The Stars are Right — NOW!

New Convention Poster

Dear Friends,

Below are numerous briefly summarized important pieces of key information. Please take some time to peruse them, and familiarize yourselves. If you have any questions, please check out the website for the latest, as it'll be updated constantly over this last week.

REGISTRATION – When you first arrive for registration, please go to the second floor landing of the Biltmore to the registration tables arranged for the different pass-types. Please have your eventbrite or kickstarter ticket ready for the good folks there, along with some ID, so we can verify. These things will make the process go as quickly as possible.

Okay….
Our schedule as it relates to you (all of which can be found on our website):

Keynote Address for the convention – at 5:30pm on Thursday the 22nd, NecronomiCon Providence officially begins at the First Baptist Church – Lovecraft's favorite landmark referred to as "The Finest Georgian Steeple in America" in the Call of Cthulhu. The church has a capacity of 1000 people, so this is definitely open to the public! The keynote will be delivered by S.T. Joshi, with some words by Mayor Angel Taveras and the church's official historian, Stan Lemons. This should be done about 6:30, in time for…

Bronze bust unveiling and HPL collection – The Providence Athenaeum, on the corned of Benefit and College streets, is hosting the newly donated bust of HPL as made by Bryan Moore. They're having a small unveiling ceremony Thursday evening running from 6:30 to 8pm. AS space is limited, only a very few free tickets are still available here: SOLD OUT.

http://www.eventbrite.com/event/7773606065

Have no fear if you miss out this evening. You'll have plenty of other chances to see it, as well as the very special collection of HPL letters, manuscripts and other originals on loan to the Athenaeum from the Hay Library. This will be a stop on the walking tours, and otherwise generally open for folks to stop in.

ARS NECRONOMICA – three gallery art exhibit – - Brown's Cohen art Gallery at the Granoff Center (154 Angell Street – just a block past HP Lovecraft Memorial Square!), the Providence Art Club (11 Thomas Street – in the shadow of the "Finest Georgian Steeple"), and Julian's (318 Broadway) — all three will be open for viewing over the course of the convention. Official Convention openings are Thursday night 7-9pm at both the Cohen and the PAC. The openings are open to all!

Black Lodge PartyThursday night, starting at 9pm and going until 1am, our special "welcome to town" club night, for all Guests and our Silver Key and Golden Key members, is at the Red Fez, at 19 Peck Street in downtown Providence. The Fez is just the type of place for all sorts of swarthy sailors and tweed academics to rub elbows, to the beat of rhythmic musicks. Please feel free to swing by for a night cap after catching a movie, or a stroll, and before you turn in to prepare for a very busy weekend. If you don't feel like a drink here, there are plenty of other bars and cafes in the area to whet your whistle before the night is through.

IF you're not a Golden Key or Silver Key backer – Do Not Despair – there are MANY other great bars all around the area, several of them displaying drink specials for attendees. May the Pub Crawling Chaos commence!

eldritch - small

Eldritch Ball – We're very happy to say that our Fancy-dress/ Masquerade ball has shaped up to be a great one! It's in the opulent Biltmore Grand Ballroom, Friday night from 9pm to 12:30am… and it's truly going to be memorable.

For this, Golden Key members get in for free, but all others must purchase tickets,via our website, as we need to cover some high costs associated, and we needed to have some way of assuring attendance. Trust us, it'll be well worth the $10 ($15 at the door). Tickets can be bought here: https://necronomiconball.eventbrite.com/

Note that there is a dress code, but mostly we just ask that people don't come dressed in the same jeans and t-shirts they've been wearing all day.
For more info, read the eventbrite page linked above.

Neurosis - Lustmord

Saturday night concerts – there are two separate, but equal and overlapping, concerts Saturday night — the first one is associated with the special WaterFire event happening in conjunction with NecronomiCon, and features several remarkable bands, particularly highlighting famed Lovecraftian rockers, Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. This show starts around dusk, when WaterFire gets really going, and will run until at least midnight. This is entirely free to everyone, and takes place all along waterplace park, just two blocks from the Biltmore, etc. You'll see it. And, if you don't see it, you'll definitely smell it!

Additionally, Lovecraft's favorite theater in town, the Strand – and the rock club there, Lupo's – is the site of a truly epic line-up of intense music with internationally acclaimed acts Neurosis and Lustmord. This is a ticketed event, and tickets are available here: http://lupos.com/events/neurosis/

Please help spread the word, if you're attending. We need help raising awareness about this show. This show is an early one, running from 6pm to 10pm, Saturday night — leaving just enough time for attendees to run over to the WaterFire event to catch the madness unfold there. And, that's no lie. See attached flyer, a glorious one made by Nick Gucker!

Water Fire

Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast – To start out the last day of the convention, we invite all of you to join us for a very tasty breakfast buffet Sunday morning from 8am to 9:30 in the Biltmore Grand Ballroom. Come gorge yourself on a great buffet spread, while our Revered Heirophant Bob Price, Deacon Cody Goodfellow, and Rabbi Lois Gresh ben Cthulhu minister to our damned souls… all while being serenaded by Choirmaster Darrell Schweitzer's Golden Key Choir. Much like the Friday night Eldritch Ball, and since not everyone wants to go to the Breakfast, tickets are needed for all guests and attendees (though all Silver and Golden Key holders get in free) – first come first serve – please purchase your tickets here: https://cthulhuprayerbreakfast.eventbrite.com/

For the Golden Key members, as you should already know, this is your moment to shine as part of the Golden Key Choir!

Walking tours – the phenomenal tours being conducted around College Hill a few times each day require modestly priced tickets to ensure your participation. Please choose one and sign on here: https://necronomiconwalkingtours.eventbrite.com/

Hope all this helps clarify some stuff!

To be sure, here are some additional important links —

Full schedule of talks – detailed in two attachments to this email, and found here: http://necronomicon-providence.com/panels-talks-etc/

Full schedule of movies – Including some that have rarely been screened (Dagon and The Ancestor), listed here: http://necronomicon-providence.com/movies/

Full schedule of all eventshttp://necronomicon-providence.com/schedule/
We will also soon have a very user-friendly spreadsheet of events available online for download or direct use.

Full schedule of Games, with many still available – http://necronomicon-providence.com/gaming/

Alright, that's very nearly it. Thanks, to all of you, for making this happen…
The stars are right — NOW!
cheers,
Niels



Providence Noir: Chapter IX — Collisions.

(New to Providence Noir? Start with Chapter One, or read the previous chapter.)

 

April 29th, 2012. West End, Providence.

Carmela stood over the old fire pit in her back yard, watching the smoldering pages of a Neo-Nazi propaganda zine blacken, curl, and float away as smoke on the breeze. It was the last of the bunch that she had culled from the smoke-stained library in her apartment. She had dragged herself out of bed early and had spent hours picking through the besotted stacks, her thoughts regularly trailing back to her nightmares. She was thankful her downstairs neighbors were sleeping, most probably still drunk from the night before, as she constructed and lit the makeshift pyre, since she didn’t feel like explaining to them why she was burning books and magazines, or where she happened to acquire a motley collection of white supremacy literature and snuff porn.

When the final page was nothing more than ash, Carmela decided that she could use a nice long walk to clear her head, and a trek from her apartment on the West End over to the East Side might be just the thing. Still distracted by her racing thoughts, she headed back inside and grabbed a few of her own books and a notebook, tossing them into her olive green messenger bag, absently noting the pins she had affixed to it. A red button with the image of a steaming white coffee mug. A fluffy black kitten curled in a straw basket, and a small, white background proclaimed “Hail Eris!” in crimson letters.

It was Sunday, and Carmela was glad that the streets were generally quiet and sparsely populated. Walking down Westminster Street, she saw only a handful of people, trendy types with flannel shirts and bicycles smoking cigarettes in front of the local independent coffee shop. Even Kennedy Plaza, the city’s central downtown square and primary bus station, seemed quiet and subdued when she reached it and hiked past its multiple awnings and crosswalks. She always thought the white buses there, lined with aqua and black, looked like land whales. Huge, lazy things, loudly navigating the asphalt seas. One rolled by her as she walked past the massive gray stone courthouse toward College Hill, briefly admiring its masonic architecture and classical marble statues.

Suddenly, her heart caught in her throat. The leathery man from a few days prior, the one who remembered her from Los Angeles and stared at her with those terrible, piercing eyes, was walking toward her, hat down low over his face. She was about to cross the street to avoid him, but when he looked up she realized it wasn’t him at all. The man in the hat had a similar height and build, but an entirely different face – fleshy and cherubic in comparison. Though the now harmless-looking man smiled at her politely as they passed, she quickly looked away and hastened her pace.

A few blocks later, she began the steep climb up College Hill. The old white steeple of the First Baptist Church, as tall and straight as when it had been constructed well over two hundred years prior loomed to her left, and the red-brick structure perched atop the bus tunnel to her right. Soon she was crossing Benefit Street in front of a relatively small patch of lawn connected to the Rhode Island School of Design. It was dubbed “the beach” by the locals for the regular number of art students found relaxing, sketching, or sunning themselves there. This morning, the students were definitely out.

A small group of them had gathered around some kind of street performer. He was a small, middle-aged man, perhaps fifty or so, with salt and pepper hair and mustache, and krinkly smile lines. He carried a bamboo cane, wore an old suit and bowler hat, and his act was partially an ode to the likes of Chaplin and Keaton, interspersed with some random conjurer’s tricks. Each gesture was exaggerated and dramatic, but hinted at having complete control of his body. He would lean against imaginary walls, stumble into perfect pratfalls, or make coins and cards disappear and reappear at will, occasionally pulling them out of people’s noses and the like. His voice was bizarre, however. An obvious falsetto, he didn’t appear to speak any actual words at all, but merely strings of syllables that might pass as an idiot attempting to mimic the inflections of rapid-fire Spanish or Italian. The result sounded akin to the noises of a small, manic, cartoon character.

Carmela tried to ignore him, but apparently had walked too close to the circle. When the street performer saw Carmela, he leaped forward and tumbled into a roll. As he came up, she noticed that a small bouquet of fake flowers had magically appeared in his hand. He reached out to her, tittering in his bizarre pseudo-language as he did so. The small crowd turned happily and a few people clapped, all eyes suddenly on Carmela. She flashed a nervous half-smile.

“Thank you, but no,” she said, shaking her head.

The man’s entire face sank, and the bouquet in his hand suddenly flopped over, completely limp. He began to sob dramatically, squalking out ridiculous syllables in the process.

The crowd let out a collective “Awwww” as he slunk away from Carmela. He waved his hand and the bouquet disappeared to be replaced by a red handkerchief. Carmela watched him blow his nose theatrically and then begin stuffing the handkerchief into his right ear. She turned to hurry up the hill, dreading he would soon pull it out of his left ear or some other such nonsense, when someone slammed into her, knocking books and pens out of her poorly-secured bag.

“OhmygodI’msosorry,” Arthur blurted out before squatting down to retrieve the scattered belongings of the young woman he had clumsily rammed. “Seriously. I’m such an ass. I apologize. Wasn’t looking where I was going.”

“Makes two of us,” Carmela said, snatching up a pen before it rolled into the street. “I was paying too much attention to Buster Keaton over there.”

“Who?” Arthur looked up into a pair of wide-set brown eyes framed by nearly-black curls. Carmela eyed him curiously. His hair was a mess, and a rough five o’clock shadow adorned his jawline, but she found him rather handsome, albeit a bit too normal-looking for her taste.

“Uh, the little dude behind me with the cane,” she gestured, smirking. “Tried to escape his fake flowers and collided with you instead.”

“Oh. Weird,” he said, handing over two books and a pen. Standing, he was nearly a head taller than her, and considerably wider at the shoulder. “Seriously, I’m very sorry about that.”

Carmela shrugged and smiled, tucking her belongings back into the messenger bag. “No worries, big guy. I’m tougher than I look.”

