Today I’m taking a look at three #tarot / oracle decks from @LlewellynBooks and @loscarabeotarot

Posted in Book Review, Tarot on January 18, 2022 by Occult Detective

As you know, I collect Tarot and Oracle Cards. I love getting my hands on a new deck, wrapping my head around the art and test driving them through a couple of weeks of divinatory practices. I’ve been at this a long time. Over thirty years ago, it’s how I made my money for deviant extracurricular activities. I still read for small gatherings, parties, and the like, and I have done daily readings for myself for nearly forty years.

I have three decks I’ve been meaning to comment on, all I received before COVID came to visit for the holidays. While I’m still not 100%, it seems like the right time to share these with you.

Goetia – Tarot in Darkness

This deck is a masterpiece of deep art inspired by the esoteric lore of the Lesser Key of Salomon. Teeming with demons and spirits and rendered in a subdued palette of greys and blacks, this stark imagery pierces through to the innermost spirit of the reader. Designed to show that darkness is nothing if not a path to the light, the Goetia―Tarot in Darkness also reveals that the unconscious is nothing if not a mirror of your true conscious self.

Boxed deck (2¾ x 4¾) includes a 78-card deck and instructional booklet.

♠♠♠ — The artwork in this deck is simply amazing. Easily the most impressive, and as a student of Goetia, I marvel at the amount of work that went into bringing this to life. There are some minor quibbles, however. The print in the booklet is abysmally small. I ended up reading most of it with a magnifying glass. Also, some of the cards are a little too dark. But all in all, a delight to own. This is not a deck I would use lightly. It is definitely a deck for “special occasions”.

Goetia – Tarot in Darkness is priced at just $26.95 though I see that it is currently out of stock at Llewellyn and Amazon, so you may need to track it down through secondary markets, or patiently await its restocking.

Manara Erotic Oracle

An oracle for those choosing to believe in sex, not as a myth, but rather as an experience. Following the long-standing success of the Manara Erotic Tarot, these oracle cards combine the enticing art of the famed Milo Manara with astrology and chakra to create surprising and insightful readings, especially on very complex subjects.

Boxed deck (4 x 5¼) includes a 35-card deck and instructional booklet

♠♠♠♠ — Milo Manara is a talented artist of erotica and I believe that if you are a fan Milo’s art, or of sensual art in general, you will not be disappointed here. These are fantastically illustrated and I found as an oracle, surprisingly insightful. Very intuitive. Personally, these cards would not find their way into any sort of public rotation, but this is a deck that will certainly serve me at home. I recommend these highly.

The Manara Erotic Oracle is priced at 19.95, a real bargain, and readily available through Llewellyn or Amazon.

Folk Cards of Destiny: Antica Cartomanzia

Harkening back to an era when divination was conducted with playing cards, the Folk Cards of Destiny is sure to occupy a unique and privileged position in any collection. Reflecting the whimsical, everyday scenes and motifs found on some of these early divination cards, this deck provides a fascinating reading experience. Based on an eighteenth-century deck by renowned printer Dondorf, the artwork brings a deep sense of imagination and nostalgia for a style of divinatory reflection that may just open a new chapter in your own contemporary spiritual quest.

Boxed deck (2¾ x 4¾) includes a 36-card deck and instructional booklet

♠♠♠♠½ — I’ve saved my favorite for last. I can’t quite explain it, but I really connected with these so-called Folk Cards of Destiny. I love the artwork. Every reading was a treat, with a true sense of wonder, discovery, and insight found. I’ve always had a fondness for traditional cartomancy decks, and this fits the bill. Of the three decks I’m sharing today, this is the deck that will be revisited often.

Best yet, the Folk Cards of Destiny are priced at a mere $18.95. Available at Llewellyn or Amazon, you definitely want this deck in your collection.

