Saturday, January 31, 2009

Yet Another Quick Glance At My DVD Collection


Marshall, Will, and Holly on a routine expedition
Met the greatest earthquake ever known.
High on the rapids it struck their tiny raft,
And plunged them down a thousand feet below.
To the Land of the Lost

This is one of the treasures from my childhood. This show had everything, comedy, dinosaurs, the scary troll-like Sleestacks, time travel and of course Chaka. The best part about this show for me was watching the strange mythology build up as the series progressed, we learned about how the Altrusian's devolved into the Sleestacks, about how the Pylons effected the environment. In a lot of ways she show primed me for my love of the weird tales of Robert E. Howard and HP Lovecraft.

Another great thing about the first season is that it wraps up the entire storyline in a nice little time loop. Sure there were two more seasons after this but honestly they didn't do much for me then and still do nothing for me now. I also caught the remake series from the 1990's but that didn't really hold my attention either and they had a savage jungle girl in it! Ordinarily I love savage jungle girls.

Now of course they're going to try and this into a movie starring Will Farrel. I remain cautious but interested but I am not sure they could ever recapture the old show's strange magic.

I'm sure the over 40 nerds out there already have their own feelings about the series but I would like to say to all you youngsters out there with your iPods and your Xboxes that if you can look past the thirty year old production values and pacing you might really enjoy watching this.


OLDBOY (2003) and SWEENEY TODD (2008)
PLOTS: Both are stories of men destroyed by vengeance

OLDBOY is the story of a man dragged off the street and held captive for over a decade in a strange private prison. He doesn't know why this was done, he doesn't know who is responsible but his time as a prisoner costs him his wife, his daughter and his sanity. When he is freed he goes on a quest for revenge but he only has 5 days to learn the truth.

SWEENEY TODD is set in the Victorian era and is the story of a man arrested and exiled for a crime he did not commit. Over a decade later he manages to make his way back home to try and find his loved ones again. What he finds sets him on a path that leads to bloody retribution and some very snappy musical numbers.

Both films are very violent and bleak and yet are punctuated with scenes of sweetness and desperation. OLDBOY in particular lurches from gore to pathos at speeds that might induce whiplash on unprepared filmgoers. SWEENEY TODD keeps the same atmosphere all the way through but the films juxtaposition of tropes from the standard Broadway musical and the long lost art of Grand Guignol theater make for enthralling viewing.

Watching both films back to back makes for a fascinating comparison of similar plotlines seen through different cultural and directorial styles.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Be kind to my mistakes...

Hello one and all, I just wanted to mention that here I am about 12 hours from my posting of Claw and Order and the first thing I noticed was a whole passel of typos!

Now it looks like you all still read and enjoyed- and I just re-re-re-revised the story but I still have to apologize for the failed proofreading. This is what happens when I go from creation to posting in less than twenty minutes.

I promise that if I do put this book thing together I will pay someone with an actual English degree to go over it!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Claw and Order: Another Somewhat Real Life Adventure of Al Bruno III

Oh where can I begin, how can I begin to tell you about the exhausting events of this Thursday?

I was clean shaven, dressed in slacks and a crisp white shirt. Now I wasn't dressed up for work, as far as I'm concerned I could show up for work in my feety pajamas and not care what they have to say. This was traffic court and I was going to try and get out of a fine.

I suppose on some level it was morally wrong for me to try and get this ticket reduced, after all the officer did have me dead to rights. Yes my license plate had expired. Yes it was several months overdue. My only excuse and defense was that the car was in my wife's name and only she could do the renewing.

Actually it sometimes disturbs me to think of how much of my finances and property are in my wife's name. It had been done for expediency and because I had a bad habit of trading my paychecks for magic beans but it had led to a situation where my missus could ruin me financially with relative ease. That's right dear reader, my wife can not only beat me up she can also render me homeless as well.

Somehow that makes her all the more sexy to me for reasons only my therapist could understand.

So I headed in to traffic court, I had the directions all printed out and I gave myself plenty of time to get there but sadly Mapquest can be a cruel mistress and I found out far to late that I had parked several blocks away and been sent in the wrong direction. I like to think that for years to come the owners and employees will tell stories of the well dressed bald man that stood near the lunch counter shouting "I object!" whenever he was asked what his order was.

Well I made that last bit up, but I did get myself good and lost that day. I managed to get to the courthouse just in time, relatively speaking because when I got to the courthouse I found a line stretching out into the parking lot. Apparently the courthouse only used one of its entrances so every person entering could pass through a metal detector and get a good wanding as well.

Ah well, its been years since I had a good wanding.

So there I stood in the rain, surrounded by equally grumpy people with sweaty citations in their hands. Some smoked, some spit and conversations rippled up and down the line.

" long do they expect us to wait out here?"

"That's security man, They gotta make sure no one is carrying weapons or nothin'."

"Damn that Bin Laden."

"Why would Bin Laden attack a courthouse in North Carolina?"

"Because he hates our freedom."

I waited in the cold, trying to distract myself with thoughts of the warm embrace of my wife. Maybe we would have a chance to spend some time together. Of course not every conversation was so deeply political, some were personal.

"...and then I told him I wasn't havin' the fuckin' restraining order lifted until the sonovabitch gives me my Christian rock albums back."

"What the Hell for?"

"Have you heard that shit they play on the radio now? I don't want my babies exposed to that kind of fuckin' filth."

The line moved sluggishly, the people that had brought babies with them shifted anxiously in place, some customers saw the line as an opportunity.

"...and then I have to come back here again next week."

"What for?"

"Minor possession, I had a dime bag. Luckily they didn't find the oxy I had hidden in my shoes."

"You get that from the same dealer?"


"All my guy has lately is codeine and Tylenol three."

"We should totally exchange our dealer's numbers."

"Hang on let me get my Blackberry."

"Sure, hey what are you here for?"

"I'm trying to get this restraining order removed. My ex is all up in my face about some CDs she thinks I took."


After about an hour I got into the courthouse, one intimate wanding later I was in line to get into the courtroom. Once I was in the courtroom they directed me to a bench and told me to wait. The procedure was simple, the Assistant District Attorney called you up and tried to negotiate a plea bargain and if no agreement was reached they set a trial date. It was a lot like LAW AND ORDER except without the murders and dramatic music.

When my turn came I was able to explain and show her some paperwork. More paper work was needed before the charges could be dismissed or downgraded and a continuance was scheduled for next month. I really wasn't happy with that but the clock was ticking and I still had to get to work.

That done I walked the half a mile or so back to my car and headed in to work. As I got settled in Mr. Kupua asked me how I was doing and I answered quite honestly, "I feel like kicking someone's ass today."

He regarded me strangely and headed back to his office. That didn't worry me. Being regarded strangely comes with the territory of being Al Bruno III.