“I can believe that.” Arthur paused to admire her features for a moment, but then looked down, somewhat embarrassed.

“Well uhh, you have a good one,” she said. “And try not to cross check anyone else on your way down the hill.”

He laughed. “No guarantees. Hey, who’s Eris?”

“Goddess of chaos and discord,” Carmela replied, winking. She turned and continued up the hill.

If I ever had a matron goddess, Arthur thought, watching the dark copper-skinned young woman leave, that would certainly be it.

 

Same Day. Pequot Trail. Stonington, Connecticut.

 

Tom was unable to raise his gun before the shotgun blast shredded off half of his face, but before he crumpled into a heap, his pistol discharged directly into the rear tire of the Expedition, which suddenly sank a few inches on the driver’s side. The burly driver kicked open his door to exit just as Foster’s first shot shattered the rear window and tore through the back of the redhead’s skull just behind her ear. She slumped forward, lifeless.

Screaming, the massive blond man leapt out of the door with surprising speed, gripping a shotgun of his own. Crenshaw was primed and waiting for him, however, and dropped him quickly with two well-placed shots to the chest. He heard Foster yell to his right, and turned to see him grab at his own chest and fall as the Brazilian woman, black and silver pistol in hand, fired at him from behind the front seat.

Through the haze, the screaming, and the gunfire, Crenshaw focused upon the woman down the barrel of his Glock, his heartbeat thumping loudly in his ears. His finger caressed the trigger, and the ensuing shot caught her in the throat, spraying arterial crimson across the inside of the windshield. Gurgling sickeningly, she clutched at her neck in a feeble attempt to staunch the flow of blood. She tried to raise her pistol again, but Crenshaw’s next shot put her out of her misery.

Searing pain exploded suddenly from Crenshaw’s shoulder, and his entire left arm went numb as he spun violently from the force of a blast and fell onto to his side. His vision swam, and he watched in horror through unfocused eyes as the blonde giant, bleeding from the chest, stood up and dropped his expended shotgun. He heard a screech and ensuing crash from behind him, followed by the honking of car horns. The last thing he saw before closing his eyes was the monster’s face, flushed and contorted into a maniacal grin.

A chubby young woman in a red Honda sedan had seen the cruisers parked on the side of the road, and assumed she was about to drive past a routine speeding ticket stop. Her stereo was nearly at maximum volume, and she was singing along too loudly to notice the initial gun shots, but she slammed on her brakes in terror shortly after watching a massive man blast through a police officer’s shoulder with a shotgun that recoiled like a cannon. The skinny bearded man in the beaten up van tailgating her had been a bit too occupied rolling his cigarette, and hit his brakes too late. The green van slammed into her rear bumper with a crunch of collapsing steel, shoving the Honda half a car-length forward, nearly parallel with Crenshaw’s fallen form. The black pickup behind the van swerved and stopped in time, but ended up sideways across the lanes.

The red-faced monster looked around in confusion for a moment, first to the terrified young woman in the red Honda, and then back to his crippled Expedition. He leaned into the SUV and began prying the pistol from the fingers of the dead Brazilian. The woman in the Honda began hyperventilating, and frantically fumbled with her large purse in an attempt to extract the phone from its recesses. When the big man re-emerged he wore a sneer of utter madness. She screeched, her purse falling to the floor, and his berserk eyes focused upon her as he raised a blood-stained gun.

“Get the fuck out of the car!” Froth flew from his mouth as he screamed and cocked back the hammer of the firearm. “Do you hear me you fat fucking bitch!?”

Crenshaw could hear the panicking woman and the howling monster close to him, and when he opened his eyes, he first viewed his mangled shoulder through the ribbons of his ruined shirt. Looking forward and down, he saw the limp form of Gilman on the ground, half of his face now a gore-filled crater. Rage bubbled up from his chest to replace shock, and his eyesight came to focus upon the massive form emerging from the green SUV. Sitting up, his right hand and fingers moving of their own accord, Crenshaw unloaded the rest of his clip into the torso of the giant in a fit of seething fury. All but one bullet struck home, the final shot missing by mere millimeters, striking a tree limb on the other side of the road as the huge man toppled backward, his head meeting the pavement with a brutal crack.

The dimpled blonde had been curled up in a ball behind the seat during the entire firefight, but when the air grew quiet following the last gun shot, she opened the door and burst from the back seat, hitting the ground at a sprint. Crenshaw had been attempting to stand with a bit of difficulty, his left arm dangling uselessly as he watched her cross the grass in a heartbeat, her long, straw-colored hair flapping like a banner in the breeze. Rotten moss and leaves tumbled to the ground as she clambered up the old farm wall. A shot rang out, and she faltered and fell, her face colliding with dank, muddy stone. Foster, still alive but wheezing loudly and clutching his chest, sat up holding a smoking gun and gave a thumbs up to Crenshaw before groaning and flopping back down.

Her face and hair newly adorned with decaying leaves and detritus, the blonde looked down at her leg, now bleeding from a nasty bullet hole, and spat “Shit!.” She attempted to stand, but crumpled the moment she put weight on her injured leg. She remained on the ground, yelling and flailing in an impotent tantrum.



Providence Noir: VIII — Carrion

(New to Providence Noir? Start with Chapter I, or read the previous chapter.)

April 29th, 2012. 11:36 am.

Officer Tom Gilman of the Stonington police had just pulled over a green Ford Expedition with Rhode Island license plates. The vehicle had been speeding while heading west on Connecticut Route 234, known colloquially as the Pequot Trail. Though a well-traveled thoroughfare generally, it cut through acre upon acre of idyllic New England scenery, a combination of widely-spaced suburban homes, woods, old farms, and rolling fields. The SUV was parked on the grass next to a crumbling stone wall, beneath the shade of a giant beech tree. The initial computer scan had said the vehicle was registered to one Allen Carlson of North Kingstown. A cool breeze touched Tom’s face as he exited his squad car, and he glanced at a small group of crows who croaked loudly off to his left, glutting themselves on the remains of a dead possum. A huge tractor trailer whooshed by, briefly scattering the crows, and nearly blowing the hat off of his head.

A beefy, hairy forearm hung lazily out the driver’s side of the bulky SUV. When Gilman reached the open window, he saw the face of a young man in his mid-twenties or so, squinting against the sun overhead. He was a big fellow, a weight lifter of some kind, and wore an olive green t-shirt stretched tightly across his massive chest and shoulders. His short blonde hair was obviously thinning in the front, and he brushed it forward to hide the ensuing baldness. A few days worth of reddish scruff clung to his face.

Next to him sat a dark-haired woman whose age was difficult to guess. Late 20′s? Early 30′s? Tom had trouble discerning. Her light brown eyes were almost yellow, and they bored into him unnervingly. There was a hardness there, a perpetual tension, and he felt somewhat relieved when he looked into the back seat and saw a much friendlier-looking face. A blonde who easily could have passed for the big guy’s little sister sat up straight on the passenger side and flashed a dimpled smile at him, while a freckled redhead lay sideways across the seat with her head resting on the blonde’s lap, a grey blanket covering her. She glanced up at Gilman with apparent disinterest.

“License and registration, please.”

“Good afternoon, officer,” smiled the man. He already held an envelope of papers and a Rhode Island driver’s license in his right fist, and handed them over almost gingerly. Tom tilted his hat up and began looking through them.

“You were going a little fast there, Mr. Carlson.”

“Yeah, sorry about that, officer. Was uhhh… just cruising along, didn’t realize how fast I was going ’till I saw your lights in my rear-view.”

Gilman nodded and looked over at the dark-haired woman, whose mouth split into an awkward smile that did not touch her eyes.

“New truck,” the man continued. “Still not used to how smooth the ride is, ya know?”

Gilman looked back to the driver. “Where you folks heading?”

“The aquarium,” he replied. “Wanted to see the seals.”

“And the penguins,” interjected the blonde in the back seat, happily.

“Heheh. Yeah, the penguins too,” the driver chuckled.

Gilman nodded. “Yup, everybody loves the penguins. Can I see your ID’s as well, please, ladies?”

They began rifling through bags and purses. The dark-haired woman extended a navy blue passport to him first, and two more Rhode Island licenses followed from the back seat, the blonde winking at him when she handed hers over. Tom couldn’t help but smile a little.

“Thank you folks,” he said. “This should only take a minute or so.”

 

The old ranger station was swarming with cops. Staties, detectives, and two forensic teams were all busily skittering around the crime scene as detective Joe McDermott wearily stalked through the chaos. He felt exhausted and drained. He had gotten maybe three hours of sleep the night before, and that had been punctuated with nightmares of eyeless corpses stalking him through an empty, silent city.

“Hey Billy,” he called out to the new recruit as he wandered by, “anyone doing a coffee run?”

Billy nodded. “Yeah, I think Direzzo’s bringing back a few boxes ‘a Dunkin’s. You don’t look so hot, detective. You okay?”

Joe sighed and wiped his brow with his sleeve, then buttoned his jacket. How the fuck am I sweating and cold at the same time? “Yeah, I’m fine,” he said, sighing. “Rough night. Just need some caffeine. How’re you holding up, newbie?”

The young officer looked down at the dirt for a moment and shrugged. “Good so far, I think, though I’m pretty sure I’ll be having some fucked up dreams tonight.” He shook his head and shivered. “Never thought she’d look like that when we pulled her out.”

The swamp in back had contained a corpse of its own. Presumably one of the kidnapped girls, though dental records would have to be consulted. The one in Johnny’s dream, Joe thought, the one face down in the cage. She had been unceremoniously dumped in the bog out back, and by the muddy tracks surrounding the body, a pack of hungry coyotes must have picked most of her clean overnight. She was a horrifically gruesome sight to behold once they dragged her out, mostly pink bone and gristle, with a few dozen leeches hungrily clinging to what the coyotes couldn’t finish.

Inside, they had found things to be less disturbing, but only slightly. The girls were forced to shit in the corners of their cages. Each enclosure contained a small drainage grate in the floor that they could piss in, at least. Blood and fecal smears stained the walls. They had also found a nearly-rotting punching bag held together with duct tape, focus mitts, and a bunch of old rusty weights in the basement, not far from the cages. Sousa had said it certainly qualified as the “cellar palaestra” the Hag had mentioned.

“That bald guy over there,” Billy motioned toward the lean form of Sousa, sitting cross-legged under a tree well out of earshot, diligently scribbling in his pocket notebook. He had taken most of his notes well before the forensic teams had arrived, and was now keeping out of everyone’s way. “That’s the wizard dude, right?”

Joe nodded. “Yeah, kinda. He doesn’t call himself that or anything. Pretty down to earth when you talk to ‘m.”

Bill studied him for a second or two. “Kinda looks like a shaved cat.”

McDermott coughed out a surprised laugh, and Sousa looked up from his work at that exact moment. His high cheekbones, somewhat almond-shaped eyes, and pencil-thin goatee certainly gave him a rather feline look. “Heh. Never thought of that, but yeah.”

“Hodge calls ‘im a shady freak,” continued Billy, “and a fruit.”

“Hodge doesn’t like anyone that isn’t kissing his ass,” replied Joe, spitting. “I’ve known Johnny for years. He’s a little fuckin’ weird, Billy, don’t get me wrong, but he’s a good dude, through and through. You can trust ‘im, I assure you.”

Billy nodded, though he didn’t seem entirely convinced. “If ya say so. Well, when Direzzo gets back with the coffee, I’ll bring ya one. Cream and sugar?”

“Yes please. Thanks, Billy.”

“Anytime.”

McDermott walked back over to his SUV and opened the door. Turning, he noticed Sousa gracefully standing in a single, smooth motion, and stretching briefly before heading toward him. “Fucking shaved cat,” he said aloud, chuckling to himself. Jonathan eventually reached the Suburban and hopped lithely into the passenger seat.

In contrast, McDermott settled heavily into his own seat and sighed before shutting the door.