Girls and Boys Come Out to Play

Posted in Archive, Horror, Tarot on January 17, 2022 by Occult Detective

Girls and boys, come out to play,
The moon doth shine as bright as day;
Leave your supper, and leave your sleep,
And come with your playfellows into the street.
Come with a whoop, come with a call,
Come with a good will or not at all.
Up the ladder and down the wall,
A halfpenny roll will serve us all.
You find milk, and I’ll find flour,
And we’ll have a pudding in half an hour.

Still feeling the weight of my recent bout with COVID and some other unfortunate events over the past 40 days, give or take. I will, if the gods are willing and the creek don’t rise, see to publishing some reviews on Tuesday.

I leave you with this shot of the lovely Michaela Tippett modeling Amber Petty’s Tarot Tea House merch featuring “The High Priestess” from a Tarot Deck I designed what feels like a lifetime ago.

50 Years of #Kolchak

Posted in Occult Detectives on January 11, 2022 by Occult Detective

The TV movie, The Night Stalker, aired January 11, 1972, less than two months shy of my sixth birthday. I was enthralled, to say the least, and while I didn’t know it at the time, the adventures of the intrepid reporter sparked a love for the occult detective genre that still has me in its clutches now 50 years later.

I owe a lot to Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson, and to Darren McGavin of course. They took Jeff Rice’s unpublished novel and made something truly remarkable, something that improved upon the source, and sparked the imagination of a child living in the rural Midwest, promising that those things that go bump in the night were worth pursuing.

12th Annual Occult Detective Awards

Posted in Occult Detective Awards on January 3, 2022 by Occult Detective

BEST OCCULT DETECTIVE NOVEL
2010 — A Gathering of Crows by Brian Keene
2011 — Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis
2012 — Tortured Spirits (Jake Helman Files) by Gregory Lamberson
2013 — Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas
2014 — The Last of the Albatwitches by Brian Keene
2015 — Human Monsters (Jake Helman Files) by Gregory Lamberson
2016 — The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
2017 — HeX-Rated by Jason Ridler
2018 — The Outsider by Stephen King
2019 — Starry Wisdom by Peter Levenda
2020 — The Wise Friend by Ramsey Campbell
2021 — The Ice Coven by Max Seeck

BEST OCCULT DETECTIVE SHORT STORY
2010 — Ghosts Templar (Jason Dark: Ghost Hunter) by Guido Henkel
2011 — The Hellfire Club by William Meikle
2012 — Gathered Dust by W.H. Pugmire
2013 — In the Dark and Quiet by Joshua Reynolds
2014 — Bedlam in Yellow by William Meikle
2015 — Seeking Whom He May Devour by Joshua Reynolds
2016 — The Watcher at the Gate by William Meikle
2017 — When Soft Voices Die by Amanda DeWees
2018 — The Case of the Black Lodge by Aaron Vlek
2019 — Occult Legion: He is the Gate by James A. Moore and Charles R. Rutledge
2020 — Every Man and Every Woman Is a Star by Nick Mamatas
2021 — Blood Relation by James A. Moore and Charles R. Rutledge

BEST OCCULT DETECTIVE ANTHOLOGY/MAGAZINE
2010 — The Black Spiral: Twisted Tales of Terror, edited by Richard D. Weber
2011 — House of Fear, edited by Jonathon Oliver
2012 — A Cat of Nine Tales, edited by Tracy DeVore and Thaddeus Sexton
2013 — Weird Detectives, edited by Paula Guran
2014 — The Weiser Book of Horror and the Occult, edited by Lon Milo DuQuette
2015 — A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests, edited by Joshua Reynolds & Miles Boothe
2016 — The Weiser Book of the Fantastic and Forgotten, edited by Judika Illes
2017 — The Weiser Book of Occult Detectives, edited by Judika Illes
2018 — Occult Detective Quarterly: Number 4 / Spring 2018
2019 — Occult Detective Magazine: Number 6 / Fall 2019
2020 — Centralia, edited by Cullen Bunn and Heath Amodio
2021 — An Unholy Thirst: Fifteen Vampire Tales, edited by Cliff Biggers & Charles R. Rutledge