The first part of my shift went by smoothly but I was feeling a little worn out, and that was either because I had gotten up about three hours before my usual time or because my subconscious was trying to save my sanity from the doldrums of my job. I wondered what my wife was doing. I really hoped we might get my daughter to bed early. I wanted to spend some quality time with my missus.

Stay in school kids, stay in school.

When break time came I headed into the bathroom and splashed some cold water in my face. I took a moment to examine the face in the mirror before me; the expanding wattle, the baggy eyes, the aggressive baldness. Who was this middle aged man and were had the kid I used to be gone? I don't think I it would bother me so much if not for the fact that I still don't feel like a grown up. When I stop being foolish and silly? When would I be financially wide and secure? When would I stop masturbating?

But lets be honest here, my only real hope at this point is for financial security.

When I headed out to my desk Mr. Kupua was waiting for me, he told me we had to take a meeting. I could only worry that my hobby of writing blog posts like this one instead of working had finally caught up with me.

Oh wait. hang on while I minimize my screen.


Ok we're back.

So I followed Mr. Kupua to his office and I found Mr. Wisakedjak waiting for us. I became acutely aware of two things, first of all that each of them was at least 15 years younger than me, the other was that they both looked pretty damn serious.

Now as far as the age of these guys, that didn't really but me. I had never really chased the whole management thing, mostly because I was well aware that my inability to not roll my eyes and groan audibly when things like "Competitive Synergy" were said would get me fired pretty damn quick.

Now as for why they were so darn serious? I started to get worried, really worried, left the Christy Canyon DVD in the player and my wife found it worried.

"Please sit down Al." Mr. Kupua said.

I nodded, "Sure sure."

"Uh, that's my seat."

"Oh sorry."

I sat on the other side of the desk and tried to stay calm and not fart audibly.

"Now Al," he continued, "I have asked Mr. Wisakedjak here to be a witness to this."

"A witness to what?" I asked, "Did I win something?"

If anything Mr. Kupua became more serious making me more worried, after all this was good material I was using on him not like the stuff I do here.

Hey come on readers, its free after all, what did you expect?

Anyway, Mr. Kupua handed me a sheet of official looking paper and said, "You have taken the required course on workplace violence haven't you?"

"Uh, sure." I looked to Mr. Wisakedjak for a little help but his expression was stony, and not the good kind of stony but I have heard rumors about him.

"Well Al, what you said earlier about kicking ass constitutes a terrorist style threat to your co-workers."

I was dumbfounded, "What?"

"I think the training video was clear about the boundaries of what constitutes an act of battery."

I cleared my throat to try and clear the trembling from my voice, "Well first of all I think that a workplace violence training video starring Chuck Norris sends a mixed message of the highest order but also you know I was joking. I joke all the time! I'm quippy!"

Mr. Kupua tried to cut me off, "Now Al..."

"I am! Just check my resume! It says 'hard working, dedicated and quippy'!"

"Al please don't act like this. By your own admission you are aware of the policy."

Mr. Wisakedjak nodded, "You should be thanking him, he would have been within his rights to fire you."

Mr. Kupua frowned, "Very true, as it is you will be on a 90 day probationary period."

"After you take the mandatory sensitivity training."

Let me correct myself, I wasn't dumbfounded before. NOW I was dumbfounded,, "Sensitivity training? Sensitivity training? I am sensitive! I'm more sensitive than the nipples of a 12 year old boy."

Mr. Wisakedjak groaned, "Now that could constitute sexual harassment."

"You know Al, when I read in your file that you were an H.R. nightmare I thought they were joking." Mr. Kupua said.

Why does every employee file I ever had say that? is it my jokes? My easy going attitude? My smoldering sexuality?

"I need you to sign this write up form please." Mr. Kupua pushed the sheet of paper towards me.

Mr. Wisakedjak handed me a pen, "All things like this must be documented."

I could feel the office closing in around me, I was sweating and my gorge was rising, As I took the pen and signed the form I thought of my daughter, my wife, my pets and my web page. If I lost this job what would I do? This was a bad economy and I wasn't sure I would be able to fake another useful skill set with a tarted up resume.

With the paperwork signed I slumped back in my chair my posture defeated, "Listen I'm sorry guys. I never meant to cause a situation like this. I'll do my best to behave more professionally in the-"

I was cut off by the sound of a shredder. Mr. Kupua had just fed my write up form into it. I blinked. That was all I could do.

Both supervisors broke into laughter. "If you could have seen your face!" Mr. Wisakedjak wiped tears from his eyes.

"Huh?" I said.

Mr. Kupua said, "We reeled you in like a marlin man."

And then I realized it was a prank, or as those of you without gray hairs would say I had been punked. "Why would you do such a thing?" I asked.

"Now we're even for the time you unplugged my keyboard."

"And for the time you filled my lunchbox with rubber spiders." Mr. Wisakedjak added.

So they had gotten even. Good for them. In fact we all had a good laugh about it once I finished throwing up into Mr. Kupua's wastebasket. In fact I was smiling when I got home but I stopped smiling when I walked in the door because my dog Jake was having an episode.

Now we have 1 cat and 2 dogs. The cat is a reclusive black furred ball of fur with fierce eyes and a comic overbite, my daughter named him Fango B. Jango. The we have our two dogs Jake and Maddie. Maddie is an exuberant Lab mix that has been a constant source of amusement and property damage, we've had her since she was a puppy. Our other dog is Jake and we rescued him from a shelter, he's an oversized rat terrier with a trimmed tail and Marty Feldman eyes.

When we got Jake he was three years old and he had almost died of malnutrition and heartworms, the shelter had begun the process of bring Jake back from the brink and we finished it. Now I love Jake, he is my buddy.

But Jake to put it simply has issues.

He is terrified of being picked up, of certain hats, of pit bulls and stray cats, and of strange men standing too close to my wife and daughter.

So I got home to find the bedroom door closed and Jake acting frantic. I called for my wife and she called for me from behind the closed door.

Hmmmm. I thought, Is my daughter over at her friends house for the night, or her grandparents? Are there marital relations in my future?

Oh dear reader I was looking forward to this after the day I had suffered.

I threw open the door expectantly and I heard my daughter scream, "Daddy NO!"

She was holding a cat I had never seen before on her lap. Was is the operative phrase here because Jake came charging in the room, barking wildly with his hackles raised. The cat hissed and darted under the bed. This drove Maddie out from her hiding spot under the bed. A hissing, barking, crying, shouting cacophony filled my bedroom.

This was not the pussy I was hoping for.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So... did you hear that they are doing horror novels set in the STAR WARS universe?

Here is the cover art...

And the author Joe Schreiber talks about it on his blog over here...