“Well, we’re looking for a truck or a van according to the tire marks,” he began. “Big SUV maybe. Van would certainly be more convenient, unless the truck had a cap on it.”

Jonathan paused for a moment before speaking. “You mean to drive off with two kidnapped girls without drawing any attention?”

“Yeah.”

“Maybe,” he said, scratching the short bristles of his goatee thoughtfully. “Though maybe he’s already broken them. They might sit obediently and not make a fuss. Scared shitless. Or even worse, Stockholm.”

“Yeah. Don’t want to end up like the other girl, either way.” McDermott pushed his hair back from his forehead and sighed again. “Plus, its not as if they’re tooling around well-populated areas. How often do ya look into the back seat of cars you drive past?”

Sousa shook his head. “Not often.”

“Yeah, me neither.” Joe drummed his fingers along the steering wheel. “So how do we find ‘em now, Johnny? More of your voodoo shit?”

“I don’t practice…”

“McDermott!” interrupted a squawking voice from the dashboard radio.

Joe grabbed the mouthpiece. “Listening.”

“Green Expedition just got pulled over on the Pequot Trail in Stonington. Four passengers, matching descriptions.”

Joe had his seat belt on and the key turning before the sentence was finished.

“On my way,” he barked, slamming his foot on the gas.

Clutching his notebook and pen in one hand, Jonathan’s other hand grabbed the ‘oh-shit’ handle of the Suburban as it lurched forward, spraying mud and dirt in its wake. He spent the next few moments awkwardly buckling a stubborn seat belt as they rocketed down a series of winding country roads, sirens screaming.

 

Gilman had just finished running the licenses through the computer system when he saw a set of flashing lights in his rear-view. Another cruiser pulled up behind him, and officers Crenshaw and Foster emerged. They sauntered over to his car as he opened the door to step out. The heavily built, mustachioed Crenshaw was first to speak. Tom always thought he looked like a cross between Mike Ditka and Stalin.

“Hey there, Tommy-boy.”

“Howdy Dave,” Gilman replied. The whip-thin form of Foster, artificially fattened by his bullet-proof vest, calmly walked over to the front of his car and leaned against the hood, eyeballing the Expedition in front of him. “What’s shakin?”

“Nothing,” Crenshaw sighed. “Bored as shit.”

“What, no speeders on Route 1?”

“Five. In the last 3 hours.”

Tom smiled. “Heh. That’s ’cause you’re there all the fuckin’ time. Locals are onto you. Should try the cemetery on 27 for a change.”

Crenshaw shook his head. “Nahh. There’s somethin’ about that boneyard, Tommy. Every time I post there I swear I fall asleep.”

“It’s true,” chimed in Foster, smiling as he adjusted his aviator sunglasses. “he’s fuckin’ comatose in minutes.”

“Weird.”

“Heh. Sure is.” Crenshaw absently fiddled with his gun belt. “By the way, Foster and I are gonna grab a beer at a titty bar after shift’s over. You game?”

Tom shook his head. “No thanks, Dave. Wifey’ll kill me.”

“Bring her along then, big guy. Get a couples dance or something.” Dave smirked and wiggled his eyebrows. “Everybody loves boobs.”

“Heh. Thanks Crenshaw, but I promised Jenny I’d take her out tonight.”

“Awww, what a good doobie you are.”

“Regular family man,” chimed in Foster.

“Heh. Not yet, thanks. Maybe in a few years.”

Crenshaw gazed over at the SUV and its four occupants, and then looked down at the ID’s in Tom’s hand. “So what’s up with this crew?”

“Nothin,” Gilman shrugged. “They all check out, though this one’s license is about to expire.”

“What kind of passport is that?” Dave reached out and Tom handed the passport to him.

“Brazil, apparently.”

Dave studied the passport for a few seconds, finally settling on the photo. “Spicy. Speaking of boobs,” he said, looking up, “I think Miss Brazil here dances in Providence.”

“Does she?”

“Yeah, think so.” Crenshaw nodded. “Looks just like a chick at the Caddy I’ve seen. ‘Course her name there is Misty or Roxy or some shit.”

“Of course.” Nodded Gilman. “Your knowledge of strip clubs is real impressive, Dave.”

“You should hear him rattle off about porn stars,” chuckled Foster. “Regular ‘cyclopedia.”

“What can I say? I’m a film lover. Hey Tommy, you know what they say about Brazilian girls, right?”

“What’s that, Crenshaw? Great at jiu-jitsu?”

“Heheh, yeah. Something like that.”

Gilman snatched the passport out of Crenshaw’s hand. “Well, jiu-jitsu or no, I’m gonna let this crew off with a warning. Most polite group of folks I’ve dealt with all day. Present company included.”

The two of them chuckled as Tom turned back toward the Expedition. He heard the chirp of Crenshaw’s radio, and his ensuing “Go Ahead,” but he couldn’t make out the response. It seemed leagues behind him all of a sudden, and the world got very quiet. Gilman’s legs seemed to move on their own accord toward the SUV, but he had trouble concentrating on what he was doing. He pondered if his blood sugar was low, or if he was dehydrated and hadn’t realized it until that very moment, but the sound of Crenshaw’s voice suddenly screaming “TOMMY!” cut through the haze. Time slowed to a crawl. He turned to see his fellow officers reaching for their guns, and instinctively reached for his own, but when he turned to look back at the vehicle, the only thing he could see was the red-headed girl leveling a sawed-off shotgun at his face and pulling the trigger.

(Proceed to Chapter IX.)



Providence Noir: Chapter VII — The Swamp

(New to Providence Noir? Start with Chapter I, or read the previous chapter.)
 

From the personal memoirs of Jonathan K. Sousa. Entry dated April 29th, 2012.

 

The thick forest has turned to swampland. I find myself surrounded by skeletal cedars and maples in various states of decay, the flooded landscape slowly drowning their root systems. The subtle musk of wood rot hangs in the air, and a combination of roots and rocks hidden beneath the shallow water’s surface annoyingly snag my feet every couple of steps. I trudge onward, sniffing the cool, crisp night air. The evening is exceptionally quiet, and the sloshing of my feet echoes through the grim landscape as I dredge my way through the muck. As I walk, I can see shadowy figures darting behind withering tree trunks in the corners of my vision. I can’t make out precisely what they are, but there appear to be a bunch of them. I’m in no mood to wait and find out if they’re friendly, so I decide to quicken my pace a bit. Shifting my gaze upwards, I pay close attention to the treeline, noticing a slight break up ahead. I make my way toward it.

After a few more minutes of footslogging, the land becomes solid again, and I find myself on a packed dirt path, little more than a deer run, flanked by tangling thorns and briars. A gentle breeze picks up and the scent of woodsmoke touches my nostrils. A fire upwind.

The meandering path eventually leads to a clearing of tall grass with a squat structure in the center of it. The building’s decor suggests a log cabin, albeit one with a concrete foundation and handicap ramp. Smoke issues from one of the two chimneys, and an orange glow emanates from a small window in the basement.

With a gesture, I command the nearby shadows to envelop me and blur my form. I then cross the field, feeling the damp grass squish quietly beneath my footsteps, and I crouch down next to the window. An hourglass figure is visible in the flickering lantern light. Broad shouldered and lean, the woman moves with an odd stiffness, and has long, dark, wavy hair that hangs nearly to the waist of her tight-fitting blue jeans, which are in turn tucked into brown horse boots that come up to her knees. A snug olive green jacket divulges more of her well-proportioned and muscular figure. She is carrying a small cook pot, and ladles an unhealthy-looking brown stew into a dog bowl. Wandering over to a cage set into the wall, she places the bowl on the ground in front of it, and a filthy hand reaches out from the gloom, scooping up some of the slop. I notice other cages set into the wall as well, six of them in total. Three of the cages appear to be occupied, but bowls sit in front of only two of them, where dirty, hunched figures slurp greasy stew off of their fingers. The third occupant lies face down, unmoving.

The dark-haired woman turns and I see her features. High forehead, small chin, somewhat narrow brown eyes, and a down-turned pout of a mouth. She grabs the oil lantern from the shelf it had been resting upon and wanders upstairs, leaving the feeding figures in darkness.

I feel a familiar presence next to me. Turning, I behold Ariana’s sleek, black, gargoyle-like form crouched low a few feet to my left. Her featureless face is turned toward the window, and her barbed tail twitches reflexively behind her. The dream then dissipates slowly.

The vision I awake to is that of Selene’s bedroom. She’s lying on her side with her back facing me, and appears to be hugging one of her pillows. I can hear and feel the soft, rumbling purr of one of her cats at my feet, and the first light of dawn is peeking in around the drawn red curtains. I stretch a bit and crack my neck, feeling the cat shift positions as I do so. Ariana will most certainly be rewarded for this. I’ll also have to call McDermott and give him further details in a few hours. But first…

I wrap my arm around Selene’s waist and pull her close to me, pressing myself against her. I brush her hair aside and place gentle kisses along her neck. Her breathing pattern changes ever so slightly.

“Mmmm… Good morning,” she says, yawning. She stretches and presses herself against me in return.

“Good morning, beautiful,” I say. “Sleep well?”

“Well enough,” she replies. “Weird dreams, though.”

“Yeah, me too.”

I take her hand and begin kissing her fingers, pressing myself against her.

“Mmm.” She undulates her hips gently, then yawns and stretches her free arm. “I dreamed that you were a monster who lived in a tower somewhere. Looked kind of like France. I want to say Burgundy, but I don’t know why.”

Très bien. A monster, eh?” I smile and nibble her ear a bit before continuing. “Did I have tusks or horns or something?”

I watch little goosebumps appear on her arms. “Horns, yes,” she says. “No tusks, though your teeth were pointed. You were covered in fur and you had a short, hairy tail that stuck out from a hole in the back of your pants.”

“Interesting. Did I do anything strange in the dream?”

I shift positions and begin slowly nibbling my way down her tummy.

“I think you were cultivating vines,” she says. “Thick, green, ropey vines, with little carnivorous plant heads here and there. Like Little Shop of Horrors.”

She gasps slightly as I bite her inner thigh.

“You hand-fed them small chunks of beef from a red bucket.”

I look up at her, a devilish smile on my lips.

“Nice,” I say.

“Yeah, I guess s–…”

The final few syllables of her sentence disappear as I find my desired location. Soft moans take their place.

 

A few hours later, McDermott and I find ourselves driving around the South County back roads in his unmarked, police-issued Chevy Suburban, somewhere between Richmond and Exeter. The roads are a slew of perpetual twists and turns through mostly uninhabited areas, with the occasional house or farmstead poking out of a dank cedar swamp. The scenery is typical New England backwoods, thick with choking vines and briars that would snag the pant leg of even the most careful woodsman. Joe had procured a list of old kennels, ranger stations, and animal rescues, and we were checking them out one by one. We had investigated three places so far with no luck.

Joe can’t sit in a car with someone for longer than five minutes without talking, apparently.

“This shit is nuts, you know,” Joe says, breaking the silence again after minute three, this time. “You’re nuts.”

“Well aware,” I reply, deadpan.

“Just making sure. No wonder you’re banging a shrink. Hah.” Joe taps me on the shoulder with his fist in a jovial, buddy-buddy kind of way.

I smile.“She’s made crazy people her life’s work. Were I even slightly normal, I doubt she’d be so interested. Though I can assure you she’s far from mundane.”

“Heh. I bet. Shrinks tend to be crazier than their patients.” Joe’s grin splits his face in two. “She’s a looker though. I’d totally hit that.”

I turn my head slowly and look at McDermott. My gaze can be unsettling to people at times, sometimes when I don’t intend it to be. In this case, however, my intentions are very clear. Our eyes lock briefly, and he quickly looks back to the road, his face suddenly flushed.

“Um… I mean hypothetically. I mean, I didn’t mean…”

I turn my eyes back to the road as well, then to the blinking GPS in my lap.

“Another two miles or so,” I say. “On the left.”