BEST OCCULT DETECTIVE/HORROR COLLECTION
2010 — Occultation and Other Stories by Laird Barron
2011 — Eldritch Tales: A Miscellany of the Macabre by HP Lovecraft
2012 — The Complete John Thunstone by Manly Wade Wellman
2013 — The Small Hand & Dolly by Susan Hill
2014 — Hitmen by Greg Mitchell
2015 — Night Music by John Connolly
2016 — The Midnight Eye Files Omnibus, Vol 1 by William Meikle
2017 — Carnacki: The Edinburgh Townhouse & Other Stories by William Meikle
2018 — We Are Where the Nightmares Go by C. Robert Cargill
2019 — Case Files of the Royal Occultist: Monmouth’s Giants by Josh Reynolds
2020 — Conquer by Edward Erdelac
2021 — Rainbringer: Zora Neale Hurston Against The Lovecraftian Mythos by Edward Erdelac

BEST OCCULT DETECTIVE AUDIO DRAMA/PODCAST
2010 — Edict Zero-FIS by Slipgate Nine Entertainment
2011 — Edict Zero-FIS by Slipgate Nine Entertainment
2012 — Operation Victor by Big Finish
2013 — Occult of Personality with Greg Kaminsky
2014 — Rune Soup with Gordon White
2015 — Rune Soup with Gordon White
2016 — The Horror Show with Brian Keene
2017 — Rune Soup with Gordon White
2018 — The Joe Rogan Experience
2019 — Monsters Among Us
2020 — Neil Gaiman & DC’s The Sandman
2021 — The LVX Files with Shawn Hebert (Lailokens Awen)

BEST OCCULT DETECTIVE COMIC
2010 — John Constantine: Hellblazer
2011 — League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century – 1969
2012 — League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century – 2009
2013 — Drumhellar
2014 — The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
2015 — Providence
2016 — Providence
2017 — Black Magick
2018 — Hellblazer: 30th Anniversary Celebration
2019 — John Constantine: Hellblazer
2020 — John Constantine: Hellblazer
2021 — Out of Body

BEST OCCULT DETECTIVE MOVIE
2010 — Inception
2011 — Drive Angry
2012 — Solomon Kane
2013 — Odd Thomas
2014 — Deliver Us From Evil
2015 — Bone Tomahawk
2016 — Dr. Strange
2017 — A Dark Song
2018 — The Possession of Hannah Grace
2019 — Doctor Sleep
2020 — The Wolf of Snow Hollow
2021 — The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

BEST OCCULT DETECTIVE TV SERIES
2010 — Supernatural
2011 — Fringe
2012 — 666 Park Avenue
2013 — Hannibal
2014 — True Detective
2015 — Constantine
2016 — The X-Files: Season 10
2017 — Lucifer
2018 — Strange Angel
2019 — Stranger Things
2020 — Helstrom
2021 — Midnight Mass

BEST OCCULT DETECTIVE REALITY SERIES
2010 — Destination Truth
2011 — Brad Meltzer’s Decoded
2012 — Deals from the Dark Side
2013 — Haunted Highway
2014 — The Curse of Oak Island
2015 — Expedition Unknown
2016 — The Curse of Oak Island
2017 — Expedition Unknown
2018 — The Occult Collector
2019 — Hellier
2020 — Portals to Hell
2021 — Kindred Spirits

BEST OCCULT NON-FICTION
2010 — Perdurabo, Revised & Expanded Edition: The Life of Aleister Crowley by Richard Kaczynski, PhD
2011 — Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter by Josh Gates
2012 — In the Center of the Fire: A Memoir of the Occult by James Wasserman
2013 — The Best of the Equinox, vol 2: Dramatic Calls by Aleister Crowley & Lon Milo DuQuette
2014 — Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World by Gary Lachman
2015 — H.P. Lovecraft & the Black Magickal Tradition by John L. Steadman
2016 — The English Magic Tarot by Rex Van Ryn, Steve Dooley, & Andy Letcher
2017 — Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony by Julian Vayne
2018 — John Dee and the Empire of Angels by Jason Louv
2019 — The Grimoire of Aleister Crowley by Rodney Orpheus
2020 — The Dictionary of Demons: 10th Anniversary Edition by Michelle Belanger
2021 — Elemental Witchcraft by Heron Michelle