Congratulations to Mr. Schreiber, DOOMTROOPERS will be the first Star Wars novel I've read since the original SPLITNER OF THE MIND'S EYE. (Still love that book BTW). I'm looking forward to it.

((Of course I would be the snotty little egotist I am if I didn't mention that a certain other author combined STAR WARS and horror first.

Check out the next link... ))

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Screeding In The Night

So here I am at this ungodly hour of the night adding one of my other novellas to the blog.

It is called Acquatinted with the Night and it is another one of those stories that I have been carrying around with me for years. I thought it would be neat to have it here for your reading ease.

I also have been working on how best to format things because once I finish Price Breaks and Heart Breaks I plan to start up an online horror novel, and this could be a long one so I hope you are ready and/or interested.

I should also note that I am inching ever closer to creating a POD anthology for people that might be interested in it. It will have some of the stories here but it will also have 50% new material.

Well I am off to bed now. I hope that you enjoy the new material.

Acquainted With The Night Chapter Twelve

(and other abrasions)
Acquainted With The Night
Al Bruno III

Chapter Twelve

The Manor

By dawn the attack was over, entire sections of the City of Olathoe had been leveled. Most of the fires had burned themselves out, but a few held on, sputtering and coughing over the piles of debris and ruined buildings. The Monarchs' troops were busy rounding up the survivors and setting them to the task of clearing away the bodies and wreckage.

From his vantage point on Mr. Kriely’s balcony, Dr. Flesh wondered what was left now. The cafe on Nooker Street, Mimir's Fountain? The Great Assembly? The park on Kissos Lane?

Of course, there was already talk of the glorious new buildings the Monarchs would build, of sleek new designs and cutting edge technology. Dr. Flesh cringed at the very thought. A woman in white stepped on to the balcony, flanked on either side by Sentries. She looked Dr. Flesh over, her voice bore an accent from the Deep South, “At the risk of soundin' a tad ironic, do ya’all need a doctor?”

“Do I know you?”

She grinned, “How do you like the new me?”

Dr. Flesh goggled, “Mr. Kriely?”

“Actually that's Ms. Kriely now.”

“I see.” He couldn't help but stare; she was almost a full foot shorter than her old persona. Mr. Kriely's lanky proportions had been replaced by a slender, delicate form, her features were aristocratically beautiful.

“So are you all right?” She asked.

“How long has Polonius worked for you?” He looked back over the wreckage.

The woman in the white Armani suit clasped her hands together, “Where did you get such an outlandish idea?”

“Your troops were very careful to avoid damaging the Spire. Funny that.”

“You’re seeing things that are not there.”

“You knew there was a rebellion in the making but you didn’t want to strike first and look like a villain to the citizens of Olathoe but you needed to look strong to keep your job with the Monarchs. You needed someone to encourage Morgan to move too fast and too soon. And Morgan and Polonius needed me to make a botch of things, which I did, but not in the way they expected. ”

“Now… now…”

“I suppose you can’t complain, Morgan’s dead and everyone that supported him that isn’t dead probably wishes they were by now. I bet even Noah is running scared.”

“The Hanged Man? He was here?”

“You didn’t know? Well I wouldn’t worry. You’ve secured the Monarchs’ grip on the city for another generation at least.” Dr. Flesh shook his head, “What a job you have.”

“The Regency is more than a job. You of all people should know that.”

“Is it worth all this… carnage?”

Ms. Kriely narrowed her eyes, “Ah'm afraid this was all beyond my control.”

“Beyond you control?” Dr. Flesh advanced on her, “Beyond your control?”

She raised her arms in mock helplessness, “Now Flesh, you know ah was just following orders.”

The Sentries tensed, their hands hovering over their weapons. Dr. Flesh stopped and glared, “This will cost you someday.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Would I threaten the Monarchs' chosen?”

“Ah had no choice old friend.” She handed him a tattered velvet bag, “By the by. My men came across this while scouring the ruins of Rue d'Auseil. I wonder how they ever came to be there.”

“Thank you.” Dr. Flesh pocketed the black rubies, already wondering half with excitement and half with dread how much of it would be used to pollute his veins with chemical bliss. He didn't want to remember this night; he wanted to scorch it from memory forever.

“Now for some new business.” Ms. Kriely fished around in the pockets of her Armani suit until she found a leather-bound notepad, “Members of the DelaWorg family have evaded capture…”


Ms. Kriely stumbled over her words, eyebrows raising “No?”

“No more. I’m done.” He drew his Inverness in around his wounded arm.

Ms. Kriely planted her fists on her hips, “Ah swear you men are all alike.”

Dr. Flesh was about to tell her to fuck off when something small and gray bounded out onto the balcony. “What is it? Don’t let it near me!” Ms. Kriely darted behind the Sentries.

A tiny gray kitten opened its mouth and loosed a feeble meow.

“Get back boys!” Dr. Flesh laughed, “He looks like a real killer.”

The Sentries reholstered their weapons. Ms. Kriely shook her head and pocketed her notepad.

Dr. Flesh lifted the kitten up and cradled it in his good arm, it began purring almost instantly. What was this? A coincidence? A gift?

“Well, I'll leave you two to get acquainted,” Ms. Kriely turned to leave.

“How did you get in here?” He leaned his face in close to the kitten's. It reached out and touched his nose with a paw. This, Dr. Flesh knew, would be the perfect gift for his boy. After all he could still make it home for Christmas if he tried. “Don’t you know the Regent lives here?”

“Oh,” Ms. Kriely called from the hallway, “Here is something else I happened to find, considah it a peace offering or a 'lil Christmas present.”

The Sentries threw someone onto the balcony; the figure hopped in circles and slumped against the wall. The kitten stiffened with surprise, Dr. Flesh cocked an eyebrow.

It was Addlbert, bound and gagged with duct tape, tears and sweat slicking his face.

“Happy Holidays!” Ms. Kriely called from further down the hall.

Dr. Flesh set the kitten down and walked over to him, “Addlbert,” He pulled the duct tape from the apprentice's mouth, “aren't you glad to see your old pal the Comprachio?”

The kitten sat down in the corner and began methodically cleaning itself. A blubbering scream filled the air.

It was the first of many.

Acquainted With The Night Chapter Ten

(and other abrasions)
Acquainted With The Night
Al Bruno III

Chapter Ten

Eagle Point

The news traveled fast- Dr. Flesh has gone mad.

He cut a swathe through the streets of Olathoe, working his way from poseur radicals to hardcore revolutionaries but always the question was the same... “Where is Morgan?” Mutilation and death followed in his wake, and if they happened to be dealing to finance their glorious revolution? All the better.

