the fence.  Reaching a hand out he touched one of the barbs and that’s when Otto saw it, a red glistening stain on one of the metal points.

     He barely remembered to check if the road was clear of oncoming traffic, before running over to join his friend.

White Wolf

     Emerging from among the trees a lone wolf slowly padded down the slope and stopped near the picnic table.  Its fur was snow white, which allowed the animal to blend in with his surroundings.  Watching the two strangers intently it slowly made its way over to where the station wagon and travel trailer stood.  Keeping behind the vehicles so as not to be noticed, the great beast began sniffing around.

     Both men’s scents were unlike anything it had encountered before, yet there was also something familiar about their smells.  Remembering its mission, the wolf began sniffing around the area. In particular is spent a lot of time around the trailer where the younger man had emerged.  Besides his odd scent, the beast also detected another familiar smell, human blood.

     Just then the breeze picked up and began to come from across the road.  Immediately, the animal raised its head.  Its delicate nose had detected another scent, one the animal knew very well.

     The wolf eyed the two men suspiciously and was about to approach them when its sensitive ears detected the approach of a vehicle.  Looking up, the beast saw the car in question had red and blue lights on top.  Without hesitation, the snow-white animal quickly made its way back up and over the slope.

     A few seconds later, a new figure appeared.  It was a man, with long black hair, and high strong cheekbones.  Without hesitation he made his way down the steep incline with all the sure-footedness of a deer.

     He reached the bottom just as the patrol pulled up behind the travel trailer.  As soon as the driver began to emerge from the vehicle, he immediately recognized the flame-red pony-tail trailing down her back.  Delighted, he was about to call out to her when he noticed one of the two men across the road do something, disturbing.

TO BE CONTINUED…

An Important Announcement About “The Vampyre Blogs” Novel Release Date…

For those of you who don’t already know, I started attending the California State University at Monterey Bay in August and the workload had been fairly manageable, until recently.  Things are heating up and I have less and less time to work on “The Vampyre Blogs”.  I had planned on getting the latest draft finished, edited, beta-read, etc. so I could have it out in time for this Christmas.

 Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.  I’m afraid I’m one of those authors will not release a book until it’s had all those things done to it.  Currently, I’m still trying to finish the 2nd draft and I’m still not entirely happy with the piece.  Plus I haven’t even started on a cover for the book.  I do have this, which I made on my computer.
However, I’m not totally sold on this version really.  I’d prefer to try and do a soft pastel piece like I did with my other two novels.  But instead of doing the entire cover in soft pastel, I’d like to create more of a background and then super-impose the image I have on top of the background.  In short, I’d like a nice blend of the two and that’s going to take time.

All this is bad enough, but there is also the issue of the holidays getting closer and closer.  I’d still need to get the novel to my beta-readers, but they’re going to be busy with family stuff like cooking, visiting, and shopping.  I don’t feel right asking them to take time out of their schedules to read the book and give me their feedback.  That wouldn’t be right.

So I’m going to continue to finish the 2nd draft and getting it edited and whatnot over the holidays.  Then I’ll be sending beta-versions out in January and doing another draft after that.  I hope to have it all done my March, but I won’t be releasing it then.  Instead the book will come out in late October to coincide with Halloween.  Why wait until then?  Because the story begins in early fall and ends just around Halloween, thus making it a a more seasonal novel.

Now for anyone worried they have to wait for more Nathaniel and company until then, never fear because I’m still going to be posting more mini-stories here.  Plus, I’m working on a special ‘free’ short story for this Christmas that will involve Nathaniel and several characters from my other novels in the Para-Earth Series.  Anyone who’s read “The Bridge” or “The Ship” will be pleased to see some old friends as well as our favorite Civil War vampyre.

I’ll be releasing the short story through Smashwords which carries e-book formats for all the new e-readers and laptops people will be getting as gifts.  You’ll find Mobi (for Kindle), Nook, Apple, Sony,  Phones, and even plain good old PDF for those who just have a computer/laptop.  And in the spirit of the season, the story will be “FREE”.  So stay tuned.  I’ll be announcing more as the day draws near.

Finally, I want to also let you all know that Nathan will not be a one-book wonder.  I intend to keep him going for some time.  When you’ve got someone who’s over a 150 years old, you got a lot of room for many tales.  I’m even considering making an anthology filled with short stories from different eras he’s lived though.  But that’s a little ways down the road.  For now, I’ll leave you with the following list of novels I’m working on and their intended release dates for the next 2-3 years:

October/December 2015 “The Vampyre Blogs – Coming Home”

In 1862 Nathaniel Steward was only sixteen years old. He left home to fight in the Union Army, knowing the experience might change him. He had no idea how much it would. Now, 150 years later, he’s finally coming back to what he thinks is an empty manor. What he doesn’t know is someone has been waiting, and some ‘thing’ is following him, a being that does no belong in this world.

Coming Mid-2016 “In The Shadow Of The Door – Book 1”

Cassandra’s ghostly protector Brandon has always been an enigma to many. Now, we get to hear his story which will lead directly up to the events that took place in my third book, “The Door”.

Coming December, 2016, “The Vampyre Blogs – Family Ties”

Nathaniel is back and he’s not alone. A mystery involving a member of his family has arisen, but so has an old enemy. New dangers arise that threaten not only those he loves, but his entire hometown. Like any soldier he will fight to protect his place of birth, but it may cost him his very existence.

Coming Mid-2017 – “In The Shadow Of The Door – Book 2”

Brandon’s story continues as he and his uncle continue to struggle with the family curse that everyone believed was over. The threat has been thwarted but not ended and time is running out. Soon the door will be reopened and nothing will be able to stop what will come out of it if they don’t seal it for good first.