BEST OCCULT MUSIC/SOUNDTRACK
2010 — Let Me In by Michael Giacchino
2011 — Keep The Streets Empty For Me by Fever Ray
2012 — Lucifer Rising and Other Sound Tracks by Jimmy Page
2013 — Runaljod – Yggdrasil by Wardruna
2014 — The Devil’s Hand by Anton Sanko
2015 — Constantine by Bear McCreary
2016 — Doctor Strange by Michael Giacchino
2017 — A Dark Song by Ray Harmon
2018 — Skald by Wardruna
2019 — Spells + Rituals by Charming Disaster (Ellia Bisker and Jeff Morris)
2020 — Skapanir by Danheim
2021 — Hildring by Lindy-Fay Hella & Dei Farne

THE MANLY WADE WELLMAN AWARD
2010 — Brian Keene
2011 — William Meikle
2012 — Gregory Lamberson
2013 — Tim Prasil
2014 — John Constantine
2015 — Miles Boothe
2016 — Sam Gafford, John Linwood Grant, Travis Neisler, and Dave Brzeski
2017 — Joshua Reynolds
2018 — Charles R Rutledge
2019 — Greg Newkirk and Dana Matthews-Newkirk (Planet Weird)
2020 — Si Spurrier & Aaron Campbell
2021 — Michelle Belanger

Holiday Horrors

Posted in Current Events, Horror on December 28, 2021 by Occult Detective

I quite liked the image above. So much promise contained within its simplicity. And the idea started out well enough, with the serialization of “Dreams of Winter”, a Landon Connors tale that was fresh to most eyes, buried as it was in an anthology that, while it had a slate of solid authors, didn’t sell exceptionally well. This, you’ll find, is the general case with most anthologies that do not include authors like King, Gaiman, Martin, and the like. But I digress.

I had intended to spend December sharing ghost stories with you, my friends, in that most time honored tradition. I have my fair share of those both real and imagined, but I ended up involved in a different sort of holiday horror story. I caught the dreaded COVID, and shortly after a protracted ear infection that laid me quite low.

COVID has been everything I feared it might be. And I say “has been” because I am still snookered by it. More than 20 days of it, and each moment I think I’ve turned the corner, I find myself hit with another debilitating bout of coughing that leaves me exhausted beyond all measure.

It’s been a struggle, for me and my family. My son, thankfully recovered fairly quickly. My wife has not been as lucky, I’m afraid. As for me, I did receive a monoclonal infusion, but it didn’t seem to take.

I am better today than yesterday. At this point, that’s good enough.

So, apologies for Yuletide Spirits to largely be a bust this year. I had such hopes, but we look now to a brighter year ahead. Next week I plan to post my annual Occult Detective Awards, and I will follow that with some smashing reviews, then it will be time to hunker down and figure out a way to navigate these pandemic waters.

I fear this is the world we shall be living in now and as such we will all need to make more permanent adjustments.

Cheers, dear sleuths. Pray these dark gods notice us less as we roll into 2022: Electric Boogaloo

Yuletide Spirits: Dreams of Winter (4/4)

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Writing, Yuletide on December 5, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

IV

I stagger through the thick snow, following the vampire’s trail into the woods that run alongside Pipe Creek. My vision is blurred and I’m losing too much blood. I cast a quick spell, but it’s a mere band-aid. My whole world is pain. I set it aside and press on. The cruor geminus will not go far. It can’t. The smell of my blood will be too much for it to ignore. It will come for me and most likely finish me off, but not without a fight.