The news reached Morgan soon enough, reports of Dr. Flesh heading towards Eagle Point, his face streaked with blood and white powder. “And of course the Constables are doing nothing to stop him.” Kerr said. He was a stout man, an ex-Sentry with an unpleasant dress sense. He wore a gauntlet with an electronic keypad on his right hand. He poked at the buttons as he paced the third floor of the modest Tudor building that he and Morgan called home.

“Madness.” Morgan was stoop shouldered and dressed in simple robes. In a strange nod to vanity he was never seen without his powdered wig, rumor said he even slept in it. He frowned as he peered out the window onto the street below. A dozen of his most loyal and brutal followers were camped there; a necessary show of force he was more and more uncomfortable with as the night wore on. “Completely out of character.”

“He's a thug and a junkie sir.”

“Be that as it may.” Morgan turned back to the fireplace, thoughtfully stirring the embers with the poker. It had all begun simply enough for Morgan, a year ago he had left the Spire and lost himself to the city. He had moved among the population like a campaigning politician, he had healed the sick, rescued children, counseled peace and offered hopes of renewed prosperity.

Prosperity that had been slow coming under the Monarchs and their Regent Mr. Kriely.

Soon citizens were flocking to his every appearance, statesmen were eager to be seen at his side. Morgan accepted blessings from the leaders of every religious faction graciously, but kept his faith to himself. Even Mr. Kriely was heard to grudgingly acknowledge that this man was a force to be reckoned with.

After a few months of basking in public adoration, Morgan began to draw lines in the sand. Members of the Church of the Rebirthed Pendaroth, always critical of the Monarchs, were rounded up by the Sentries and shipped off to work camps. At public rallies Morgan began to rage at the callous disregard for the citizens' rights displayed by the Monarchs. He wondered aloud if perhaps, the Monarchs had been in power for too long. After all they had led the City from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, perhaps it was time the torch was passed, and perhaps the City of Olathoe needed a new leader to help them meet the challenges of the twenty first century. Morgan never openly sought to be this leader, but when the people called his name he listened.

Of course the Monarchs' Regent did not sit idyll while revolution fermented in his backyard; but somehow Morgan managed to walk away unscathed from the worst they could muster. The suppressions of his followers only fueled the citizens' growing paranoia and drove more supporters into Morgan's' camp; and then the Monarchs' near extermination of the shape shifting Vlodek left the City ripe for an upheaval.

Morgan made one final public appearance; he told the assembled crowd that they could take control of their destinies once more. The speech was a rousing success; there were widespread riots and protests through the city for days afterward.

The Sentries quelled the unrest with savage force, leaving an uneasy peace. Morgan withdrew to his fortified home at Eagle Point. The house and taxes were all in Kerr's ex-wife's father's name so no one knew Morgan was even there.

Until now of course.

A single gunshot shattered the third floor study window. Kerr threw himself over Morgan, pushing them both to the floor.

When no other shots followed both men got up and moved cautiously to the window. Kerr made a sobbing sound at the sight, Morgan simply cursed. The men guarding the front entrance had been reduced to a single puddle of quivering, boneless meat. It might have been a trick of the moonlight, but Morgan could swear it was still moving.

Kerr said, “What kind of man....”

The door exploded inward, wood and metal shrapnel clattering across the room. Dr. Flesh strode in, his to wide, his grimace inhuman. His clothes were torn and ripped but the flesh beneath was untouched. Blood caked his fingers and streaked his clothes, but not a single drop was his. “Morgan!”

Kerr threw himself at the man, punching wildly even daring to bite. Dr. Flesh stumbled back a step but refused to topple over. He let his hand sink into the flesh of the man's neck as through it were a soft pudding then he grabbed hold of the bony length of Kerr’s spinal cord and pulled it free.

Morgan stood there, brandishing the fireplace poker, “Waste! All of this was waste.”

“Come on.” Dr. Flesh let the other man's body sag to the floor, “Come on!”

Morgan raised the length of metal and struck him across the side of the head. Dr. Flesh cried out and dropped to one knee. Instinctively he raised his hand to the wound only to have Morgan again, this blow smashing his fingers. Dr. Flesh groaned and pitched forward, catching himself at the last second with his left arm.

“This I am sure you have realized this is no ordinary metal I hold in my hand.” Morgan said, “I had it specially made just in case you or one of the more reputable members of your family came calling.”



The hated name roused Dr. Flesh from his pain, he tried to attack but Morgan was ready. He swung his club hard and fast. Dr. Flesh sobbed and fell, his left arm broken at the elbow.

“I traced your exploits back through history until I came across some records pertaining to King Philip III's desperate quest for an absconded servant, his Royal Freak Maker, his Grande Comprachio. A man who did not age, a man who was something other than human, a man who could not be injured or restrained except by weapons and manacles made of iron in its unrefined state. A man of honor.” Morgan's eyes narrowed with distaste, “Although I find it hard to believe that one who traffics in the production and sale of deformed children could ever have any sort of honor.”

Dr. Flesh cradled his useless arm, “Fucking hypocrite! You call what you did honorable?”

Morgan crossed his arms, “What are you talking about?”

“You killed Scamander!” Dr. Flesh tried to stand under his own power, but swayed uncertainly and fell to his knees, “You killed all of them, and I wasn't even there! It was for nothing you stupid fuck!”

A slow smile spread over Morgan’s face, “Listen to me Comprachio, I don't know who your friends are much less who killed them. Polonius and I had other plans for you.”

Dr. Flesh blinked, his pain momentarily forgotten, “Polonius?”

“Ah yes.” Morgan leaned on the fireplace poker like it was a cane, “Your attempt on my life would have been just the catalyst my followers needed.”

“But…” Dr. Flesh slumped, “I'm…”

“Washed up? Addicted? Broken?” Morgan said, “That is why we chose you, that is why I let you murder my favorite courtesan.”

“I’m not a murderer, I’m an assassin.”

“You’re a thug and not even a very good one at that.” Morgan sneered, “All you ever had was your grotesque ability and now thanks to your injuries you don't even have that.”

“Maybe.” Dr. Flesh launched himself up at Morgan and clamped his one good hand down on the man’s throat. The wrought-iron poker dropped from Morgan’s grip and he clawed at Dr. Flesh’s face. Dr. Flesh held on, grinning madly. Morgan found his wounded arm then and struck at it again and again.

Morgan pulled free, got to his feet and tumbled backwards crashing into an endtable; candles and old books scattered everywhere. Dr. Flesh hissed each breath through his teeth, he lifted the fireplace poker, the flesh of his hand began to smolder. “You think you're the first to leave me like this?” Dr. Flesh swung at Morgan, the tip of the poker catching him in the throat. Morgan sputtered crimson and tried to crawl away. Dr. Flesh turned him on his back with a single well placed kick to the ribs. “You think I don't know what I am?”

Morgan tried to beg.