Coming in December 2017, “Harlequin House”

When Alex Hill was only twelve years old he went inside the most haunted place on the planet as part of a team of paranormal investigators from the university his older cousin Rick was attending.
  Within those walls he watched most of the team die one by one, and barely got out with his sanity intact.  He swore nothing would ever make him go back.
Tonight he will enter the place the very place that has haunted his dreams for the last twenty years, to save his father. Will he be as fortunate this time?

OTHER BOOKS IN THE PARA-EARTH SERIES THAT ARE AVAILABLE NOW FOR ALL E-READERS AND IN TRADE PAPERBACK:

 

THE BRIDGE

Alex Hill buried his psychic talents for eighteen years. But with the scream of tires and twisting metal all this changes. Upon learning his girlfriend Police Sergeant Veronica Ross was nearly run down by two teens he becomes concerned. But when he learns both the driver and passenger had been dead for almost twelve hours when they nearly ran her down, he knows what he must do…
*NOTE: You can sample the book for free at:
 

THE SHIP

What starts as a simple surfing lesson, turns into a struggle for survival for billionaire heiress Cassandra Elliott and her new love interest the Seneca shamaness Julie Cloudfoot.
Cassandra is knocked off her board by an unseen assailant who leaves a terrifying gash in her wetsuit, along with a small red mark on her leg. Soon terrifying visions of a ghost ship begin haunting the heiress’ dreams. She also begins to find herself strangely drawn to the sea whenever a strange fogbank appears in the distance.
Something hiding within the miasma, but what does it want from her, and what connection does the entity have with the legendary “Lost Colony of Roanoke” and the tribe of Tuscarora Indians who Julie is distantly related to…

Nathaniel’s Blog April 3rd, 201- “My Visit to Marye’s Heights”

 

I visited Mary’s Heights over in Virginia today.  It’s something I try to do every year.  Partly to pay my respects to my Union brothers who fell that day, as well as to those from the Confederate side who took pity that night cold December night.  War can be hell, but it can also bring out a certain decency among men when the shooting stops even for just a little while.  I was there… sort of.  Or rather, I could see everything from where I landed up.

Like so many others I was badly wounded, but out of anyone’s reach.  However, the thing I passed through which led to my current condition, was still open.  I could see down onto the battlefield and saw all that transpired.

Those wounded during battle, like myself, who could not drag themselves to safety had been left where they fell.  Still alive and crying piteously for water.  But no one dared go out into the open for fear of being shot.  There were hundreds of them

Night had fallen, the guns and the cannons had gone quiet.  But silence was nowhere to be found.  The screams and the cries for water from the wounded left on the battlefield still echo in my ears.  But what happened the next morning is etched into my memory like a treasure.

The legend of the Angel of Marye’s Heights comes into question at times, but I saw what transpired.  Admittedly, I was drifted in and out of consciousness occasionally, but I was awake enough to see the Confederate soldier carefully climb over that stone wall and take those first tentative steps onto the battlefield where thousands of Union soldiers lay, many still alive.

The fellow was armed with dozens of water canteens, blankets and little else.  I remember silently praying that no one from my side would take a shot at him as he carefully made his way to the nearest Union soldier and gave him water and a blanket.  He made my brother soldier as comfortable as possible, before moving on to the next  man.  I didn’t know the man in gray’s name, but I wished like crazy to shake his hand and offer a word of thanks for what he was doing.  He went back for more water and blankets time and again.  I also prayed that by some miracle he’d look up and see where I was and could show me some of that compassion, but his eyes were fixed on those before him.

Eventually, I passed out and when I awoke again all was quiet.  The battlefield was quiet, I vaguely recall crying out myself, hoping someone would hear and take pity on me, either with a bullet or medical aid.  Of course, no one heard and if they did my voice would’ve seemed to come out of thin air.

Although I say ‘no one’ heard me, something else did and made me what I am now.  Eventually, I managed to fall back onto the battlefield, partly to escape a menace that still haunts my dreams.  It was night and I remember falling next to one of my fellow soldiers.  He’d been stripped of his wool uniform by some poorly dressed southerner who had been desperate to keep warm.  How do I know this?  Because of the person who mistook me lying next to my fallen comrade as a another dead body.  I saw into his mind as I sank my teeth into him and tasted blood for the first time.

Miraculously, I did not kill him.  I was too taken aback by my own actions to finish the job.  The thirst was still with me though and it took every ounce of self-control to keep from indulging in the fluid pumping through his veins.  However, I managed to make myself let him go and slaked my thirst with the more stale blood of my fallen friends.  At least in their case, I did not have to see the terror I inspired as I took from them what my altered form demanded.

To this day, I prefer my blood to be in bags or from a willing volunteer who’s mind will not hold terror or fear of me.  Instead I will see and feel the friendship that drives them to making the gesture.  I find their thoughts a great comfort on those occasions.

On this day, as I venture out onto the field where I fought I feel the pull from above and know the opening to the place I went is still there.   I do not sense presence from it though and allow myself a sigh of relief.  This is the other reason I keep coming back to this place.  I keep hoping to find the ‘door’ or whatever it was I passed through to be closed.  Perhaps it does and it’s merely my presence that makes it open again.

I make a sweep of the area anyway and find nothing amiss.  After a while I bend down and offer a prayer up to my fallen friends who lost their lives in this place all those years ago.  Then I stand up and head off to a particular memorial.

It’s a beautiful piece that helps renew my faith in man’s ability to show compassion even in the heat of war.  There etched in the dark stone I see the name “Richard Rowland Kirkland” the man I saw bringing water and aid to my injured brethren in arms.  I quietly offer a quiet thank you to his memory and move on.  Although he never reached me to offer water or comfort, his actions that day did feed my soul with hope and a desire to be as good a man as I could be in spite of what I’d become, a vampyre with a human heart.