            My head is swimming now. I’m in someone’s backyard. I can hear the creek behind me, smell the pine of the woods. I don’t know how I got here. Everything’s coming and going in flashes. The bite on my arm isn’t deep, but it’s poisonous. The vampire’s foul venom is working its way through my system. I have to find it. Have to end this. A shadow ahead. I see a manger scene, the baby Jesus surrounded by its mother and father, animals and wisemen. The shadow is framed by a Christmas Angel hovering above the manger, its lights blinking in an eclectic rhythm. My heart thunders in time with those angel wings.

            “Landon.”

            The voice is coming from the angel.

            I stagger toward it, lumbering, limping against the pain in my ravaged knee, cane dragging along through the snow loosely, carving a snaking trail through the fresh powder. The shadow comes forward revealing a different angel.

            “Sarah,” I choke. I taste blood on my lips. “You shouldn’t… be here. Run, young one. Be safe.” I lose my footing and descend to the ground onto my hands and knees. “Run, damn it.”

            “No, Landon,” she says. She lowers herself to me, cups my face in her hands. “I’ll not abandon you, my dear sweet Doctor.” I’m lost in her eyes. In her youth… her beauty. She leans in toward me, lips parting, coming dangerously close to mine.

            This is how it ends for the occult detective? With a kiss from a fiery-haired angel, bled out in the snow with the failed dream of winter on my lips? I rise up on my knees as she lays my head to the side. Her lips brush mine on her way to my neck. I feel her hot breath on my cold flesh. Then she’s gone… an explosion erupts across the lawn and I see two Sarahs — one struggling up from the ground, a spray of blood across the virgin snow —  the other holding a smoking Ruger .357.

            “Get away from him, you monster!”

            The beast transforms before my eyes. Sarah no more as it assumes the shape of Edward and marches toward her. Sarah fires again, and once more, but the fiend shrugs them off. I reach deep down inside me and rise, raising my cane and swinging it with all my might. It connects with the back of the cruor geminus’ head. The beast spins about and I charge.

            With the cane before me like a knight’s lance, I drive the shaft home, straight through the vampire’s chest, piercing the foul thing’s heart and driving it back into the manger. The angel overhead comes crashing down and the cruor geminus becomes entangled in the wire frame and blinking lights. As the sun rises, the fiend dies before our eyes, its body bound by the illuminating lights of a Christmas Angel.

            “Huh,” Sarah says, “I guess sometimes vampires do sparkle.”

The End

Yuletide Spirits: Dreams of Winter (3/4)

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Writing, Yuletide on December 4, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

III

Magick has its advantages. Case in point, I am standing in the corner of a fifteen year old girl’s bedroom, completely invisible to any who might look my way. No scent to detect, no heat signature to register, not even the sound of my breathing can be heard. On the bed, Sarah Jones, lies suggestively draped across the top of her pink and mauve comforter, dressed in a black tank top and skirt that makes her pale flesh seem like alabaster. As she clicks away on her laptop computer, I make the mental calculations necessary to ensure that she does not become victim number four.

            I know what you’re thinking. No, I’m not some kind of pervert, though I might be scolded for placing such a young and vibrant child in mortal danger. Thing is, Sarah Jones is not your average fifteen year old. Imagine Nancy Drew, if you will, but with a bit more piss and vinegar. As Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes had his Baker Street Irregulars, I too have allies that fall somewhat south of the legal drinking age. Sarah is a paranormal investigator, being an integral cog in the so-called Ghostwriters Society that are comprised of author Steven Parker’s sons Dale and Allen, and Sarah’s cousin Cassidy Martin. They have been tested by fire on more than one occasion. Still, I feel somewhat guilty for using the fiery-haired teen as my proverbial hare in a snare. She was, of course, willing enough. Quite eager even. But as a rock gently raps against her bedroom window, I pray that my confidence in hers and my ability is not found wanting.

