Monday, April 7, 2014
Caleb Johnson stared at his reflection in the mirror of the jail house in New Kingdom, Nebraska and pondered one question: Who am I?
On the outside he looked no different than a year ago. He needed a shave and his eyes were bloodshot from too much whisky the night before. On the inside Caleb felt changed, he wished he could describe exactly what that meant but, he couldn’t. If he had to put a word to it, it would be young. The youthful vitality that was robbed from him during war and his time in prison returned. Pains associated with age were gone, even the pain from the gunshot wound he received in his right hand during the war had completely disappeared. The scar from just under his right eye down to his chin remained. A constant reminder of James Young, the man who killed his wife, Lucy, twelve years ago, right before Caleb took his revenge and killed him.
Caleb’s vigorous stamina and libido was also invigorated. The girls down the street at the local whore house, The Lair, could testify to that. He would easily bed a dozen women a night considering he didn’t have to pay a dime for any of them. Eleanor Shaw, the busty house madam saw to that. She considered it recompense for Caleb killing Lucius Krull and the rest of his Black Rider hoard.
If asked where New Kingdom was on a map fourteen months ago, Caleb could not have guessed. The small Nebraska town went mostly unnoticed. Even after the elimination of the Black Rider’s who called themselves vampires, the settlement remained surreptitious. With the arrival of a full time doctor and lawyer, several other businesses arrived, breathing life into the empty and unfinished buildings that lined the street.
It struck Caleb odd that with the growth in population, none of the new arrivals questioned the fact that his deputy, needed to be locked up during a full moon cycle, safely behind the special silver-platted bars in the jail, or that the school teacher walked along with her feet floating above the ground. Then there was the blacksmith foundry, Caleb warned everyone, especially those with children, to stay away from Abraham Jenkins. Even he avoided the place, but for different reasons.
Fourteen months passed since Caleb woke in the foundry. Reborn and forever changed, brought back to life by the angel, Eve. He’d not seen or heard her since that night. His mind plagued with questions that terrified him. He was frightened of the answers that may help him understand his changes or drive him insane. Crazed with worry, sometimes Caleb thought he should be in a padded cell at the sanitarium, Daybreak, away from everyone. The only one who came close to understanding him was Morning Dove, but since she left New Kingdom to join the Omaha tribe, he’d been without a confidant.
“Sheriff,” Peter Prokofiev burst into the jailhouse; his tan chinos were covered in dust and his long dark jacket was tarnished with a yellow stain. “They’re at it again,” he said brushing the dust from the street off his legs.
Caleb strapped his 45. Caliber Schofield to his hip and pulled on his Stetson. If anyone in New Kingdom understood change it was Peter. His change into the monster gave Peter some insight into Caleb’s transformation. Even then he didn’t totally understand what Caleb was going through. Peter transformed into a raging mindless beast, bent on one thing – the hunt. Caleb stood on the other side of the equation, fully in control of his faculties and conscience of his surroundings, at least for now.
From his desk Caleb picked up his broken pocket watch and slipping into his vest pocket. He’d carried it into war, even then it didn’t work, and he carried it with him into all his battles, even the little ones. “How many this month?”
“Same as always, thirteen,” Peter said, following Caleb out onto the front porch of the jailhouse; he carried a double-barreled shotgun under his right arm.
The sun was full in the sky at two minutes past noon and washed a pale glow on the town. The brisk November air cut though Caleb’s shirt and vest the chill didn’t bother him. New Kingdom looked quiet. The sound of a wagon driving up the street drew Caleb’s attention. The Holston family drove though town on their way to the feed mill or to pick up supplies before the first full snow fell on the valley. Caleb looked at Miller Holston and nodded. Miller tipped his hat and stared at the thirteen people approaching the jailhouse.
Caleb looked up one side of the street to the church and down the other where he could see the blacksmith foundry. There, Caleb saw Gideon Gates standing at the city limits waving his Bible and yelling at anyone who would listen to him. He’d been standing there since the night of his wife’s death, the night Lucius Krull and his Black Riders were defeated.
Gideon tried his best to persuade anyone entering the town to flee. “God has forsaken this place,” he would say. Sometimes people would listen while others go past him thinking him nothing more than a madman. Caleb did not bother him. In many ways he believed Gideon was doing the town a service. Much like his friend Howard Pitman, who kept those in New Kingdom on the straight and narrow, Gideon tried to save lives by keeping them out of harms way.