“Look, Johnny, I wasn’t meaning that…”

“Don’t worry about it, Joe. I know what you meant, and I’m not worried about her fidelity.”

“Alright, just checking. Don’t want ya to put a voodoo curse on me or some shit.” Joe finishes his statement with a short burst of nervous laughter.

“I don’t practice vodoun, Joe.”

“Alright, any kind of curse, then.”

I let the silence speak for me. In the corner of my eye, I see McDermott turn to look at me again, slight consternation on his face. I suppress a smile. Sometimes, its too easy. After an uncomfortable pause, I decide to break the ice.

“How’s that little Jersey side-dish of yours, by the way?”

“Good,” Joe blurts out, relieved to be changing the subject. “Yeah, she’s good.”

“What’s her name again?”

“Dani. Yeah, about that, did you tell the hag about her before I met her?”

“Nope.” My statement is entirely true.

“I don’t fucking believe you.”

“I didn’t,” I say. “Scout’s honor.”

“Come on! How the fuck could she know about all that?”

I turn and look at McDermott. “Rhody’s chock full of colleges, Joe. Lots of Jersey girls with rich parents go to J-WU or URI. Most of them wear short skirts and high heels when they’re out on the town. Some of them like to fuck young cops. Seems a logical enough assumption.”

Joe nods nervously as my logic washes over him. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

I smile this time. I’d be willing to bet the ‘two martinis and a blowjob in your SUV’ comment she dropped on him the other day was disturbingly accurate, but I’ll keep quiet and let him stew on things for a little while longer.

Now its McDermott’s turn to change the subject. “Ya know, you never told me how you got mixed up in all of this occult shit anyway. You grow up in like a haunted house or something?”

“Nope.”

“Demon rape your little sister?”

I laugh. “Nah. Her ex-boyfriends are shitty enough. She probably would have welcomed a little demon-love with open arms.”

McDermott’s shit-eating grin should be illegal. “You mean open legs?”

“If you’d prefer,” I shrug.

“So what was it, then?”

“I dunno,” I say. “I’ve always been interested in weird things. Used to meditate a bunch when I was in high school. Eventually bought some books and a tarot deck. Performed an exorcism when I was 19. Been deep in it ever since.”

“An exorcism, eh? Speaking of demon rape.”

I shake my head. “No rape involved.”

McDermott seems genuinely curious and speaks slowly. “Wha… what happened?”

I sigh. “Friend of mine started messing with some heavy shit,” I say, scratching my chin. “Advanced stuff back when he was just a beginner. He couldn’t control it, so I had to clean up the mess.”

Joe seems riveted. “So some fucked up horror movie shit start happening, or what?”

“Meh, nothing so dramatic. More like a student film with no budget.”

He starts shaking his head and chuckling. “Heheh. An exorcism. A fucking exorcism. You really are fucking crazy.”

I pause for a moment before speaking. “Joe, you’re a State detective talking about demon rape while tooling around back country roads with a so-called occult expert. You’re looking for a building said expert saw in a dream after a chatting to a drunken psychic with acute schizophrenia. Crazy is a very relative term.”

Joe’s nervous laughter returns. “You’ve got a point, there, heheh. I guess they’ll be locking up both of us in the looney bin.”

“Both of us? Don’t think so, bud. I’m banging the lady with the keys, remember?” This time its my grin that should be illegal.

“Ha!” Joe slaps the steering wheel, still shaking his head, but smiling. “You asshole.”

“Take this left.”

An old brown wooden sign nailed into a maple tree reads: “RANGER STATION” in yellow painted letters, and a well-hidden dirt driveway opens amid a wall of overgrown trees and brambles. The moment we take the turn onto the driveway, the skin on the back of my neck begins tingling. This is the place.

“Bingo,” I say.

“This it?”

“Looks like it, though I saw it from the other side. I remember the handicap ramp. Same wooden exterior. There’ll be six cages along a wall in the basement. Didn’t get a very good look at the rest of it. Also, I’m pretty sure one of our three girls is already dead.”

McDermott squints, scanning the perimeter. “No cars, but those look like tire tracks to me. Someone was here not too long ago. How long has this place been closed?”

“Your report says since ’92, so twenty years or so.”

“Great,” He says. “You think this guy’s armed?”

“If he’s in there, I’d say definitely, though I doubt he is. No cars. No smoke from the chimney. Might have up and ran already.”

“I fuckin’ hope not. I’m calling for backup.”

“Suit yourself.”

McDermott mumbles a mouthful of police codes into the mouthpiece of his dashboard radio transmitter. A tinny voice on the other end squalks back a series of questions, which McDermott answers. The situation feels odd, dream-like. I open the door of the SUV and step outside.

McDermott immediately starts yelling at me. “Johnny. Johnny! Fucking, hold on! Johnny, don’t fucking go in there before backup arrives. Dammit, Johnny!”

I ignore him. He hurriedly finishes the last of his codes and hops out of the vehicle as well, pulling out his Beretta 9mm.

McDermott barks at me. “Are you fucking nuts?!”

“Yes,” I reply, not looking behind me. “We’ve already been over this.”

“Backup’s on the way. Why the fuck are you risking your neck right now?”

I shake my head. “They’re gone Joe. Might as well find out what we can before the other staties make a mess of the place.”

I begin walking toward the house, but an odd feeling tells me to walk past it, through the field in the back, and onto the dirt path that snakes its way through the woods. If my dream was as accurate as I hope it was, it will lead back to the swamp.

“Where the fuck are you going now, Johnny?”

“The swamp.”

In the light of day, the path looks considerably different, but similar enough to my dream for me to traverse it without any particular problems, though I quickly lament my decision to wear a long coat as it gets snagged and caught by thorn bushes nearly every step of the way. After untangling myself for the the third time, I take the cursed thing off in a huff, bundling it under my arm, and continue on. The going begins to get muddy, and I notice a score of canine footprints emanating from the marsh ahead as the path opens up. I finally reach the water’s edge, my distorted reflection staring up at me. Toppled trees and bare, broken branches jut out at odd angles, partially immersed in the brackish water. Some oaks and maples, and a bone-white birch tree overturned not far from where I stand. I hear a blue jay screech off to my right.

Suddenly, something catches my eye next to the birch tree. An outline that sticks out far more than it should. One that I know is not just an assortment of branches.

(Proceed to Chapter VIII.)



Providence Noir: Chapter VI — Restlessness

(New to Providence Noir? Start with Chapter I, or read the previous chapter.)

April 28th, 2012

The dew was cold and wet on Arthur’s feet, seeping in through his sneakers as he walked through tall brown grass, occasionally glancing at the gray sky above. Puffy dark clouds, like overgrown and ill-tempered sheep, glared back at him. The wind picked up and he shivered, zipping his navy blue windbreaker up to his chin and continuing on with steady, determined steps. Rolling hills pocked with copses of trees surrounded him, and he trudged on toward a tall, wrought-iron gate that gaped open amid a crumbling stone wall.

Stepping through the gateway he found himself in an old and unkempt cemetery. Weeds and grasses choked and strangled each other as they entwined themselves around granite and marble monuments of varying sizes and shapes, all of them faded and pocked by the entropic diligence of weather and time. Dirt paths snaked their way through the grasses toward rows of forgotten family plots, dingy mausoleums, chipped stone crosses, and forlorn-faced angel statues missing hands, noses or wing fragments. Arthur marched on, though he did not know where he was heading. All he knew was that he felt compelled to walk forward, finding a reasonably cleared path off to the left that would, at the very least, prevent his feet from getting soaked further.

The first few hundred feet were relatively straightforward, leading him through rows of somewhat uniform, rounded headstones, all dating back to the mid-1800′s, and sun-bleached to a bone-white color. Eventually the path twisted sharply to the right, taking him down and around a steep hill that loomed on his right side. Its stony, moss-covered sides looked slick and wet, and a thicket of tall trees to his left deepened the already considerable shadows. The wind stirred again, and the soft whispering of leaves on twisted limbs soon grew to a din of susurrations, drowning Arthur’s senses. There was a mournful note there, buried between the crackling buzz of thousands of leaves rubbing against one another, that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He shrugged his shoulders against the wind, hands in pockets, and continued on. The mournful note grew louder as he walked, though the wind slowly waned, lessening the cacophony of leaves.

He could make out the note as emanating from somewhere in front of him, further down the path, and as he crept along, it sounded more and more like a human voice, somewhat deep, but whimpering and moaning in obvious distress.

Rounding a corner, he stopped, transfixed. Before him loomed a pair of massive stone-bordered mausoleum doors set deep into the hillside, wreathed with sinister, gnarled tree roots and dank, oddly-colored moss. There was an iron bar across the double doors, burnt orange with decades-old rust, looking on the verge of disintegration. The crypt itself emanated a palpable and deathly-cold malice, as if life itself was scorned and reviled by whatever lurked within it. Arthur began shivering again, and was about to turn around when he heard the mournful note once more, now quite obviously the voice of a man in distress. He saw him then, huddled against the hillside, curled into a terrified fetal ball, wearing a long brown coat that blended in with the dirt and rocks, a mess of straight brown hair hanging limp and damp over his face. Arthur approached him slowly.

“Hey man,” he said gingerly, “uhhh… you okay?”

The man gasped and turned suddenly to gaze at Arthur, a look of horror frozen upon his face. For a brief moment, Arthur worried that the man was about to attack him, but instead he crossed the distance on his knees in a somewhat pathetic display.

“Please,” the man moaned, clear mucus dripping from his flared nostrils down the left side of his face, “get me the fuck out of here. They’re after me, and I’m done for. I fucking know it. I’m done for.”

He crawled forward and groped at Arthur, who backed away slightly, but the man was able to grasp Arthur’s hand in an ice-cold grip, looking up at him with tear-streaked eyes.

“Please…”

Arthur’s own fear subsided a bit, and was replaced by an urge to help the terrified man before him. Its easy to be brave when you have someone to be brave for, he thought to himself.

Sure, man. L-lets get out of here,” Arthur said, helping the man up to his feet. He didn’t bother asking who “they” were. He was pretty sure he’d remain calmer if he didn’t know.

The two of them hurried back around the hill and up the path. It was clear the sun was setting, for the already gray sky had grown far darker since Arthur had entered the cemetery. Shadows loomed.

 

Joe McDermott sat at his desk staring off into space. He was attempting to wrap his brain around the events of the previous few days. The missing girls, the hag, Johnny’s ramblings, and the recent mutilated body on the bridge. He felt overwhelmed, overworked, and frankly sick to his stomach. He hadn’t felt this gross in a long time.

He kept remembering his dad, an ex-Vietnam veteran, drinking a beer at a backyard barbecue one summer day. It had been a fun day – kids running through the sprinkler or playing on the slip and slide, adults drinking beers and playing cornhole. Joe was maybe ten or eleven years old at the time, and had found himself at a picnic table alone with his dad, who was probably a little drunk by then. They had been jovially talking about action movies like Rambo or Commando when Pops McDermott suddenly got quiet. He then turned and looked at his son with a grave expression.

“You’ll always remember your first dead body,” said Pops.

“What, dad?”

“I said you’ll always remember your first dead body, son.” He took another swig of his nearly empty beer. “I’m not talkin’ the first dead person ya see at a funeral home or some shit like that, all painted up like a weird doll er somethin’, though ‘a course you’ll remember it if its a family member. I mean the first time you see someone lyin’ on the ground dead. Either hit by a car, er o-d’d, er stabbed er shot er somethin’. You’ll never forget that, son. Ever. The picture will stay in your head for the rest of your life.”

Pops was right.

Joe had been working as a bouncer downtown when he was about twenty three, before he decided to join the force. It was the middle of winter. His shift was over, and he was walking to his car, parked about half a mile away from the club. He remembered navigating his way through the usual shit-show that was downtown after the clubs got out. Random parking lot fights, people pissing or vomiting in alcoves or between parked cars, Providence cops on horses or on foot, pushing the crowds along with varying degrees of force or pepper spray.