            Sarah rolls off the bed and approaches the window. She steals a glance toward me and I grind my teeth in anticipation. It must be unnerving for her, trusting that, though she cannot see me, I am in fact there ready to spring into action. She grips the window and opens it cautiously, the bitter cold of winter racing into the room.

            “Hello, Bella,” I hear the cruor geminus say. Softly. Seductively. “May I come inside?”

            Does her skin crawl? No. I see her sway, sense her body’s relaxing shift from heightened awareness to that of wanton desire. Can the creature’s powers be so overwhelming? She backs away from the window and calls to him.

            “Come to me, my love.”

            She is entranced. There is no mistake. My plan is unraveling before me. I prepare a counter spell, but already it’s too late. The creature is inside the room in an instant. She and I see it as it wishes to be seen, as a handsome young man with powder white flesh and full, pouting lips. It’s hair in a mock pompadour, flashing pearly white teeth behind golden eyes. The illusion is intoxicating, even for me. It leans in toward Sarah, its lips parted, moist and hungry.

            Leaping forward from my concealing spell, the head of my cane flares to life, bright and as radiant as the sun. It is enough to give the beast pause. What I didn’t expect was for Sarah to turn on me, grabbing a pair of scissors from her nightstand, and charging at me like a thing possessed. Yes, possessed — enthralled — and filled with lustful desire for her faux-Edward.

            I raise my cane too late as the scissors find the back of my hand. As I push her aside, I am met by the creature’s full force as it barrels into me, knocking me into the girl’s closet, splintering the bi-fold doors. I collapse to the floor, clothes falling from the rack overhead, blinding me as a rain of furious blows connect with my ribs, arm, and face. It’s fangs find bare flesh. It burns like fire. The smell and taste of my blood has the beast in a ravenous frenzy. It is by sheer willpower that I am able to conjure a magical counter to its devastating assault.

            A blast of eldritch energy explodes from my left hand hurling the cruor geminus into the far wall. I struggle to my feet, telekinetically call my cane back into my bleeding right hand, and approach the foul creature wearing a heartthrob’s face. Bearing its fangs, I grimace as I meet its aggression by swinging the cane like a bat, striking the beast full in the face. The cruor geminus falls back and through the window amidst a crash of broken glass. I approach cautiously but caught unprepared as Sarah buries the scissors into my right shoulder. I scream in agony, but am able to turn and grab the girl by her face.

            “Quiesco,” I say, softly, and Sarah Jones crumbles to the ground.

            The pain is exquisite. It sets my mind afire and it’s all I can do to jerk the instrument free. I stumble forward, to the window, and climb out, bleeding profusely from hand and shoulder. I can feel my ribs grinding in my chest and I’m all but certain that I’ve a fractured forearm.

            This is not how I’d planned tonight’s operation.

Movie Review: Found-Footage “Documentary” Holes in the Sky: The Sean Miller Story

Posted in Horror, Media, Paranormal on December 3, 2021 by Occult Detective

First of all, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way: Ash Hamilton is a good friend of mine. I’ve known him for twenty years. We co-managed a Books-A-Million, we kicked around various comic projects, we’ve broken bread, I’ve been a guest on a couple of different podcasts he’s hosted, and we generally share a common love for horror, fantasy, comic books, and, well, all manner of pop cultural and conspiratorial phenomena.

That said, if this movie sucked, I would tell you, and I would bust on him gleefully until he started to whimper.

Thankfully, this isn’t the case.

Holes in the Sky: The Sean Miller Story, written and directed by my pal, has raked in a Brinks Truck worth of awards and accolades… and I’m happy to report after finally viewing the thing, it’s worth every bit of praise.

Ever since The Blair Witch Project dropped many moons ago we’ve been waiting to see the found footage documentary genre taken to the next level. Hellier, that magnificent paranormal entertainment series from Greg and Dana Newkirk, Karl Pfeiffer, and Connor Randall, tapped into this in their two season opus and legitimized the hunger for this type of storytelling. Holes in the Sky, while not quite elevated to Hellier standards, is in that same vein and a compelling and nail biting love letter to all those things that gave me thrills as a child growing up in the rural Midwest.