It had been some time since he spoke to Howard, though he could hear his friend preaching on Sunday mornings as he held services outside the church. Caleb felt the urge to attend Howard’s service, though he thought it better if he didn’t. He and Howard didn’t see eye to eye on things. Though he trusted Howard and considered him a friend, Caleb wasn’t sure if he Howard felt the same.
Caleb watched the approaching thirteen member group, as they came closer he rested his hand on the handle of his pistol. Like Peter’s shotgun, he knew he wouldn’t have to use it.
A group of four women and nine men led by portly Edward Jackson brazenly approached the jailhouse. They stood in the street and faced the jail with determined looks on their faces.
“You know you should really do this at night,” Caleb said. “Then you could carry torches to give your monster hunt more of a sinister feel to it wouldn’t you think?”
Edward Jackson took a step away from the group and said, “You know why we are here sheriff.”
“It’s the same reason you’ve all come here every first of the month for the past year. The outcome will be the same as it always has.”
“Either way Sheriff, we won’t stop until we get what we want,” Wanda Vandenberg, an older woman in her late fifties stepped up next Edward; her gray hair twirled on top of her head and blew in the fall breeze. “That creature is an abomination to the sanctity of our Christian beliefs. We won’t have her sorts here anymore.” She peered at Peter.
“This is New Kingdom Ms. Vandenberg, we’re full of those sorts,” Caleb replied.
Edward took another step forward, the apron he wore in his store still hung around his neck and fluttered in the light fall breeze. He moved away from Wanda. “She’s the last of her kind. It’s time she be dealt with.”
“She has rights,” Peter said and cursed in his Russian accent.
“She’s a monster,” Wanda shrieked. “But you know all about that wouldn’t you?”
Others in the group talked out load; their comments were not polite.
Caleb stepped down off the porch and pointed to the hotel. “You know where she is. Why don’t you just go get her?”
Wanda’s eyes grew wide with fear. “You’re the self-appointed sheriff. It’s your job to–”
“Lead a lynch mob? That’s not my job at all. Edward you need to control your group better.”
Edward turned and looked back at his group and then back at Caleb.
“Oh, I see. It’s fine for me to subdue her and hand her over to you. But you don’t want to get your hands dirty. Well, I won’t do it.” Caleb took a step close to the group. “Go home all of you. Edward, go back to your store and leave this all alone.”
Edward pointed at Caleb. “Sooner or later Caleb this will have to be dealt with. Election Day is only a couple weeks away and this town will have a proper mayor and council. You just might find yourself out of a job.”
Caleb stepped in close to Edward. “They’d be welcome to it. Until then I’m in charge and I’ll do things how I see them. Now go home Edward or I’m going to arrest you all for disturbing the peace.”
The group turned and dispersed, each of its members going in separate directions grumbling. Caleb returned to the porch next to Peter.
“You really don’t think it’s over do you, Caleb?”
“I doubt it Peter. They have to blame someone. With the other Black Riders dead they have to take revenge wherever they can find it.”
Peter followed Caleb into the jail. “So what are you going to do about Catherine Blackstone?”
Caleb sat down in his chair and propped his feet up on the desk. The last time he saw Catherine was soon after the final confrontation with Lucius Krull. She locked herself in her hotel room and has stayed there ever since. Caleb felt sorry for her. Out of all of Lucius’ so-called vampires, Catherine was the most human of them all.
Caleb paid for her hotel room and sent a regular supply of pig blood to her; at least that way he knew Catherine wouldn’t be out stalking for food. The people of New Kingdom had right to worry about her. If she decided the pig blood wasn’t enough, Catherine would return to the hunt and feed on anyone that got in her way.
The whistle from the afternoon stage coach driver and the crack of his whip sounded out as the stage raced past the jail. Caleb kicked himself away from his desk and stood.
“Looks like a full load on the stage today,” Peter said stepping out onto the porch.
Caleb followed Peter out. “We better go meet it.”
“I love when the stage comes in,” Peter said when he and Caleb stepped up the street.
Caleb waved the afternoon dust out of his face. “Why’s that?”
“You never know who’s going to be on it. Interesting people are so…so…”
“Yes.” Peter smiled.