He had taken a short cut through an alleyway when he nearly tripped over a dead man lying flat on his back next to a dumpster. The man was still dressed in his club attire, a pressed royal blue button-down shirt, black slacks and some fancy shoes, his blue eyes gazing skyward. A puffy, swollen gash on the right side of his pale forehead yawned open. Blood pooled about his head like an oblong crimson halo. Two broken pieces of red brick lay a few feet away.

Joe’s reverie was broken by the sound of the office door opening, followed by the clacking of high heels. The tall, bleach-blonde form of Lena walked over to McDermott’s desk and plopped a milk crate full of papers in front of him.

“What’s the scoop, Lena?”

Lena sighed as she leaned against Joe’s desk, with seemingly perfect posture even in repose. She was older than Joe by nearly twenty years, but was in tip top shape. An ex-aerobics instructor, she still kept a regular exercise regimen.

“Well, they’ve searched the victim’s apahtment,” she said in a nasal New England twang. “He apparently had a whole bunch of bookshelves without any books. These are what they found in his desk, though. Mostly bills and such, but there are a few letters that might int’rest you.”

Joe began rifling through the top papers, and the smell of stale cigarette smoke greeted him as he did so. A bank statement, a credit card statement, some kind of fan club letter. “Any prints in the apartment that didn’t come from the dead guy?”

Lena nodded. “Yeah, a whole bunch, actually. They’ve already been sent to the lab. If there are any matches in the database, we’ll know befaw lunch time tomorrow.”

“Well that’s good at least. Lets hope we’ve got ‘em on file. Might make my life a helluva lot easier.”

Lena smiled. “You’ll need a different job if you want an easier life, pal. Haven’t slept yet, have ya?”

He laughed. “Be a miracle if I can in the next week or two. Between the kidnapping case and now this fucking mess, I’ll be lucky if Hodge lets me take a piss without permission.”

“If I know Hodge, he’s home right now with a bottl’a whiskey in front of ‘im,” she replied. “You should get some rest. There’s no use sitting here starin’ at the wall all night.” Lena stood up gracefully and walked to her desk a few feet away to gather up her coat. “Why dontcha call up that little girlfriend of yours? Tire yaself out the old fashioned way.” She winked at him.

Joe smirked. “Naahh. She’s in Jersey visiting her folks for the weekend.”

“Oh well.” Lena shrugged as she donned her long, white coat. “There’s always whiskey.”

“Heh. Whiskey. Yeah. Maybe in a little bit. I just want to go through a few of these first,” he said, gesturing at the papers. “See if something jumps out at me, ya know?”

“Suit yaself,” she replied, sauntering toward the door. “G’night, Joe.”

“Night, Lena.”

Lena glanced at him and shook her head before walking through the door. Joe didn’t notice, however. He was too busy absently staring at the crate full of papers, their ashtray scent caressing his nostrils as he recalled the haunting image of the disemboweled man on the bridge.

 

They were shaped like massive birds of prey, twisted owls or vultures, with small, piercing, yellow eyes. Elongated black talons clutched the headstones they perched upon, but they had no feathers Arthur could see. Their bodies looked to him like a horrid mish-mash of random meat cuts from a butcher’s shop, haphazardly stitched together by a maniacal hand. Patchwork chunks of raw red, pink, and purple flesh jutted out at strange angles. There were dozens of the things, staring at Arthur and the other man with cold, yellow eyes, looming over them as they walked, shivering, through the horrible graveyard. Arthur eyed their huge claws warily, and knew without a doubt that they could shred through flesh with ease. They began closing in around him, hopping and moving their visceral wings with sickening undulations, cutting off all escape routes. The man in the brown coat was whimpering pathetically, and Arthur found himself half-dragging him over the cobblestones in an attempt to escape.

The man suddenly broke free from Arthur’s grip, sprinting away through a narrow path to the right not yet blocked by the disgusting meat-creatures. A clamor of sickening slaps sounded as a handful of the creatures took wing in a blur of sinew, easily intercepting him. His moans quickly turned to high-pitched screams of pain and terror.

Arthur knew the man was done for, and was too busy paying attention to the creatures slowly surrounding him to witness his evisceration. Reaching into his pocket, he grabbed his knife and flicked it open in defiance. It looked tiny and insignificant in his hand, but it was all he had, and he’d be damned if he was going out without some kind of fight.

 

Carmela was having trouble sleeping again, and she blamed the insomnia on her newly acquired library. Perhaps it was the stale cigarette smell that seemed to reappear no matter how many times she sprayed air freshener or burned scented candles, or perhaps it was a mild claustrophobia caused by the looming stacks of books in her now seriously cramped apartment. Whatever the reason, what little sleep she was able to steal from the evening kept being interrupted by bizarre and disturbing dreams. She could remember only snippets, and there was no over-arching storyline or continuity that she could place her finger on. In one dream a giant python had wrapped its tail around her right leg and slithered off into the jungle, dragging her kicking and screaming through tangled swamplands. Half drowning, she sputtered through murky green water that seemed brimming with wriggling life. In another dream, she was trapped in a room with Jared. He had impossibly long and clawed fingers that looked like purple spider’s legs, and their sharp, bristling hairs scratched and cut her with each awkward, fumbling caress. When his mouth opened to kiss her, she saw a swirling vortex inside of it, like someone had placed a galaxy in a blender and turned it on.

Instead of sleeping, then, she found herself lying in bed with the lights on, staring up at the ceiling. It hadn’t helped that she had found some disturbing things while cataloging the books earlier. Twisted, terrible things that made her ill-at-ease to have them in her possession. She was accustomed to some of the more bizarre occult works, for she already owned more than a score of the volumes she had just acquired. However, interspersed between the magic, philosophy and mysticism were found books and independent zines that championed White Supremacy and Holocaust denial, pro-fascist propaganda and Social Darwinist rantings taken to their deranged and maniacal extremes. Graphic photos of modern lynchings and the aftermaths of curb stompings stained their pages. In addition, she had found a box full of underground pornography in various languages. In each one, young women were choked, beaten, humiliated and brutalized.

Carmela was by no means prudish, and had hitherto been morally opposed to the concept of book burning, but there were certain things a self-proclaimed feminist, specifically one born of a Cape Verdean mother, could not abide. Tomorrow, she assured herself, she would rearrange the fire pit in the back yard and condemn the perverted literature to the flames. Hopefully, she could get some sleep before then. If only her heart would stop beating so loudly in her ears.

 

The way they moved was maddening. Their gross little hops and brief moments of bizarre flight betrayed all logic and laws of nature. Every time Arthur thought he saw a means of escape it would be blocked immediately, as if they could read his thoughts. He dared not turn around, but walked backwards slowly, making sure of his footing. If he slipped, or exposed his back to the insipid creatures surrounding him, he knew it would be the end.

Occasionally, one would come within striking distance and he’d slash at it with his pocketknife, but each time he’d connect with only air. The meat-creatures seemed to delight in this, and began letting out little chittering noises that mocked him and deepened his despair. He knew he couldn’t go on like this, and pondered closing his eyes and giving up.

Suddenly, his backward movement was arrested. He thought at first that it was one of the creatures come from behind for a coup de grace, but whatever pressed against his back through his jacket felt more like a series of ropes or cables rather than meaty flesh and sharp talons. With his free hand he reached back to grasp whatever was blocking his escape, and felt something slimy that squished disgustingly in his palm when he squeezed it.

The meat-creatures began chittering louder, and it was now they who backed away slowly, forming a wide semi-circle. They flapped their wings excitedly and bobbed up and down in an arhythmic pattern. Arthur looked down at the hand that had grasped the slimy rope and saw it slick with dark blood. He didn’t want to turn around, but something about the way the creatures were acting, the growing crescendo of their mad squeaks and chirps, the blood on his hand, made him turn his head slowly to gaze upon what was behind him.

A tangled web of stained entrails and viscera were stretched tightly between two monstrous, gnarled trees that flanked and towered over him. In the center of the macabre web was an eyeless man crucified, his mouth open in a silent scream, his face a mess of slashes and carvings. Arthur gazed in absolute terror as the meat-creatures’ insane vocalizations became a chorus of deafening screeches, realizing that not only did the web of entrails emanate from the man’s abdomen, but that the man was the same one he had just attempted to save. The bloody, tattered remains of a brown trench coat blew in the breeze behind the eyeless corpse. Arthur tried to raise his arms, but they were completely useless, impotently pinned to his side as the horrific screeches continued unabated, and he found himself suddenly falling.

Arthur’s body hit the bedroom floor hard enough to knock his breath away. His wooden table lamp tumbled down to greet him, connecting with the back of his head. He grunted before gasping and flailing against his sheets, which had twisted and wrapped around his body like a cocoon during the night. After a few moments of straining and struggling, he was able to free himself. He stood up and blinked in the darkness of his bedroom, catching his breath and rubbing the lump that was forming on the back of his head.

A scent like rotting ozone was there to greet him.

(Continue to Chapter VII.)



Providence Noir: V — The Other Woman.

(New to Providence Noir? Start with Chapter One, or read the previous chapter.)

April 28th, 2012.

The two of them sat at the stained wooden bar of a small East Side tavern known as The Point. Jonathan adjusted his maroon shirt collar and slim black tie while surveying the liquor bottles stacked neatly along the back wall. His own reflection, dappled with a combination of shadow and soft yellow light, looked back at him from the broad bar mirrors. It was early in the evening, and the place was getting busier by the minute. Soft lounge music and bar chatter created a warm blanket of background noise. A sudden blast of air hit his back as the door opened once again and more people ushered themselves inside. He glanced over his shoulder at the new arrivals briefly before his eyes returned to settle on Selene sitting next to him, her legs crossed neatly. Tall, brown, high-heeled leather boots poked out from beneath her calf-length orange and red skirt. She wore a long-sleeved plum-colored blouse, and a series of bracelets jangled as she drank from a pint of pale ale.

“So tell me more about Ariana,” She said to him, placing her glass down. Her left hand rested upon his knee.

Jonathan shrugged and scratched at his short, sculpted goatee. “There’s not much to tell. She’s a servitor spirit.”

“Where did she come from?” She put her beer down and fiddled with the chopsticks holding up her chestnut brown hair.

“Well, that depends on who you ask. Technically, she came from me,” he said, tipping back the snifter and finishing the last drips of his tequila. “I created her. I chose a specific set of tasks that I wanted to accomplish, set the parameters, and then imagined a corresponding image.”

“A gargoyle?”

“A nightgaunt.”

“Night…gaunt?”

“They’re creatures from some of Lovecraft’s stories. Servants of Nodens, Lord of the Abyss,” Jonathan said, his voice dipping into a dramatic baritone near the end. “In some of the Lovecraft-inspired games I used to play, you could summon them to perform various tasks. When I was getting heavily into chaos magic and reading about servitor creation, it was one of the first images that popped into my head. A nightgaunt, a creature of the abyss, summoned by the practitioner to find hidden information.”

Selene’s smile did not touch her eyes. Jonathan knew such an expression meant she was annoyed about something.

“You do know the Freudian and terribly misogynistic implications inherent to the idea of a faceless, female gar- er, nightgaunt, sorry… summoned to do your bidding, right?”

Jonathan put his hands up. “Hey now, Lovecraft made them faceless, not me,” he said, smiling. “I was just following protocol. Granted, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some serious sexual frustration issues going on when I first created her. I had just graduated high school and was still a virgin, after all. The only girls interested in me were the ones I didn’t want, and the girls I did want either teased me mercilessly or avoided me like the plague.”

“I see,” she said, nodding knowingly and drinking more of her beer. “Why the orange with the black? Halloween colors?”

“Nothing so prosaic,” he replied. “Nightgaunts are traditionally black, and orange is a color usually associated with Mercury.”

She squinted at him. “The planet or the god?”

“Yes.”

“Yes as in they’re the same thing?”