Holes in the Sky explores “a documentary film crew’s efforts to make a movie detailing the 2013 alien abduction of Illinois resident Sean Miller. A five-day shoot turns into a life-changing experience for everyone involved as events spiral out of control.”

The strength of the film lies in the superb performances by all those involved. This story feels real. All the people on camera are believable. Everyone seems natural. And the creepiest moments are beautifully shot. Ash does a great job of building tension and delivering legitimate chills.

Look, I grew up on UFO and Bigfoot sightings, ghost stories, and abduction narratives. Ash’s love for these same things really comes through on camera, and by firmly grounding it in the “Midwestern Gothic” atmosphere, it delivers a believable and ultimately terrifying tale.

This is a movie you’re going to want to watch late at night with the lights off.

On a scale of 1-5, this movie gets a solid 6 from me.

Addendum: I mentioned Ash and I kicked around some comic ideas back in the day. Here’s a little sample of something we were working on some 15 or so years ago. We should really get around to finishing it…

Yuletide Spirits: Dreams of Winter (2/4)

Posted in Horror, Occult Detectives, Yuletide on December 3, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

II

Let’s get a few things straight. First, vampires don’t sparkle, despite what Megan Gamble’s late night reading might suggest. That’s right, of the eighteen varieties of bloodsucking fiends my family has cataloged over the years, not a one of them shimmer by sunlight. Granted, a couple of them do burst into flame when exposed to the sun’s attention, but that’s a far cry from all that sexy glimmering.

            I guess that leads into my second point, as in why I know these things to be true. My name is Landon Connors — Dr. Landon Connors, actually — and I hunt monsters (among other things). I came by this ‘profession‘ honestly enough. I guess you might say it’s the family business, though family is a looser term now seeing as I’m the only one left and I’m not exactly the marrying kind. My official title is ‘occult detective’ and yes, I wear a trenchcoat and fedora. Some cliches are just too good to mess with.

            Back at Caer Caliburn, the aged Victorian that my family has called home since the late 1800s, I diligently peruse the tattered Liber Monstrorum, a grimoire and bestiary of sorts that my forefathers have passed down through the years. Reading an entry by my great-grandfather, Gabriel Connors, regarding the cruor geminus, I find confirmation of my suspicions regarding Megan Gamble’s killer. Of course, she is not the only victim. There have been two others in as many months. All with the same telltale throat wounds. All with the same proclivity for reading material. Each a wannabe Bella. Each an eager vessel drained dry by a foul creature wearing an Edward mask.

            The cruor geminus is a nasty little beast with the ability to assume the appearance of someone their intended victim knows and trusts. And I’m pretty sure I’ve tracked this particular one before. The Cullen thing certainly fits his modus operandi. In the nineties, it trawled for victims wearing the face of Brad Pitt’s Louis. It’s a game for this damnable creature, wearing the cinematic face of the vampire, enticing its victims by playing to their erotic fantasies.

            But the game’s almost over. Though the three most recent victims had no physical connection to one another, I uncovered a cyber one. Each belonged to an online community, a messageboard upon which they poured out their longings for a romantic tryst with their undead paramour. All I needed was someone to use as bait for the cruor geminus, a lovely young girl to which the beast could not resist. Unfortunately for it, I have just the girl in mind for the job.

Yuletude Spirits: Dreams of Winter (1/4)

Posted in Occult Detectives, Writing, Yuletide on December 2, 2021 by Occult Detective

Dreams of Winter
(originally published in Vampires Don’t Sparkle)

I

A line from Longfellow comes to me as I stare at the pale, lifeless child at my feet. ‘The leaves of memory seemed to make a mournful rustling in the dark.’ The Dark, capital ‘D’, if you don’t mind, has been of particularly nagging interest to me of late. As for mournful rustlings, well I’ve been knee-deep in those too. And it’s starting to piss me off.