Dr. Flesh raised length of wrought iron high over his head and brought it down hard on Morgan’s head. Bits of bone and powdered hair spattered his boots, them he moved on, to the ribs and the limbs. Striking Morgan again and again until his pleading and protests faded to gurgles and his breaths became a death rattle. Even in the midst of his fury Dr. Flesh made sure the face stayed intact and recognizable.

Acquainted With The Night Chapter Nine

(and other abrasions)
Acquainted With The Night
Al Bruno III

Chapter Nine

Bushman Terrace

Dr. Flesh began to smell smoke. The pungent smell distracted him from his thoughts; he looked up to see flames lashing into the dark, snowy sky. When he realized where the fire was coming from he broke into a run. Dr. Flesh tried to stay calm, tried to remind himself that this could be a trap but he quickly brushed such considerations aside.

His boot slipped on a patch of frozen sidewalk and he went down hard on his shoulder. He grunted with pain and stumbled back to his feet. “No.” His voice was ferocious, “No!”

A block from Kliftin Hill, the armored Sentriesies had set up roadblocks. They patrolled the perimeter, keeping the growing audience of curfew breaking spectators at bay. Dr. Flesh shouldered roughly through the crowd, and stopped at the barricades.

Flames were ravaging Scamander's manor, devouring everything but the stonework. Smoke rose from every shattered widow, carrying with it flurries of white ashes. Sentries and their damage control vehicles clustered as close as possible, trying to quell the flames by means both mechanical and mystical.

Dr. Flesh stepped over the barricade. The armored Sentriesy turned on him, “I've had about enough of you people! Get back!”

Shoving the Sentries aside, Dr. Flesh walked zombie-like to the corner of Kliftin Hill and Bushman Terrace. One of the manor's walls squealed and collapsed inward, dragging down most of the roof and the other three walls with it. The screams of the people trapped inside the building somehow carried over the rumble of the flames.

In the courtyard, a robed figure waved his arms and chanted in an ancient tongue. The flames dwindled to glowing embers, darkness moved in to retake the night. Somewhere in the crowd, applause rose up. The other Sentries began to rush toward the wreckage to search for survivors.

Moments the later a fresh tendril of flame rose up to lick the sky, the Sentries reeled back heat shocked and burning. Oblivious to it all, Dr. Flesh stepped over hoses and past the white van parked near the manor's front gate.

The coroners puffed away on cheap cigarettes and joked around as they surveyed the three rows of six body bags lying in the street. The door of their van was open, the hooks suspended from its ceiling glinted dully in the firelight.

A coroner spied Dr. Flesh kneeling beside one of the bodies and tried to shout him away. “It's all right,” He said, his expression desolate, “I'm a doctor.”

He unzipped the thick plastic and stared at the figure inside. It was curled into a fetal ball; the flames had seared the clothing, tissue and bone into a soft, brown carapace that rendered the body faceless and sexless.

Was this Horace? Dr. Flesh wondered, or perhaps it was Giselle? Or even Scamander? Did they die quietly in their sleep of smoke inhalation or had they experienced the burning, all encompassing pain of a death by fire. Had they shouted for help? Had they called his name?

An animal cry was escaping him, he could hear it whispering past his teeth as a growl. He covered the body and forced himself to stand; he would mourn later. The coroner stood by watching his every move. Dr. Flesh knew the kind of men they were and the kind of pleasures they partook of.

Dr. Flesh asked, “Were there any survivors?”

“Sir, I uhm...”

“Tell me!”

“No, no. The fire came too fast, Chief Constable Loundsberry suspects an explosion.”

“He'd be a damn fool not to.”

“Whatever you say...”

Dr. Flesh turned and stared him down, “Do you know who I am?”

“Yes.” The coroner shrank back.

“Good. Now, when the fire dies you'll find eleven more bodies in there. I want you to take those bodies to Mimir's Fountain and drop them in. Every one of them. And you'll be gentle with them, you'll treat them like they were sacred.”

The coroner’s eyes widened, “There are procedures...”

Dr. Flesh jabbed his finger into the coroner's shoulder, “Fuck your procedures and fuck you. Do it or I'll...” The coroner howled with terror at his touch. Dr. Flesh' voice nearly broke. “...just do it!” He turned and walked away, “Or I'll find you.”

Acquainted With The Night Chapter Eight

(and other abrasions)
Acquainted With The Night
Al Bruno III

Chapter Eight

The park on Kissos Lane

For As long as there had been a City of Olathoe, there have been cats. Some legends say that they are the keepers of the City's secrets, that they know all and tell nothing. Others believe that they are the decedents of refugees from fabled Ulthar, waiting and scheming until the moment is right. More modern minded thinkers theorize that they are drawn to the City because of the powerful alpha waves produced by its citizens. Over the centuries laws have been passed to protect them, parks had been set aside for their use and whole religions had sprung up in the wake of their mystery.

Dr. Flesh had been to the City of Olathoe countless times but he had never given the felines much thought. After all, if they possessed some great storehouse of knowledge, why didn't they use it? If they were the original City's founders, then why were they content with such a primitive existence? But now he found himself following one on a mad tour through the streets.

They had journeyed through districts that lay sleeping under a blanket of snow. They passed Mimir's Fountain, where a single robed figure knelt before its icy depths and wailed as though all hope had gone from the world, and skirted along the electrified fence that surrounded the dreaded Janisaria ghettos. Eventually they found themselves standing before the locked gates of the park on Kissos Lane.

Everywhere there were signs warning that trespassing was punishable by death. The orange tomcat leapt to the wall and glowered down at him.

Unable to shake the feeling he was being followed, Dr. Flesh waited a good five minutes, looking this way and that before he scrambled over the cold, slick wall to find himself knee deep in snow. In a matter of steps he left the City behind. The park grew wild with trees as tall as houses and blades of grass so long that even now the tips protruded from the drifts like stubble. The orange tomcat set off through the white dunes, leaving Dr. Flesh to slog along in pursuit.

Cats padded in and around the trees, so many that he quickly gave up all hope of making a count. They seemed to be following him, herding him to the center of the park.

Dr. Flesh wondered if this wasn't all some elaborate trap. Up ahead, between four ancient elms, a hoard of cats waited. They paced this way and that, with puffed tails and cautious eyes.

The orange tomcat brushed between Dr. Flesh' legs and gave a little cry. The sea of fur parted and his feline guide bounded down the corridor. Dr. Flesh followed, taking care to avoid paws and tails, straining to see what they were protecting in their midst.

A lifeless kitten lay in their midst lifeless. “Another one.” Dr. Flesh rubbed his chin, “What is this?”

The orange tomcat laid its paws on his leg, Dr. Flesh looked to see it held a scrap of dark cloth in its mouth. He knelt and took it, “Are you...are you asking me to find who did this?