He shrugged again. “We’ll say that they are intimately connected.”

“Interesting,” she said, pulling her arm across her body to stretch her shoulder. “You’re always so critical of organized religion. I wouldn’t think you’d be believing in gods.”

Jonathan rolled his head to the side and gently pressed his hand against his chin, letting out a sigh when his neck eventually cracked. “Belief has little to do with it.”

“Oh, really?” Selene sat up straighter, her blue-green eyes scrutinizing his facial expression.

He motioned to the bartender for another drink, and then absently rubbed his shaved head. “In occultism, if certain parameters are met,” he continued, “certain results will follow. Whether or not you believe in them is irrelevant. Ariana follows a set of parameters an occultist would deem ‘Mercurial’.”

“So you created a fictional Mercurial friend.”

“I suppose that depends on your definition of fictional, but yes.”

“Not real. Spurious,” she said, grabbing his face and gently smushing his cheeks together.

He laughed. “Oh, she’s real enough. The question is where she resides.”

“In your head, you mean.” She tapped his forehead lightly, emphasizing her point.

“Originally,” he replied, looking up at her hand. “She’s branched out since then.”

“To some mystical void, perhaps?”

“Well, to your head, for one,” he said, tapping her forehead in return. “Now that you know she’s around, you might be running into her more often.”

“Very cute.”

“I’m not kidding. You’ll see. She might pop up in a dream or two sometime in the near future. She likes to be helpful. Give her a task to complete.” A fresh snifter of neat tequila was placed in front of Jonathan and he nodded to the blonde bartender. “Thanks, Krystal.”

“You want me to use your nightgaunt?” Selene asked.

“Among other things,” he said, raising his glass in salute. He winked and wiggled his eyebrows at her.

A wide smile exposed her dimples, and she clinked her glass against his. “Maybe later, loverboy. Its funny, really. I seem to have a thing for grown men with imaginary friends.”

“And I have a thing for stunning intellectuals,” he replied. “We must make quite a pair.”

“Oh, I bet you say that to all the girls,” she said suspiciously, though the flush of her cheeks hinted at enjoying the complement.

“Alright, back to my previous question. Wouldn’t one need a belief in order to meet these occult parameters you’re talking about?”

Jonathan sipped his tequila. “Need? No, though it might be helpful temporarily. For example, lets take uhh… glossalalia. Speaking in tongues. A pretty common phenomenon throughout history, and one you can find in a variety of cultures around the world. Now, a pentecostal will tell you that they’re being blessed by the holy spirit or something. A vodoun practitioner will say the Loa temporarily possessed their body. I know a few atheists who start sputtering odd syllables after a long meditation session. All parties involved deem their experiences rather profound.”

She drummed her long fingernails against the wooden bar. “I feel like you’re avoiding the question.”

“I’m not. I’m just attempting to explain,” he said, putting down his drink to gesticulate freely. “Say I’m looking for something. Something lost. Knowledge, especially hidden or secret knowledge, falls under the dominion of Mercury according to standard Western occult theory – Mercury being the messenger god of swiftness, intelligence, commerce, et cetera. If I meditate about said lost thing in an attempt to find it, my meditation ends up being way more effective if I create a sigil of Mercury, during a time of the day when Mercury is deemed exalted or what have you. In my experience, if I follow the framework even loosely, I have a much better chance of finding what I’m looking for.”

He took another sip of his tequila before continuing. “Now, when it does work, do I believe the god Mercury flew down from Mount Olympus personally to bless my endeavors? Of course not.”

She smiled. “But the proof is in the pudding?”

“Bingo. Subsequently, if I create an imaginary friend like Ariana while following said Mercurial parameters, my meditation becomes even more powerful.”

“It sounds like self-hypnosis to me,” she said, shrugging.

“That’s certainly part of it.”

“Well, if its self-hypnosis, why the imaginary friend?”

“You know better than I do that humans have some serious difficulty tapping into their own subconscious. Its not uncommon for them to externalize parts of their own minds in order to, well, commune with them.” Jonathan leaned forward to place a kiss upon her freckled cheek.

“Mmm,” she said, nodding slowly. “So you commune with a portion of your own mind, pretending that its a sentient being.”

“I only had to pretend in the beginning. Eventually her sentience became much less… imaginary, we’ll say.” Jonathan pulled back and smiled at her, raising his glass again. “It took a fair amount of time and effort, but her independence is now pretty obvious.”

“I see. So the more you play with your imaginary friend, the more real and alive she seems to be. Sounds less like self-hypnosis and more like self-induced schizophrenia.”

Jonathan shrugged. “You say Tomay-to, I say tomah-to.”

Selene laughed and leaned forward. “You’re such a dork,”  she said before pressing her soft lips to his.

(Continue to Chapter VI.)



Kickstart the return of the Ancient Ones!

For those Lovecraft fanatics who might be unaware, we here at NecronomiCON Providence now have a Kickstarter page up and running. Check it out to find out about tickets and merch.

Click here for the NecronomiCON 2013 Kickstarter!

To those of you who have already donated to our eldritch cause, we would like to thank you from the bottom of our collective grim and dreadful cosmic consciousness. Your generous donations ensure that we (and our legions of shoggoth minions) will be able to provide you with the ultimate Lovecraftian convention/celebration of the current epoch.



CALL for Abstracts: Seeking Lovecraftian Researchers

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS:
Seeking new Lovecraft-related research for NecronomiCon Providence, 2013

The Lovecraft Arts and Sciences Council, Inc. (the organizer of NecronomiCon Providence) is seeking submissions of academic works that explore all aspects of the works and life of famed weird fiction writer, H.P. Lovecraft, including the influence of history, architecture, science (anthropology, biology, geology, etc), and popular culture (movies, theater, etc), on his works.

We particularly hope to foster exploration of Lovecraft as a rationalist who created an elaborate cosmic mythology, and how this mythology was influenced by, and has come to influence, numerous other authors and artists before and since. However, all submissions that contribute to a greater understanding of Lovecraft and associated authors and artists of “weird tales” (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc) are encouraged.

For this component of the Convention, we are particularly interested in soliciting novel work from young or new academics. If selected, presenters should be prepared to deliver a twenty minute oral presentation summarizing their thesis, and are invited to submit a brief MS for possible inclusion in a proceedings publication.

Selected talks will be presented together as part of a mini-conference within the overall convention framework of NecronomiCon Providence, August 23-25, 2013. Interested scholars, whether faculty, graduate, undergraduate, or independent, should send a 250-300 word abstract, preferably in .doc or .pdf format, to keeper@necronomicon-providence.com by May 23, 2013 for consideration.

For more information on our convention, to learn more about the themes to be explored, and to sign up for email updates, please visit our website: necronomicon-providence.com

NB: In addition to these talks, NecronomiCon Providence will also feature numerous traditional panels and presentations given by many of the top names in the Lovecraftian community.



Providence Noir: Chapter IV – Carmela

If you’re just entering Providence Noir, take a look at: Chapter IChapter II, or Chapter III.

 

April 26th, 2012. 11 am.

“Dawlah aw fifty cents a book! Dawlah aw fifty cents a book!”

The woman was older and somewhat haggard. Heavy set and pale with deep frown lines and hair dyed a dark red that was nearly purple, she stood on the flatbed of an old, blue, Chevy pickup truck, handing boxes of old books to a lean, darker-skinned gentleman of somewhat indistinguishable age. She wore a jean jacket and a Boston Red Sox t-shirt. He wore an old flannel and a ratty blue baseball cap pushed low over his eyes.

“Dawlah aw fifty cents a book! Dawlah aw fifty cents a book!”

They were parked on South Main Street, the border between downtown Providence and College Hill, right across the street from The Cable Car, a small, artsy cinema and coffee shop. Most of the passersby, an odd mix of businessmen, filing clerks, and art students, paid little notice to them. Occasionally, a typical looking student wearing a backpack would stop and peruse for a minute or two, but would usually wander away. This happened a few times until Carmela, a thin, brown-skinned brunette with wide-set eyes and curly, shoulder-length hair, stopped to look.

“Oh, badass,” she exclaimed, kneeling down to examine one of the boxes, a look of bewilderment on her face. She wore a black leather scooter jacket, a purple v-necked t-shirt, blue jeans, and red Chuck Tailor high-tops. “Blavatsky. Spence. Crowley. Regardie.” She said, looking up at the older woman and pushing a lock of curls behind her right ear. “Did you say a dollar or fifty cents a book?”

The woman nodded, her jowls jiggling slightly as she did. “Yep. Dat’s right.” Her Boston accent was as thick as treacle. “Ya like books, huh?”

“Of course,” Carmela said, matter-of-factly, gazing back at the box. “I love ‘em. Holy shit! Four Kenneth Grant books. McLean’s Hermetic Journal.” She looked up at the woman again, astonished.

The woman looked down her nose at Carmela and squinted, sizing her up. “Ya like deese kinds a books?”

The darker-skinned gentleman turned to look at Carmela. His lined, leathery expression was completely unreadable, but she felt an unnatural chill creep up her spine. His dark brown, nearly black eyes seemed to bore into her. She went on anyways, doing her best to hide her unease.

“Y-you’d better believe it. Where the hell did you get all of these?”

The heavy woman and leathery man exchanged a somewhat disconcerting glance. She spoke.

“My, ah, uncle passed away and we’ve got ta get his place cleaned up befaw dey sell it. I gawtta whole fuckin’ apahtment fulla books like deese. Hundreds of ‘um. You int’rested?”

“Definitely,” Carmela said, looking back at the books. That’s an old hardcover version of Levi’s Transcendental Magic, she thought to herself.

The older woman nodded. “How many wouldja buy?”

“Hell, if they’re all like these, probably all of them,” Carmela replied. “Granted, I’d have to see them first, but my friend Jared and I are actually planning to open a used book store. These are perfect.”

The leathery man wandered up to the older woman and whispered something to her. She nodded.

“I’ll tell ya what. If you can get awl of da books outta my uncle’s place today, I’ll give awl of um to ya fer two hundred bucks.”

“Are you serious? I’ll call my friend right now!”

The woman nodded. “Yeah, I’m serious. Call ya friend. My uncle’s place is right ovah in Fawx Point. I hope ya friend’s gawtta truck uh somethin.”

About an hour later Jared showed up in his ’96 Ford Explorer, his colorfully tattooed left arm hanging out the window, cigarette held loosely between his fingers. Carmela had run back home and picked up her Volkswagen Golf, and the two of them followed the beaten-up blue Chevy up and over College Hill toward the Fox Point neighborhood. Glancing now and then at Jared in her rear-view mirror, she watched him take long drags from his cigarette, occasionally scratching his short, red beard, his face holding its usual half-squinting expression. She had met him at a coffee shop a few months after moving back to Providence from the West Coast, maybe six months ago. He had become a friend, and a loyal one at that, but it was obvious that he harbored more than friendly feelings for her, and she didn’t know what to do about the situation.

He was certainly handsome, but his perpetual drinking was a problem for her. He almost never left home without a flask of whiskey in his pocket. After two years of her ex-boyfriend Matt, she couldn’t dream of dealing with another alcoholic. She didn’t mind a drink every now and then, but both Jared and Matt seemed unable make it through the day without a drink, and then unable to stop before getting obliterated. She could remember Matt, sitting on that ragged old couch they used to have in their apartment in Echo Park, too drunk to stand and sweating, explaining to her just how shitty of a girlfriend she was, or how disrespectful it was for her to disagree with him in public, or how she was obviously cheating on him with that guy she spoke three words to at the bar. And the sex that rarely happened, she shivered, was a sad drunken mess. She hated him, but not nearly as much as she hated herself for putting up with it for so long, for actually believing him, believing that she was a shitty person and a terrible girlfriend when she was anything but. Two fucking years, she thought. She had always considered herself a strong, intelligent, and independent woman, and yet she put up with stupid, childish, energy-sucking guilt trips and unfulfilling sex for two years of her adult life. Pathetic.