Caleb noticed Beth Holston crossing the street. At eighteen she carried herself more like a twenty-five year old. All the right places were filled out but she still held onto that innocent child-like appearance that Caleb sometimes wondered was an act. He could not deny that it was easy to be attracted to a girl like her, but Caleb also remembered her age and that he and her father, Miller, were good friends. Besides all of that, Caleb noticed Beth’s odd behavior more than probably anyone else in the valley. Caleb couldn’t put his finger on it, but the young girl had something miraculous about her. He saw it surrounding her like a hidden energy force. Perhaps Caleb’s heightened abilities provided him with an insight that others could not see. Whatever the case, it gave him reason to keep a close eye on her.
“Good day Sheriff,” Beth said, her ponytail swayed behind her.
Caleb slowed his pace and let Peter go on toward the stage. “Good day.” He noticed the rouge on Beth’s cheeks and asked. “Does your father know you’re wearing makeup?”
“I just tried it on in the store. Isn’t it lovely?”
“I think it might be too much pink.”
“I put it on for you.”
Caleb knew Beth held a torch for him. Everyone, including Miller and his wife Pamela knew it also. At first he found it sweet, then flattering but after a while Caleb knew it had become an obsession. “I appreciate that,” he told her when he stopped walking. Caleb faced her and said. “I think we should keep it a secret. We wouldn’t want your father to become upset because of it.”
“My father can be an old stuffy man.”
“You realize your father and I are almost the same age.”
Beth looked at Caleb with a glazed over look.
“The makeup will be just between you and me.”
“Like a secret?”
Caleb shook his head. “Now go and wash it off before anyone notices our secret.”
Grinning, Beth turned away, her ponytail bouncing up and down as she scurried, almost skipped away and Caleb breathed a sigh of relief and followed Peter.
The stage parked in front of the Kingdom Hotel. Milford Gray, the middle-aged stage driver worked pulling suitcases from the top of his rig and tossing them to the sod. “Layover thirty minutes,” he grunted. “Just enough time to feed and water the horses and we’ll be on our way. Everyone out!”
“Afternoon Mill,” Peter said staring up at the top of the stage.
Milford grunted out an unrecognizable reply, everyone knew New Kingdom wasn’t his favorite stop. He only came to it because someone made him. “Mind yourself.” He tossed one last bag at Peter’s feet.
“Nice to see you, too,” Peter replied.
Caleb chuckled and opened the door of the stage. His Adam’s apple caught in his throat when the lovely soft face of the first passenger appeared in the entrance. He held out his hand to help the petite woman out of the coach. The red-haired lady stood much shorter than Caleb; she smiled at him once she found her footing on the ground.
“Thank you - sheriff?” She spoke in a soft British accent; she hiked up her chiffon dress and stepped up onto the board sidewalk in front of the hotel.
“Johnson,” Caleb cleared his throat and spoke again, “Caleb Johnson.”
She smiled. “I’m Adelaide Turner,” she replied, looking at her hand still clasped in Caleb’s.
Caleb let go of her hand and stepped aside so she could step up onto the wooden walkway of the hotel.
The next person to step off the stage was an older, bearded man. He pulled the glasses off his face and began to clean the dust from the lenses with a white handkerchief that he pulled from the pocket of his waistcoat under his long tweed jacket. “What an inhospitable place this is,” he complained in English, but the tone of his voice was thickly laced in German.
Peter gravitated to the man. “German?”
“Yes. Welcome to New Kingdom.”
“This is not where I want to be.”
“I’m sorry?” Peter asked.
“Pardon my arrogance. My name is Doctor Emil Bauer.”
Peter scratched his head. “We have a doctor in New Kingdom. He’s only been here a few months.”
“I’m not that kind of doctor. I need to get to Daybreak.”
“The sanitarium?” Caleb stepped up.
Emil eyed Caleb, he’s eyes fell on the sheriff badge pinned to his jacket. “That’s right. But this oaf of a driver told me he won’t take me there.”
Again Milford grumbled.
“I’m sure we can arrange a buggy to take you to Daybreak in the morning. It’s a good twenty miles from here.”
“I would really like to get there today,” Emil said with a hint of annoyance in his tone.
“That’s the best as we can do. I’m sure the hotel will have a room for you doctor.”
Caleb followed Adelaide into the hotel. The building held that peculiar musty smell that reminded him of the Black Rider’s lair. The odor remained fixed in his memory. Death usually carried a familiarity with it and Caleb was sure the aroma came from Catherine Blackstone. The scent didn’t seem to affect anyone else but him, which Caleb found disturbing in itself. It only added to his belief that he was changing. For the better or the worse he could not say.