The tomcat purred briefly and rubbed its face on Dr. Flesh' hand.

“I don't... I'm not...”

The cat issued a single plaintive cry.

“All right. I'll try.” He said, and then paused, “I'm talking to a cat!”

The other cats began to withdraw, flitting this way and that, but always in groups of three or more. He watched them go, musing that they had certainly eliminated any chance of him finding footprints. He examined the scrap of cloth; it was jet black with a frayed white fringe, almost like a shirtsleeve or pant leg. He held it to his nose and sniffed, it reeked of chemicals.

It wasn't much to go on, but he still had one more trick up his sleeve. Dr. Flesh gently brushed snow from the kitten and laid his bare fingertips on the fragile body. He closed his eyes and searched for any lingering memories in the kitten's nervous system.

At first he saw nothing but darkness but then he found himself...

...low to the ground and full of energy. Bounding into the air, trying to catch snowflakes in his paws. His littermates forgotten, he scuttles deeper and deeper into the forest, his whiskers tingling with cold and excitement. Sampling the air he almost swoons at the rich smells the scent of decaying leaves and sap, the ghostly aromas of territorial markings and long forgotten couplings. A slight tremor shakes the earth. He halts, suddenly feeling very vulnerable. Using all his untrained senses he plies the depths of the forest. A cloying, alien odor invades his nostrils. Something darts along the treeline, a fleeting shadow against a backdrop of snow, human footsteps there was no mistaking that arrogant stride. The hairs on the back of his neck bristle as he realizes how far he's wandered from his den. Instinct makes his body tense. A pair of ebony boots crash out of the darkness and before he can dart to safety he is hefted skyward. The mere touch of his attacker sends icy bolts of pain arcing through his tiny body. He flails at his attacker, his claws raking the cold luminous hands. A black masked face looms before him, he yowls and convulses frantically, but in moments the deep, savage chill has robbed him of the strength to do anything but breathe. And a moment later he loses the strength for even that...

...the kitten splintered and crumbled, Dr. Flesh issued a shuddering gasp and stumbled backwards into the snow.

For a time he lay flat on his back, oblivious to everything but the kitten's death throes. Those hands had been all encompassing, and so stingingly icy that even in memory they chilled him to the bone.

He might have lain there till dawn if not for the warm rasping sensation tickling his chin. Dr. Flesh stirred and blinked, his glasses speckled with snow.
The orange tomcat sat on his chest and was licking his chin with long, deliberate strokes of his sandpapery tongue.

“Not much to go on. Not even a face.”

The orange tomcat paused and cocked its head at him.

“And all in black, that's always been all the rage. Especially here.”

The cat leapt from his chest and watched him lurch to his feet with a sour gaze.

“Don't worry. I'll find him...” Dr. Flesh looked back at the clumsy snow angel he'd made and thought again of those last three pills on the nightstand, “...somehow.”

The cat retreated into the forest.

Acquainted With The Night Chapter Seven

(and other abrasions)
Acquainted With The Night
Al Bruno III

Chapter Seven

Kliftin Hill

The snow had begun to stick, it hung from the tree branches and dusted the sidewalks. Brother Scamander' seventeen living children scampered about in the thickening downfall, shoving, screaming, singing and pitching snowballs at the single dirty swan that had made the courtyard's deep pond its home.

A squat Victorian manor overlooked the courtyard, lights burning in every window. From his room on the second floor Dr. Flesh watched them play as he spit polished the blood from his boots. The scene filled him with visions of his son, did he ever play in the snow like this?

He pulled the towel from his shoulders and ran it once more through his damp hair. The shower had rinsed away the blood and grime, and refreshed his resolve.

There was a knock at the door, he pitched the towel back into the bathroom. “Come in.”

Brother Scamander poked his head in the room, “You didn't even ask who it was.”

“It's your house.”

“Very true.” He joined Dr. Flesh at the window.

“I can relax now, there's already been an attempt on my life.”

“No!” Scamander's eyes widened, he looked his friend over from head to toe as if he expected to find a dagger protruding from his back, “I told you not to be staying in some damned motel.”

“Believe me, it was nothing.” Dr. Flesh chuckled.

“What happened?”

“I killed one and let the other go.”

“Why did you ever do such a foolish thing?”

“Because, now she'll never come after me again and she'll tell every other thug in the city they'd be crazy to take a shot at me.”

Brother Scamander shook his head and rolled his eyes, “Such a life you lead! I need a drink just to think about it.”

“I'll have a brandy.” Dr. Flesh watched him open the liquor cabinet and sift around inside.

“How do the clothes fit?”

He patted the brown breeches and gold tunic, “They fit perfectly. It's hard to believe you were ever my size.” There were three pills left in his pocket, Dr. Flesh fingered them idly.

“For that, I should make you get your own brandy.” Scamander said pouring a generous amount of cognac into a snifter, “You should come over more often, I cannot remember when I have seen Delilah prepare such a meal.”

Dr. Flesh took his glass and sat down, “What time is dinner?”

Scamander pulled another chair up to the window and drank from the bottle of bourbon. “Seven o'clock. We have half an hour almost. Tell me, when was the last time you spoke to Rachel?”

“I don’t bother her. She’s got her own life now.” Dr. Flesh emptied his glass, “Last I heard she hooked up with some guy named Saint Louis. You heard of him?”

“They say his is very tall.”

“She doesn’t need to hear from me.” Dr. Flesh got up and poured himself another drink, “I stopped by Pexley's Emporium today.”

“You don't say.” Scamander took a cautious moment to consider his words, “And how is Pexley?”

“He hates me.”

“I'm sorry.”

Dr. Flesh shrugged.

“Was he any help?”

“Not a damned bit.”

“What now?”

“I have no idea my friend, especially since Morgan knows I'm here.” Outside all the children but one had begun to collaborate on a snowman of grotesque proportions; the swan watched them cautiously.

“Little Horace never wants to play with the others.” Scamander said with a note of sadness.


“Pah!” He waved a hand and drank deeply, “A summer ago, at Mimir's Fountain, he was looking to see if he could see the bones of his brothers and sisters. He fell in, he almost drowned. Ironic in a way.”

Dr. Flesh shifted his gaze from his friend's pained expression to the trio of coelacanths swimming mindlessly about in an oversized fishtank.

“His older brother Brian pulled him free and pumped the breath back into his lungs, but I tell you for a few minutes Horace was dead.”

Dr. Flesh emptied is snifter, “Was there... damage?”

“No. But he thinks he is a still dead, some kind of a ghost. I say to him, Horace you eat, you sleep, you breathe! How is it you can be dead? But he just sits and almost never speaks.”

“I'm sorry Scamander.”

