A Parker Brothers Mystery
by Bob Freeman
Landon Connors focused all of his energy, tapping into long dormant reserves of magickal power. He had one shot at this, at destroying the fell creature before him, but between him and it was his lover. He couldn’t risk her being harmed by the eldritch storm he so desperately needed to release, but to not act in that instant, far more than she was in danger.
Michele Hawkes dove to the ground at Connors’ command, rolling as she did so, her sidearm trained on the grim figure standing in the doorway that led to third floor balcony. Black robes clung to his bloated corpse, his flesh mottled and scarred. Still, she recognized the man he once was. When living he was renowned, even feared, throughout the community of Nightstalkers. In death he was far worse.
“Chadwick Underwood,” Connors raged, “you are unwelcome here, foul Lich!”
Even as he spoke the words he released the spell. Blue-white fire spread from the occult detective’s fingertips forming arcane sigils as they enveloped the undead sorcerer. A laugh echoed forth as Underwood stepped through the magickal discharge unscathed.
“Your father was no match for me, nor his father before him,” Underwood said. “Did you really think that you’d stand a shadow of a chance against me with your childish incantations and pyrotechnics?” He raised his hands to his head, pressing against his temples, thumbs out and up. “There’s more to being a wizard than bells and whistles, boy.” His eyes turned cold and black. “You also need panache.”
Black smoke billowed from the lich’s eyes to swirl about Connors’ magick circle, searching for a weakness in the intricate web of astral symbols the occult detective had weaved. The tendrils of smoke struck like vipers as beads of sweat poured from Connors’ brow. It was all he could do to keep the lich’s dark energy at bay. He felt himself weaken even as he heard Michelle’s sidearm erupt, firing off six quick rounds before the fiend’s attention was drawn to her. A single strand of hellish smoke licked out at her, flinging her across the room where she crumbled unconscious from the violent collision with the far wall.
“No!” Connor screamed, his concentration broken. He knew better and he silently cursed himself as Underwood’s dark magick engulfed him. The smoke breached his magickal barrier at that moment, pouring into his mouth and eyes. His consciouness wavered as his very lifeforce became choked by the cthonic malediction. As he sank further into the great abyss where death waited like a forlorn inamorata, he heard a feral and ravenous growl, and then there was nothing but the cold embrace of oblivion.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Sarah barked, grabbing Allen’s arm as he started off to join his brother. Dale was a few yards ahead, following the trail of the werewolf into the bowels of Cairnwood Manor. The four young adventurers had all seen the bursts of light coming from the upper floor of the manor house and heard the barrage of gunfire, all from the place that the unimaginable beast had only moments before entered.
“Damn it, Sarah,” he replied, “this is what we do.”
“What? March off to be killed?” Tears poured down her cheeks. “Just leave it alone, Allen. Please. We need to just…”
“I’m sorry,” he said. He took her hand and kissed it. “I’ve got to.” Allen released her and headed off to where his brother waited by the shattered manor doors, the Liber Monstrorum tucked under one arm. He paused and looked back to the two girls now huddled together beneath the cruel October moon. “We’ll be alright.”
“How can you be so sure?” Cassidy asked.
“Because we’re the Parker brothers,” he said with a sheepish grin. He caught up with Dale and the two entered the ancient relic.
The brothers swept the foyer with their flashlights and crossed the room to the once magnificent staircase. They could hear the sound of struggle from overhead, violent and ferocious. They picked up the pace as they raced up the stairs, across the second floor landing, and then upward toward the third floor. They could hear the beast roar with a mixture of pain and fury amid concussive blasts of something neither young man could identify, but the smell as they moved across the third floor was almost enough to force them to turn back — a combination of sulfur and burnt flesh.
“You ready?” Dale asked. He stopped at the smashed entryway into the manor library and pulled a revolver from the holster in the small of his back.
Allen looked scared, but he steeled himself. “As I’ll ever be.”
“Here,” Dale said, handing the gun to his little brother.
“Whoa, what are you doing, bro?”
Dale smiled and thumped the book with his hand, “Keeping my hands free for this.”
Allen took the lead and entered the room, gun in his right hand, up and ready, steadied by his left. As his eyes focused on the carnage before them he thought of Sarah and wondered if she’d been right. Maybe they should have hightailed it out of Cairnwood Cemetery and never looked back. He was sure that none of their training, none of their studies, had prepared them for this.
End, Part the Fourth
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