            Surrounded by the girl’s belongings, it’s not hard to fathom how Megan Gamble’s mind worked. There’s a poster of a shirtless Alexander Skarsgard on the back of her door. Bookshelves overflow with Jim Butcher, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and Charlaine Harris urban fantasies, a well-read copy of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight rests on the nightstand. Evanescence, Pretty Reckless, and Nightwish CDs are scattered on the floor beside an old school jam-box. The clothes in her closet? All black and lots of lace and frills, plunging necklines and short skirts.

            I crack a window, light a cigarette, and watch the snow fall. Dreams of winter, I muse. No more dreams for her. I’ve got the itch for a drink, but I let the nicotine placate my self-destructive tendencies for now. I do my best to ignore the sounds of the cops behind me, grumbling about their business and their distaste for my presence. The feeling’s mutual. Grim thoughts give way to grim tidings and I’m on the verge of giving myself over to them, but there’s work to get to. Dark work.

            I flick the spent cowboy killer into the night air and ask the crime scene unit to give me a few minutes alone with the corpse. They look to the homicide detective at the door, my old pal Ellis DeTripp, and grouse at his nod of approval. They file past the hulk of a man — DeTripp stands an easy  six feet-four inches and tips the scales at more than twenty-two stone — and he closes the door behind them.

            “You too, Ellis,” I say, removing my coat and hat and laying them on the girl’s bed.

            “In your dreams, Connors. No freaking way I’m leaving you in here unsupervised.”

            “What’s the matter, Detective,” I scowl, “afraid I’ll lift something?”

            “Nah.” He kneels down awkwardly beside the girl’s body. “We already searched the room for drugs.”

            “She’s got the latest Dresden Files.”

            “Cute, but I know you don’t read that shit.” DeTripp casually traces the outline of the girl’s jawline with his fat forefinger, lingering near the gaping but bloodless wound at her throat. “You live it.”

            “What? You never climb inside a Michael Connelly novel?” I join him on the floor, just as awkwardly, my ruined knee groaning in protest. Without the support of my cane, an heirloom from late father’s collection, I’d be all but worthless in situations like these. Dead bodies require an up close and personal touch.

            “That’s different. Harry Bosch is the real deal.”

            I brush the big man’s hand away from the girl and examine the throat wound more closely. “And Harry Dresden isn’t?” I frown at the lack of blood, on the body or anywhere in the  room for that matter.

            “You know I don’t cater to all that magic mumbo-jumbo crap.”

            “And yet,” I say as I allow my hand to hover above the victim’s head, the telltale glow of magical energy sparking between my fingertips, “here I am.”

            “Again — different.”

            “Do tell?”

            “Meh,” he barks, groaning as he rises up from the floor, “just give me your goddamn theory so I can catch whoever did this before my ass is in a sling.”

            “Well, she was definitely killed here.”

            “Bull shit. No blood.”

            “Of course not.” I struggle to my feet, leaning heavily on father’s cane. “The killer took it with him.”

            “Landon Connors, I swear on my mother’s grave…”

            “Your mother’s alive. I had dinner with her last week.”

            “Just don’t freaking say what I know damn good and well you’re going to say.”

            “Fine.”

            We stare at each other uncomfortably long — he with a scowl, me with bemused acceptance. I know what’s coming next. I light a cigarette and wait for him to break.

            “Alright,” he barks, “…alright. Go ahead and say it.”

            “If you insist.” I exhale slowly. “Detective DeTripp, your killer is, without a doubt, a bloodsucking creature of the night.”

            “God damn it, I knew you were going to pull that shit on me.”

            The detective turns toward the door and throws it open in a huff, storming into the hall and past the awaiting crime scene investigators.

            “Would you have preferred that I used the word vampire?” I yell after him.

            He is not amused.

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