He shrugged “What can you do? The tide ebbs, the tide flows.”

“Is there any way I can help?”

“If you could I would have asked long ago.”

“I hope Father Muñoz wasn't any inconvenience.”

“He is welcome in my home.” The grin returned to Scamander's wide face, “Besides I am curious to hear how his church fares with the millennium so close.”

“Sixteen years is close?”

“Close enough.”

“Well, all I know is that there better be an apocalypse or a lot of people are gonna be pissed.”

After they shared a brief chuckle, Brother Scamander became serious once more, “Speaking of things apocalyptic.”

“Oh boy, this should be good.”

In the courtyard the snowman was already half completed, the children were diligently crafting a head from snow and stones. Horace sat off to one side, indifferently stroking the dirty swan as it nuzzled at is armpit.

“Some say if there is a riot the Monarchs are going to will raze the City.”

“Scamander…” Dr. Flesh said, his expression pained.

“Some say that the innocent will be punished with the guilty.”

Dr.Flesh placed a hand on his friend's shoulder, “I don’t have anything to do with the Monarchs anymore. They chose Kriely I chose the road.”

Outside one of the girls spied her father and abandoned her work to wave and blow kisses. Scamander patted Dr. Flesh' hand, “I just worry.”

“And no matter what happens, I'll make sure my adopted nieces and nephews are safe.”

“You are a good friend.”

“Come on. Lets go check on dinner.” Dr. Flesh said, “Besides I can only take so much of this male bonding crap.”

- - -

The dining room had a cathedral like quality to it, with high ceilings and a length of almost ten yards. A huge crystal chandelier was suspended over a table big enough to accommodate sixty. Brother Scamander sat at the head of the table, Father Muñoz to his left and Dr. Flesh to his right. Brother Scamander' wives were next, seated in order of seniority, their seventeen children spread between them. Conversations rippled along the table, each participant altering the subject to his or her whims. Every pause or lull in the chatter was bridged by the cacophony of clicking forks and passing plates.

“What I am saying is that yours is the only faith that believes the Earth will not be flooded again.” Brother Scamander explained between mouthfuls of Veal Alicandro.

Father Muñoz picked at his Steak au Poivre, “Well, that's what the rainbow is all about, it’s a sign of the Lord's promise that he will never again flood the world.”

“Ah, but isn't that the old covenant? Couldn't the new covenant sealed with his son's blood be a different matter entirely?”

Further down the table a toddler erupted into a fit of coughing; his mother began to scold him almost immediately for not covering his mouth. Dr. Flesh watched Father Muñoz squirm at Scamander's latest riposte.

“It's different but the same.” He said finally.

Scamander reached for his wine glass, “How?”

“It just is.”

“That's not proof!”

“When you have faith you don't need proof! That's why it's called faith.” The priest's face twisted into a scowl.

“You can have your faith.” Brother Scamander helped himself to extra servings on all fronts as he spoke, “But I know the flood waters will come again and when they do my flock will be prepared.”

“You're a fool if you think the world will end by water.” Father Muñoz pointed a bandaged finger at his host, “Look around you! The last days will be ushered in by a series of man made nuclear blasts that will lay even the mighty oceans to waste. Those who survive will be decimated by the ensuing nuclear winter. The Earth will be the coldest it ever was, colder than space.”

Conversation at the table lulled as all eyes turned to the bickering holy men. Dr. Flesh looked from Father Muñoz's angry eyes to Scamander's shocked expression and decided it was time to change the subject before there was bloodshed. “Father, is there something the matter? You've hardly touched your steak.”

Both men looked away from each other, the tension broken, “It's not how I like it.”

“I see. By the way, did you ever report the assault?”

“Oh yes, I did. Thank you.”

“You know, I think I came across more of your attacker's handiwork.”

The side conversations resumed, the wives gossiping, the children bickering. “You don't say?”

“Yes, a friend of mine showed me a cadaver that had died of strangulation, but it seems the attacker's touch left the skin of the throat practically frozen solid.”

Scamander grimaced, “It sounds like one of the madmen infected with the faith of Bodge Loyar.”

“What?” Father Muñoz said, “What makes you say that?”

“Bodge Loyar is a lost god from a broken faith.” Brother Scamander explained, “Only the mad and the inbred worship him. They see their god as a Harlequin locked in a Prison of ice. Have you ever heard of such a thing?”

Dr. Flesh asked, “How do you know one of them killed that man I was telling you about?”

“They take their god into them, a kind of communion if you will pardon me Father.” Scamander nodded to the frowning priest, “Only to find he is cold and hungry. He makes their touch like the wind atop mount Kadiphonek and he makes them hungry for souls. If they do not feed they freeze solid from the inside out.”

“You don't say?” Father Muñoz turned his attention back to his meal.

“He was one of your flock you know.” Dr. Flesh said.


“The dead man.”

“What makes you say that?” Father Muñoz asked.

“He was found clutching a medal of St. Francis”

“How interesting. I must inquire if he needs last rites or anything.”

“I think it may be too late for that.”

One of Brother Scamander's wives excused herself, when she stood it was obvious she was in the final stages of pregnancy.

“I wouldn't worry about it Father, the Constables will find the person responsible.” Dr. Flesh said.

“Have you had any more encounters with the cats?” Brother Scamander asked.

“Actually I have.” Dr. Flesh replied, “last night the orange tomcat was scratching at my window.”


“Yes, I think he was trying to warn me of an assassination attempt.”

Father Muñoz cracked a sardonic smile, “I've heard of guard dogs, but guard cats?”

“The cats are very wise.” One of Scamander's oldest, a gawky adolescent named Marina spoke up, “And they always repay a service done. I know, 'cause when I was a little girl, I lost my doll. So I left a saucer of milk and a bit of fish outside and the next morning the milk and fish were gone and my doll was returned.”

“No doubt child, someone was having a bit of fun with you.”

“Father!” Scamander scolded, “Where's your faith?”

“Are you really a doctor?”

When he saw Horace standing behind his chair Dr. Flesh grinned broadly. He and lifted the little boy into his lap, “What was that?”

Horace's only reply was to look away, his face reddening.

“It's all right.” Brother Scamander swallowed hard, “He won't hurt you.”

“That's right.” Dr. Flesh agreed, “I won't harm a single solitary hair on your head. Ask away buster.”

“Are you really a doctor?”

“Well no.”

Horace made eye contact, “Then why do they call you Dr. Flesh?”

Scamander issued an evil laugh. Dr. Flesh shot him an equally evil look, “Enjoying this?”


“Why am I called Dr. Flesh? Dr. Flesh looked to the chandelier as though it might provide answers, “Why am I called Dr. Flesh?”

It soon became apparent the almost everone at the table was deathly quiet, poised to pounce on his answer. Dr. Flesh decided to offer them a shade of the truth.