Her self-deprecation was put to an abrupt halt when the blue Chevy suddenly pulled over and parked. She followed suit, as did Jared behind her. Get a grip, Carmela, she thought to herself, shaking her head. Don’t let the past ruin the present.

The older woman and leathery man got out of the car and wandered onto a small gravel driveway flanked by two three-unit apartment houses. The driveway quickly became a dusty yard for another three-unit set back from the street. Jared and Carmela trailed behind them, occasionally casting furtive glances to each other. The old front door, desperately in need of another coat of white paint, squealed in protest as it was opened. Three flights up a narrow staircase with wood-paneled walls brought them to an olive green door.

The woman unlocked and pushed the door open. Reaching around the corner and flicking a switch, the fluorescent ceiling lamp flickered to life, illuminating the room. Carmela could see walls lined with bookshelves nearly bursting at the seams. A waft of stale cigarette smoke greeted them as they entered.

“Ho. Lee. Shit,” she said.

The apartment was tiny, but might as well have been a small library or used book store in its own right. The few walls not covered with books were stained a brownish yellow, presumably from tobacco smoke. The whole place smelled like an ashtray.

The woman looked at the two of them sternly and extended her hand. “Two hundred bucks.” Carmela noticed that she was now wearing a pair of navy blue cloth gloves.

Carmela nodded and reached into her pocket, pulling out a small roll of ten twenties. The leathery man was giving her that disconcerting look again, and she stifled a shiver. She was about to turn away toward the bookshelves when he spoke to her with a thick, hispanic accent.

“I know you,” he said slowly.

Carmela squinted. “Excuse me?”

“I know you,” he repeated, the words coming out with an almost forced control. “I never forget a face.”

Carmela looked to Jared, who shrugged and adjusted his black baseball cap, eyeballing the older gentleman.

The leathery man continued in his thick accent, unabashed. “You used to own a nineteen eseventy-six Monte Carlo. Black, with a dent in the driver’s eside rear quarter-panel.”

Carmela nodded slowly. “Yeah. Yeah that’s right. But. But I sold that car a few years ago, before I moved back here from…”

“Los Angeles.”, he said, finishing her sentence for her, using his raised finger to punctuate his speech. “You were parked near the entrance to Griffith Park. I offered to fix the dent for you, but you… declined.” He placed an extra stress on the word “declined”.

“Holy shit. Yeah… Yeah. I actually remember that,” Carmela said. “You had another guy in the car with you, and you were driving a silver car, like a Toyota or something, right? But seriously how…”

“I never forget a face,” he interrupted and grinned coldly.

Carmela just nodded, finding it difficult to pull her eyes away from his. She tried to guess how old he was, but had no idea. One minute he looked a weathered forty-five, the next, deep in his sixties. The thick woman abruptly inserted herself between the two of them, handing Carmela a small brass key.

“A’l leave da utha bawxes in the yawd fa you two. Lawck the daw when ya leave, den trow the key trew da mail slawt.”

Carmela took the key gingerly. “Th-thank you.”

The shorter woman was somehow able to look down her nose at Carmela disapprovingly, and made the sign of the cross in the air in front of her. “And may Gawd bless you.”

She turned and walked out the door with the leathery man before Carmela could respond. The door shutting firmly behind them.

Carmela waited until she heard their footsteps trailing down the staircase before looking to Jared. “Well that was fucking creepy,” she said quietly.

Jared was too busy staring at the bookshelves to hear her, however. Hundreds, probably thousands of volumes by his estimate, stared back at him.

“This is gonna take a while,” he said. “I’ve got a few boxes, three milk crates, and a bunch of grocery bags I was saving as poop baggies for when I walk Chief. I’d say we might be done by sunset. Maybe.”

Carmela nodded. “Lets get cracking, then. I don’t want to be in here any longer than I need to. Those two give me the fucking heebie-jeebies.”

 

They were not finished unloading things until well into the evening. Carmela’s tiny studio apartment was crammed tight with stacks upon stacks of books, magazines and journals, all reeking of stale cigarette smoke. The woman’s uncle was apparently named George Jencks, and had written his name in blue or black pen on the inside cover of every book in his library, along with a date, which Carmela assumed was the day he had acquired it. The library itself had been an entirely disorganized mess. If there had been a system to it, it certainly was not one a sane person would invent.

“Author: Campbell, Joseph. Title: The Masks of God.”

Jared was standing and slowly dictating the names of authors and books to Carmela, who sat cross-legged on her living room floor, notebook computer in her lap. They both knew there was no way they were going to catalog all of the books that night, but they reasoned that they might as well start on a few piles before going to bed.

“Author: Campbell, Joseph. Title: The Hero With A Thousand Faces.”

“Got it,” said Carmela. “Next.”

“Author: Um… Ick? Aik? I-C-K-E. David. Hmm,” Jared said. “Why does that name look familiar?”

Carmela finished typing and smiled up at him. “He’s a crazy conspiracy theorist type.”

“You mean like the JFK assassination was an inside job? Fake moon landing? John Dillinger’s alive and living in Mexico type stuff?”

“Nope. Way weirder than that,” she said. “He claims that Freemasons like you are actually shape-shifting reptiles who flew here in a spaceship from the Draco constellation and currently control world politics.”

“Draco constellation?” Jared laughed. “Most of the guys in my lodge have enough trouble finding their cars after a night on the town. Some of the older ones can barely go to the bathroom without help.”

“Hardly what I would think of as ‘mighty alien overlords’,” she smirked.

Jared thought for a moment. “Come to think of it, though, old man Sweeney does kind of look like a lizard. McBride too.” He smiled.

“Hah. Well, I will have to remember to curtsy properly when I meet them.”

“Just don’t give them any of the secret handshakes you learned from reading Duncan’s Ritual, alright? They’ll think I taught ‘em to you, and I’ll be in a world of shit, reptilian or otherwise.”

“Deal,” she said. “What’s next?”

“Ahem. Author: Hall, Manly P. Title: The Secret Teachings of all Ages.”

“Speaking of Freemasons,” Carmela said dryly.

“Manly? Really? Who the fuck names their kid ‘Manly’? I bet he got the crapped kicked out of him in middle school for that one. I wonder if he’s got a brother named ‘Strapping’ or some shit like that.”

“That would be amusing. I suppose it’d be better than a sister named ‘Girly’.”

“Especially if the sister turned out to be a total butch.” Jared laughed. “All right. Moving forward. Author: Crowley, Aleister. Title: The Book of Lies. Hmm. Ya know, I’ve always meant to read some Crowley. Seems like an interesting dude. Kind of a Satanist, right?”

“Not exactly, no. Have you studied any Qabalah?”

Jared shook his head. “Nah, not really. I mean, there are a few books on it in the Lodge that I’ve flipped through, but I don’t remember much from ‘em. Why?”

“Because its kind of necessary if you want to understand a lot of what Crowley says.” Carmela stretched her arms behind her back. It was an innocent enough stretch, though Jared had difficulty not noticing the swell of her breasts jutting forward through her t-shirt. However, he was able to maintain eye contact with her as she spoke. Barely. “Especially if you want to read that book in your hands,” she continued, jarring him from his reverie. “Most of its in Qabalistic riddles.”

Jared began flipping through the pages, eventually stopping at one. “Hmm. The Way to Succeed, and the Way to Suck Eggs. Hey, that was in a Ministry song, wasn’t it?”

Carmela nodded. “Yep. Psalm 69. Got it on my Ipod, actually.”

“Nice. And who doesn’t enjoy mutual oral, really?”

Carmela smiled and nodded, but said nothing.

“Moving on,” said Jared, clearing his throat. “Author: Lis… Lisewski? L-I…”

“Hang on,” said Carmela, placing her laptop on the floor and rubbing her eyes. “I think… I think I need to sleep. I’m sorry, Jared, but I’m fucking exhausted. Can we continue this tomorrow or something?”

“Sure. Sure, we can do that. I have work until, like, seven or so, but I’m free after that.”

Carmela stood up. “Cool. I’ll give you a call tomorrow then.” She walked over to the door and he followed closely. “Thank you so much for all of your help today. I owe you big time.”

“Nahh,” Jared replied. His exhale wafted toward Carmela, and she could smell whiskey on his breath. Must have been taking swigs from his flask in the bathroom. “You don’t owe me anything. I’m glad to help. Besides, I’m gonna want some of these. I’ll wait until we have everything cataloged, though. Have a great night.”

“Thanks. You too. Talk to you tomorrow, then.” Carmela reached out and gave Jared a warm hug, and he reciprocated, though he held it longer than usual. He could feel her relax for a second and then squeeze again before relaxing completely, waiting for him to release. He could feel his skin warming as he held her, tingles on the side of his neck, hairs on his arm beginning to stand on end. Finally, he released abruptly.

“Talk to you then,” he said, heading quickly out the door and down the stairs. Carmela watched him as he descended, eventually closing the door. She sighed.

“What am I going to do with you, Jared?” she said to the room quietly, shaking her head.

The looming stacks of smoke-stained books did not reply.

(Continue to Chapter V.)



Providence Noir: Chapter III – Bridges

(New to Providence Noir? Start with Chapter I, or read the previous chapter.)

Crook Point Bascule Bridge

Providence Noir Chapter 3

 

Excerpt from the personal memoirs of Jonathan Sousa. Entry dated April 27th, 2012.

The basement room is painted a dark, midnight blue, and is lit by four orange candles which sit upon individual altars, one set against each of the four walls. The smell of frankincense permeates the area, wafting from a thurible in the corner. I have drawn a circle in orange chalk on the floor adorned with occult glyphs of various meaning and correspondence, and some pillows rest in the center of it. The temple preparation did not take very long – a few basic banishings and visualizations, nothing particularly difficult for an experienced practitioner.

The Hag’s insights had given me a new strategy. Prior to our meeting, I had attempted to find the perpetrator through my usual scrying methods, but he was smart enough to cover his tracks. Some kind of invisibility charm or shielding method, I gather. What I hadn’t taken into account was the possibility of two people being behind the disappearances.

I take off my long, black robe and hang it on a peg in the corner of the room, suddenly feeling the cool air of the cellar upon my skin. In the same corner stands a cabinet with various ritual paraphernalia. I choose a small bottle of cinnamon-scented oil and dab some on my finger. I then anoint my forehead by drawing a glyph with the oil. The oil makes the skin above my eyebrows tingle, and I intone a simple blessing in Latin:

“Quia tuum est regnum et potesta et gloria in saecula, Amen.”

Mabel had mentioned Bartzabel, a wrathful spirit of Mars. The guy we’re looking for must be all about battles and confrontation. Headstrong, cocky. Thinks like a fighter, and in the case of kidnapping young girls, a fighter who understands the necessity of stealth. Clever, but not clever enough.

His accomplice – the girl, however, is a submissive, enthralled by her mighty warrior. Probably thinks nothing can harm her if she’s near him, and he’s more than happy to enforce that opinion. She’s just a servant, though. A fuck toy. A notch or two higher on the totem pole than the girls in the cages, of course, but still expendable.

As such, I’m willing to bet that whatever shielding method he’s using does not apply to her.

And if she’s not shielded, Ariana can find her.

I choose a small black statuette from a different shelf in the cabinet. It is made of a crude, fired clay in the shape of a horned, winged, gargoyle-like creature. Humanoid and feminine in general appearance, but faceless and jet black, except for a small, intricate orange glyph drawn on its torso. I kiss the forehead of the figurine and anoint it as well.

Walking into the center of the circle, I sit cross-legged upon a pillow with the statuette still in my hands.

Ariana was one of the first servitors I ever enchanted. At the time, I was obsessed with finding obscure occult books that usually ended up tucked away in the back of used book stores. Ariana was my hidden knowledge locator, my own personal St. Anthony. Over time, her list of duties expanded to include more than just books.

