THE LIST, available for 99cents in Kindle format.
In which we meet Miles Bell, His Majesty’s spy in post WW1 Switzerland, as he faces Proto-nazi’s, murder, betrayal…and dark creatures waiting to swallow England.
(Click through to read a passage from the story)
Halfway down the stairs now, Miles could look around the living room he’d been received -and dealt with- just hours ago. It was much changed: the chairs, rugs and sofa were pressed to the corners of the room. A chalk circle was drawn on the hardwood – no, two circles, with sigils between the inner and outer in greater number than the hours of the day on the face of a clock. Candles were the only illumination, revealing a beetle-like shape in the center of the room. Miles waited for his eyes to fully adjust to the gloom. Soon he could make out the beetle shape: it was Hans, his spy’s trench coat turned in for a robe, bent in half and carefully finishing a chalk hieroglyphic around one of the candles.
Miles realized then the nature of the Summoning practiced by all those who had sought the list and died for their troubles. And he felt even greater sorrow for their deaths, demanded by nothing so noble as defending the peace in Europe… but simply a shared fetish for the occult. They died for nothing, killed by one who shared their parlor games.
“Really, Hans, after the speech you gave teasing your poor Lieutenant-Colonel, I’m a bit surprised to see you dressed for the costume party.”
Hans laughed there, in the shadows, and continued scrawling shapes. After a time he grunted in satisfaction with his art project, and stood. “Ja. You are so sure you know the way of the world, you and your King George. So untouchable and so superior across the waves in your island fortress.” He bowed deeply again, uttering a few words of… Miles strained his ears. The words were familiar to him, though he’d never heard them spoken before. He recalled those strange, stilted phrases from one of the many and varied classes designed to hone his natural gift for languages.
“Is that–Aramaic, Hans?” Curiosity gnawed at him to hear those words again, but pride prevented his asking. “I’ve seen stranger rooms and get-ups meant to scare holy hell out of the interrogated, but I’m touched you thought enough of me to polish up your dead Sumerian languages.”
Something glinted in the air near Hans. A sound followed; drip-drip-drip. The dripping continued, the sounds falling further apart, then disappeared completely. Only then did Hans stand and walk to the edge of the inner circle. He patiently and seriously turned and bowed towards the inscriptions in the center of the circle before crossing the threshold.
The spy’s mood changed then. “Oh this old thing?” Hans unclasped the robe and let it fall to the ground. “Just observing proper form, ‘dear boy’.” He turned, and Miles could see the red stained bandage over the man’s right wrist. Miles stared dumbly for a moment, then raised his eyes. Hans met his gaze and nodded. “Yes, Knight of the Empire or whoever you are, I made good sport of old Eugen, but do not think my beliefs as baseless as his.”
A scuffle at the top of the stairs interrupted Hans. Miles turned to see Eugen being dragged down the stairs by two of Hans’ soldiers. “What… what is the meaning of this! Men, release me at once! I’ll have you beaten in the square! Release me!”
The soldiers hauled their commanding officer to the main floor and brought him to stand beside Hans and Miles. “Ah! Just in time.” Hans clapped the old man on the shoulder. Eugen bristled and drew his bathrobe around him as if it were a king’s clothing.
Miles looked around. Soldiers were coming down the stairs, coming in from the hall, and stepping through the patio door.
“Release you?” Hans asked, and shook his head. “But Oberst-leutnant, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for all you life!” He stretched his hand out past Miles, indicating the circle. “Before you lay a symbol of great power. Suitable sacrifices have been given,” he said, rubbing his bandaged wrist as he did so,” and all is ready.”
Eugen harrumphed, and made to gather the robe tighter around himself… then stared past Hans at the floor. “Vas is das?” he asked, and stepped imperiously forward. Hans made no move to stop him. Eugen brushed past Miles, but his regal step faltered as he approached the circle’s edge, and stopped short of the outer line Hans had drawn. Then his head jerked, as if he’d caught a whiff of something rotten. He whirled about to face the men again.
“What have you done?” Eugen whispered, his voice thin, reedy, frightened. “Stop this at once!”
“You don’t order these men, Eugen. I do.” Hans giggled again. “You feel it, don’t you old man? Surely you’re not frightened? Did you not wish to unleash the ancient powers for your Germany?”
The color had left Eugen’s face, and he drew the robe around him differently now. As if he were chilled to the bone. As if he were a frightened child, cowering behind a curtain.
Something malevolent crawled into Hans’ voice. “Your time is past. Your Germany is no more. It is our time now. My time!”
Miles felt it, too: a dread he’d chalked up to his own death, and the monstrous company he kept. Now a shiver flicked through him, and ice chilled his spine, raised the hair at the back of his neck, and his legs twitched, desiring to fly him away from the wrongness in this room.
THE LIST, available for $2.49 in Kindle format.