“When I was younger,” He began, “a fad started up here. People started using fake names instead of their real names.”


“To try and sound more impressive. I'll give you an example. Now your name is Horace, right?”


“Now tell me truthfully Horace, would you rather be called Horace or the Amazing GhostBoy?”

He smiled sheepishly, “Ghostboy.”

“And which name do you think would scare more people?”


Dr. Flesh glanced briefly at Scamander, “Well, that's how it was back then, people were calling themselves things like the Gray Mandarin, BoneDancer, the Misery Perfecter, Lord Evernight... even Mr. Kriely had a nickname back then. They called him Carpetbagger.”

Father Muñoz snorted, “Sounds like something from out of a comic book.”

“Believe me it was.” Dr. Flesh said.

One of the older children whispered a single “Wow.”

“What's your real name?” Horace asked.

“Uh oh.” Brother Scamander chuckled.

“Maybe I should call you the Question Box.” Dr. Flesh remarked.

“What's your real name?”

“Horace, that's a very personal thing to me.”

“I won't tell anybody.”

“I know. It's just, private. Only my son and my... and my wife know it.”

The boy frowned with disappointment, “That's OK.”

“But I'll tell you what.” Dr. Flesh said, a glimmer of mischief in his eyes, “How would you like to know your father's old nickname?”

Brother Scamander tried to object but he was shouted down by his own children. Dr. Flesh looked around the table and said, “I won't tell you how he got the name, I'll let your imaginations work that out...”

“Please my friend, do not do this.”

“But when I met your father he called himself ‘The Aquarian’”

“The aquarium?” Horace said curiously. The Children squealed and laughed with delight, some of their mothers did as well.

Brother Scamander blushed furiously, “You are not going to make it out of this house alive I can tell you that.”

- - -

Conversation and drinks lasted long into the night, half the fun had been in watching Scamander and Father Muñoz trying to convert one another. Dr. Flesh was surprised to find he could enjoy himself after all the unpleasantness of the day.

Wandering down the hall to his room his worries returned. Comprachio. If Addlbert and Joy know that name, and what it means, then so does Morgan...

His train of thought came squealing to a halt when he saw what was waiting for him in his room. Three candles had been lit and placed in front of the bureau mirror, their illumination refracted this way and that, like shadows on a diamond.

Giselle was waiting for him, wearing a sheer nightgown; her hair hung down around her shoulders in wild curls. Smiling demurely she closed the door behind him, “My husband told me to come to you tonight.”

A flush worked its way over his skin, “That's very flattering but I really don't-”
Standing on tip-toes she swallowed his words with a kiss. Dr. Flesh' tried to push her away but she caught her hands in hers and guided them to the round curves of her hips. She held them there with gentle strength until the kiss broke.

Dr. Flesh had to admit he was impressed. Just a few hours ago he'd visited a brothel and the only thing that had gotten his pulse rate going was his fight with the eunuchs. But this woman had his heart hammering. He hadn't felt this way in years.

Giselle looked up at him with a glint in her eyes, “My husband also says that if you try to refuse me I am to rape you.”

“What?” He had to laugh.

“If you try to send me away,” She stroked his face, her fingers tracing the blush that was forming, “I am to throw you to the floor, tear off your clothes and ravish you.”

He reached up and brushed a curl of hair from her face, “You think you could do that to me?”

“I don't think I'll have to.” She trailed kisses along his throat. Her hand reached under his shirt and caressed his chest.

Dr. Flesh unknotted the drawstring of her nightgown and it fell away.

- - -

Stirring uneasily from sleep, Dr. Flesh sat up, his eyes wide and light starved. A breath later the disorientation passed, he remembered now - he was safe in one of Scamander's bedrooms. He wiped the moisture from his forehead with a corner of the bedsheet and tried to recapture the dream that had driven him from his slumber.

“Are you all right?” A soft voice asked from the pillow beside him. A warm hand stroked his back.

“I'm fine.” He whispered to Giselle, “Just a bad dream.”

“Where are you going?” She rose up on one shoulder.

Dr. Flesh swung his legs out of bed, “My bladder.”

“Oh,” She leaned back.

“What time is it?”

“Almost two, I think.”

The plush carpeting quieted his footsteps as he made his way to the bathroom and fumbled for the lights.

“Who's Rachel?”

“Where… where did you hear that name?”

“At the end…” She explained, “…you called me Rachel.”

“I'm sorry.” Dr. Flesh found the switch but chose to stare into darkness, “I hope I haven't offended you.”

“No. I was just curious.”

“Ah.” He closed the door and switched on the lights. He hadn't really needed to relieve himself, just some time alone to collect his thoughts. He turned on the faucet and splashed handfuls of cool water onto his face. He didn’t want to go to sleep and the last three pills were out on the nightstand.

Most of the story he had told Horace was true, but the part he made sure not to mention was that the fad for theatrical sounding pseudonyms had died out by the 1970’s. For him however the name stuck. And last person to call him by his given name had been his wife, and she was long gone wasn’t she?

A familiar sound startled him from his worries. He turned the water off and listened. Dr. Flesh threw open the door and ran into the bedroom.

Giselle knelt at the windowsill, the snow heavy wind tousled her thick curls. “Where did you come from?” She cooed, “Huh? Where did you come from?”

It was the orange tomcat.

It took one look at Dr. Flesh and ceased preening and purring for her. It stretched to its feet and shot him a demanding glare.

“What do you want from me?” Dr. Flesh growled.

“It's just a cat.” Giselle said.

The orange tomcat turned and half slid, half clawed its way down the trellis.
“Where are my clothes?”

“On the dresser.”

Dr. Flesh grabbed his jeans from the pile of freshly laundered garments and struggled into them, all the while trying to keep an eye on his quarry.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m not the kind of man to turn down an invitation twice.” He threw on his shirt and waistcoat.

Hearing the urgency in his voice, Giselle helped him recover his boots from beneath the bed, “Shall I tell Scamander where you've gone?”

“Don't bother, it's probably nothing. Although perhaps Father Muñoz would like to my see my guard cat.”

She fetched the leather Inverness from the closet and held it open for him “The Father left a little while before I came to see you. He said he had to get back to the business of souls.”

“Too bad.” Dr. Flesh eased into his coat and pulled his battered octagon rimmed glasses from one of the pockets.

He was halfway out the window when he thought to ask, “Do you think this thing'll hold me?”

Giselle shrugged.

The snow covered trellis creaked threateningly as he lowered himself down but it held. When he had both feet on solid ground, he turned to look for the cat.

Where is it?

Feeling more and more the fool, Dr. Flesh cursed and scanned the white courtyard.

The orange tomcat stood at the gateway, waiting.