Settling down into meditation, my mind is racing. I feel hyper, almost caffeinated, though I don’t think I’ve had any tea in at least a few hours. Three very deep and slow breaths help me to concentrate energy into my extremities, visualizing an orange light surrounding the figurine that emanates from my hands. I start regulating my respiration, slowing it down and counting my breaths, drawing myself inward. My stomach muscles are kept tense, and with each breath, I feel myself getting warmer. I slowly chant the word “Nalathasa” over and over, and feel myself geting heavy, my limbs gradually melting into the cushions and the concrete floor beneath. My forehead continues to tingle, and the statuette in my hands now seems to radiate a heat of its own. I concentrate energy into the center of my forehead and…

I am sitting upon a hard, clay-like surface. Surrounding me is a blasted land, an open steppe or high desert by the looks of it, hard-packed dirt and straw-colored long grass, occasionally pocked by sickly, leafless, greyish-brown shrubs. The dimensions of the place are bizarre and somewhat alien, messing with my concepts of perspective. A rock I intuitively know to be half a league from my current position almost seems close enough to touch, and is balanced precariously at an odd angle that defies physical laws. Mountains loom in the distance. Grey, jagged peaks, like the broken teeth of some colossal alligator, pierce a translucent purple-colored horizon. I sit facing the mountains in a wide circle of reddish-brown clay, perhaps thirty feet in diameter. Surrounding the circle are eight rectangular stone slabs lying down flat upon the ground. In the center of the circle, crudely drawn in a white, chalk-like substance, is a large, ominous looking eye. Radiating from the eye are eight thick lines, also white, ending in arrowheads that each point to one of the slabs.

I stand up and my long coat stirs in the breeze. I can hear a low mournful note in the distance, though whether it is the wind resonating through the cliffs or the distant howl of some carnivorous beast is unknown to me. Suddenly, another sound is heard to my left, this time much closer. The flap of leathery wings.

I hear the gentle scrape of her claws against stone as she drops gracefully on to one of the slabs to my left, wings unfurled majestically. She is nearly eight feet tall, not including the pair of foot-long horns that curl up from her forehead, and is almost entirely jet-black in color, her skin having the appearance of a slick, rubbery, latex-like material, the only color found being that of a bright orange tattoo of sorts, an intricate glyph that decorates her chest and sternum. Sleek and lean, her body is muscular yet feminine, with the visible swell of nipple-less breasts and somewhat wide hip-bones. Spidery fingers terminate in long, sharp claws, and a long barbed tail undulates on its own, like an overgrown housecat’s. She is entirely faceless, a blank slate where eyes, nose and mouth should be. Her wings fold up behind her like a cloak, and she bows to me, crouching upon the stone slab. I bow in return and she stands, awaiting instruction.

“Ariana,” I say quietly, “I wish for you to find someone for me. A young woman with curly dark hair and a tanned complexion, of Martial corporature. Submissive yet insidious, enslaved to a violent, egotistical master.”

I walk over to her and touch the back of her clawed hand. As I do so, I visualize my memory of Mabel’s ramblings while in trance, imagining the memory to be a small, glowing bubble of bright light, which I pass down my arm and through my hand. When it touches Ariana, her skin ripples as it is quickly absorbed, and I feel her shudder slightly.

“She lures the innocent and unsuspecting to him,” I continue. “He will be shielded, but the stink of Bartzabel will be upon her. She’ll be hiding somewhere surrounded by woodlands. Find her for me, Ariana, and I shall reward you. It is my will for this to be. So mote it be.”

Ariana gives the briefest of nods to me and crouches, exploding upward in a three-story jump with but a single push of her powerful legs, her coriaceous wings unfurling in a smooth, graceful motion. She catches the wind and soars toward the sky. I watch her as she leaves, and do not turn away until she is but a speck on the horizon. I press my left forefinger to my lips and close my eyes.

I open my eyes to the waking world where I am still sitting naked and cross-legged upon some pillows, statuette in hand, my left foot nearly asleep. The candles around me are shorter, of course, but I had not been in the astral plane for very long. Twenty-five, maybe thirty minutes.

I close the circle, perform a quick banishing, replace the figurine and leave my ritual chamber. I’ll be hearing from Ariana sometime tomorrow. The walk upstairs is slow and meditative, my legs slightly stiff from sitting cross-legged.

Upstairs, I find Selene reclining on the couch with a thick book in her hand, a small wrinkle between her slightly furrowed brows. I stand there for a moment or two before she notices me, and she looks up at me over her glasses and smiles.

I had not re-robed myself after my meeting with Ariana, and the sight of her is more than enough to begin my arousal.

She marks her page and lays her book down upon the coffee table. With, slow, deliberate motions that seem to take an eternity, Selene removes her glasses, her shirt, and her purple, laced bra, exposing her pale breasts and nearly rose-colored nipples. Finally, she lets her hair down and kneels before me, a wicked glint in her greenish-blue eyes.

 

Its rare that I ever get phone calls in the middle of the night, least of all from the cops. As I sleepily button my shirt and get ready to leave, I go over the details of the conversation in my head.

“Johnny? Hey Johnny. Sorry if I woke ya, but I think we need you down here, buddy.”

It’s the voice of Joe McDermott, Detective for the Rhode Island state police. He’s also the only person I know who calls me “Johnny”.

“Hey Joe.” I yawn over the phone and look over to the neon green glow of my clock radio. Its 2:57 am, which means I’ve been asleep for maybe an hour. “What appears to be the trouble this morning?”

“We’ve got a murder victim on our hands but… uh, things are uh… different. Its not your everyday stabbing in the park. I think it might be related to the missing girls, but I’m not sure. More of a gut feeling. Found more of those sigil things you talk about.” Joe’s breathing is heavier and more stressed out than usual, so he’s probably close to having a stroke by now. “I’d say this shit is right up your alley, but I don’t want to insult your alley. Johnny, this one’s a gigantic fucking mess. I’m sorry, but I need you to come down and see this. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

That statement alone has me up and putting my pants on. Joe’s seen some pretty gruesome sights in his day. I notice that Selene is now awake and turning over to look at me, a mere bed sheet covering her lovely form.

“Alright Joe,” I say, “where are you?”

“The rusty old drawbridge off of Gano Street. You can’t miss the flashing lights. Might as well be a cop convention.”

“Getting dressed. I’ll be right over.”

“Something rotten in Denmark?” Selene yawns and sits up, hugging a nearby pillow as she does so.

“Seems that way, “ I say, buttoning my shirt. “You have work at nine?”

Selene yawns again and nods. “Yep.”

“I should be back well before then. If not, just lock the doorknob when you leave. Don’t worry about the deadbolt.”

“Okay”, she says sleepily.

I lean over the bed and kiss her gently on the lips. “Sweet dreams, beautiful.”

“Mmm. Thanks, handsome. Take care and come back soon, okay?”

“Yes ma’am.”

 

It takes me about three minutes to drive to the location, a quick hop from East Providence over the Washington Bridge, and I pull into the parking lot attached to the small park closest to the crime scene. Walking past a soccer field and some grassy hills toward a copse of trees, the scene lit by flashing blue and red lights, I eventually reach the line of yellow police tape, where McDermott is waiting for me, chatting with a state trooper in full regalia. Joe’s wearing a grey polo shirt and black slacks, a 9 mm Beretta clearly visible in his shoulder holster.

“Thanks for coming, Johnny,” he says, shaking my hand as the trooper wanders over to a squad car. “Prepare yourself. This one’s rough. The guy’s been gutted in a way I’ve…”

“Is this that occult expert you were talking about, McDermott?” Interrupts a stern voice behind Joe. He turns toward the voice and I follow suit. A tall, lean, stone-faced older gentleman is walking toward us. Probably ex-military, by his bearing and inflection. The voice is that of one used to being obeyed. His hair is cut very short, almost spiky, and is nearly slate-grey in color.

“Johnny,” McDermott says, “this is Lieutenant Hodge. Lieutenant, Johnny Sousa.”

“Mister Sousa,” he says, looking directly in my eyes as he attempts to crush my hand in his grip. I squeeze firmly in return and meet his gaze. I’ve played this game before.

“Pleasure to meet you. Good handshake,” he says, eventually nodding and letting go.

“Thank you, Lieutenant. Same to you,” I say, the slight hint of a smirk on my lips. “Now then, how can I be of assistance?”

“We’ve got a mutilated body with a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo attached to it. You’re the mumbo-jumbo expert, apparently, so McDermott here thought you might be able to tell us what it all means. I hear you helped find the perp in the Lewiston case, after all.”

“I’ll do what I can to help, Lieutenant. Where’s the body?”

Hodge raises his arm and points toward the river. “On the shitty old bridge. Where else?”

The bridge. The Seekonk River Drawbridge, to be exact. Built in 1908 as a railway bridge, and originally known as the Crook Point Bascule bridge, it spans a narrow section of the Seekonk River as it empties itself into Narragansett Bay. It was closed in 1976 and left to rot, the drawbridge up at about a 60 degree angle. Though most of the metal and rails are still intact, albeit rusted and pocked with graffiti, some of the wooden portions of the structure have become decayed and unstable. As I gingerly walk my way towards the murder scene, following McDermott, I hear the lapping of the river beneath my feet. There are regular breaks in the wood, and dangerous open drops down to the brackish water below, beyond the reach of my flashlight beam.

We eventually reach the elbow joint of the raised bridge, and the scene is almost too ghastly to fathom. My response is not emotional in the slightest. I’m completely numb as I take in my surroundings, mostly due to disbelief. Everything seems plastic or theatrical — like something out of a shitty horror movie. This can’t be real, I think to myself, but the blood stains at my feet certainly look real, and as the terrible gravity of the situation finally sinks in, my vision blurs sickeningly for an instant before focusing on the horror before me.

“Some of the nearby folks heard a bit of a commotion, but nothing too bad,” explains Joe quietly, his face wreathed by the glow of his flashlight and the reflection of other lights along the river. “They’re used to college kids or gutter punks coming out here and making a bunch of noise, ya know? But apparently there’s a guy who likes to walk his two pitbulls around here late night when he gets home from work. ‘Bout an hour ago he was taking a walk and his dogs went apeshit. Freaked out and barked like crazy at the bridge. He went to investigate, and then called us.”

“That’s his vomit over there.” McDermott points to a small spot off to the left with his flashlight. I can see a liquid stain and little pink chunks of semi-digested something or other. Its just a diversion, however. I need to look back at the main mess, as much as I might not want to. The shadows cast from my flashlight don’t help matters, of course, giving the already grisly scene an even more horrific feel.

What’s left of the man at my feet is dressed as if he has stepped out of the 1920′s. A brown fedora perches upon his head at an odd angle, and he wears a brown tweed jacket with leather elbow pads. A beige button-down pinstriped shirt, now terribly mangled and bloodstained, adorns what is left of his torso, and his brown necktie has been tightened to the point of obvious strangulation. Considering the state of the rest of him, I can only hope he was strangled first.

He has been entirely disemboweled, his entrails split and severed in a myriad of bizarre ways. Slick, ropey intestines have been pulled out of his abdominal cavity and strewn about in complicated patterns, a spiderweb of intricate designs carefully laid out around his body. His eyes have been removed entirely, and complicated sigils have been carved into his forehead and cheeks, presumably with a small and exceedingly sharp knife or razor, mouth agape in a rictus of silent torment. His arms and legs are spread out in a morbid mockery of the Vitruvian man, and drawn in blood about the body, on the old wood and rusty metal portions of the old drawbridge, are more sigils. I can recognize some of them. One or two from the Grimorium Verum, a few others appear to be based on some variant of Spare’s sigil construction method, not dissimilar to the sigils found at the girls’ dorm rooms. Others are wholly alien to me, and seem to warp and change beneath my gaze. The longer I look at them, the more difficult it is for me to observe an underlying shape or structure. I shake my head quickly in an attempt to snap out of it, and pull out my pocket notebook, busily starting to jot down all of the details.

 

(Proceed to Chapter IV.)