At the main desk, the tall hotel manager, Carlos Tipador stood over Adelaide, reading her name as she made her mark on the hotel registry. “My father will be joining me in a couple of days before we move on west.”
“The stage won’t be back for a week,” Caleb informed her.
“He will be coming by different means,” she said with a rye smile.
Catherine Blackstone’s body odor became more prevalent when Caleb arrived on the second floor of the hotel. He carried Adelaide’s bags to the door of her room and sat them down.
“You won’t come in?” Adelaide asked, her eyes flashed at him.
Caleb thought for a moment. He found it hard to turn down an offer to go inside a ladies bed chambers, he’d seen many as of late in the whore house. Adelaide however was not a whore. Although he wanted to go inside with her, he bid her good afternoon with the tip of his hat and left her at the door, kicking himself every step of the way. At the foot of the stairs Caleb stopped and looked back to see Adelaide disappear into her room.
Down the hall Caleb stopped at Catherine Blackstone’s room and knocked on the door. He heard nothing from the other side so he knocked again. Reaching for the handle Caleb opened the door, his senses were attacked with a stronger odor. He stepped in.
The room was dark. The curtains and shades were closed, only a small lamp on the far side of the room provided little light.
“You took long enough to come and see me.”
Caleb looked away.
Catherine lay on the bed naked. “Don’t act so embarrassed. You’re hardly a virgin to a woman’s touch.”
“Oh, I can’t deny that. I’m here…”
“To run me out of town?”
“No, No I’m not.” Caleb took another step closer toward Catherine. For a dead woman she had nice firm breasts that Caleb could not deny; his eyes were fixed on them. His lips moistened.
“I am grateful that you have looked after me these past few months. Maybe we could come to some kind of arrangement,” Catherine said.
Caleb watched as Catherine moved her hand down between her legs, exposing herself completely. His mouth watered and the thought of copulating with her invaded his thoughts. He took a step closer toward her.
Suddenly out of thin air Eve appeared between Caleb and Catherine. Her gleaming presence blinded Caleb and made Catherine recoil from the bright holy light that the angel emitted. She raised both her hands out toward Caleb. “You can go no further.”
Before Caleb could protest his body became besieged by Eve’s holy light. With incredible power it pushed him out of Catherine’s room; he passed through a tunnel of pure light and projected him back to the jail in an instant. He stood bewildered for a time, unsure of what happened.
“I’ll be god damned,” he said and slumped into his desk chair.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
PLEASE NOTE: I will only be taking these orders for one week. I will be ordering from my printer on Sunday March 30th so you have until then to place an order.
New Kingdom: Daybreak will be on sale in trade paperback and ebook format 3/25/14
Posted by Charles F Millhouse at 6:25 AM
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Nebraska 1886: The time of the Black Riders is over and the small western town of New Kingdom has finally begun to show sings of normality. After killing the vampire Lucius Krull, Caleb Johnson has taken the job of town sheriff, but his heart is heavy. After being resurrected by the angel Eve and gifted with angelic powers, Caleb has begun to second guess his existence and while New Kingdom flourishes he strives to understand his new gifts... while struggling to keep the peace.
Peter Prokofiev still infected with his werewolf curse has become Caleb’s deputy, a loyal friend and confidant. They are the only two that stand in the way of the dark and loathsome creatures that have taken residence in the small Nebraska town. Peter finally feels like he has found a place to belong and no longer an outsider. As fates would allow however, Peter comes face to face with his past, when the man who condemned him to a Russian prison travels to New Kingdom. Soon after, Peter’s werewolf transformations begin to take a terrifying and horrific turn.
With Peter’s werewolf out of control, Caleb must fight to save his friend while facing even more perils – the arrival of a lovely petticoat named Adelaide Turner, whose own agenda for New Kingdom ushers in the arrival of the mysterious Sebastian – his mission is one of death and blood. Also arriving in town is Emil Bauer. A scientist bound for the secluded sanitarium Daybreak – whose ungodly experiments have drawn the attention of the illusive Mr. I.
At the forefront of New Kingdom’s woes, stands the Church. Reverend Howard Pittman refuses to be kept out of God’s house, but the house of worship has ideas of its own and rebuffs his attempts to enter its sanctum. Howard is relentless. Confidant he can drive out whatever evil lurks within – but what waits inside the church is a revelation Howard is unprepared to face.
New Kingdom: Daybreak
Word Count 100K
Intended for mature readers
Adult themes and situations
Release date 3/25/14
Posted by Charles F Millhouse at 5:22 AM