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John Sinclair - Episode 6

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. John Sinclair - A Horror Series
  3. About the Book
  4. About the Author
  5. Title
  6. Copyright
  7. The Vampire Graveyard
  8. Looking for more suspense?

John Sinclair — A Horror Series

“John Sinclair” is a reboot of Europe’s longest running horror series. Originally conceived in 1973 and still running strong, the “John Sinclair” novellas are firmly rooted in the finest pulp traditions, true page turners with spine-tingling suspense, exquisite gore and a dash of adventure. “John Sinclair” combines the dark visions of Stephen King, Clive Barker and the “X-Files” with the fast-paced action and globe-trotting excitement of James Bond.

About the Book

Dr. Boscombe and his team are about to make a historic discovery: Britain’s only “vampire graveyard”, an unmarked cemetery at the edge of a marsh in Yorkshire. It was here, 230 years ago, that the villagers buried the victims of the mysterious widow, Simona Grace. Boscombe has no idea of the terrors he is about to unleash …

When the only surviving member of Boscombe’s team is consigned to a madhouse in London, Detective Chief Inspector John Sinclair is sent to Yorkshire, to unveil the secrets of the “vampire graveyard”. What he encounters in Yorkshire is no ordinary evil. It is an infection, an intelligent virus that is about to devour our world …

About the Author

Gabriel Conroy was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1967. After high school, he joined the armed forces and was stationed in Germany for several years. He discovered his love for writing while traveling through Europe. When he returned to the States, he studied Journalism at Los Angeles City College and UCLA, and currently works as a freelance journalist, writer and translator. Mr. Conroy is married and has a dog and a cat.

When I was fourteen years old, I snuck into my father’s study and broke open his gun cabinet. That’s where he kept his .270 Winchester. I took the rifle and put it in my duffel bag. Then I took the number 2 bus to St. Andrew’s Hospital, where my mother lay dying.

On many occasions, my father had taken me hunting in the Scottish highlands. And if there was one lesson that truly stuck with me, it was this: When a creature is dying — when it’s in pain — the compassionate thing to do is to put it out of its misery.

I remember it clearly, the deer my father shot. The bullet had gone through its left hind leg, and it was lying on its side, its chest rising and sinking, unsteadily, and obviously in agony. A pool of blood was spreading into the soft grass around it, and its brown eyes looked uncomprehendingly into the flint-grey sky above. My father raised his .450.

“Don’t let it suffer,” he said to me.

Then he handed me the rifle.

“Aim true,” he said. Those were his words, aim true.

I held the rifle, but my hands were shaking. I don’t know if it was the cold — this was in October — or fear. I looked into the deer’s eyes, and suddenly my own eyes grew misty. After a long while, I lowered the rifle.

My father glared at me, and I could see the disappointment in his eyes. I felt his disapproval, and a wave of sick nausea swept through my body. I lowered my head and fought against tears. I was shivering in the cold wind. He took the rifle from me, aimed it and then, without further ado, squeezed the trigger.

The shot rang out and its echo was lonely under the endless gray sky. A flock of birds rose into the air, their shapes no more than black silhouettes.

The deer was dead. Its skull was cracked open, and its eyes still had that look of terrified wonderment. Even in death, it was looking at me.

Don’t let it suffer. That’s what he said. And that’s why I did what I did. I didn’t want Mom to suffer.

The bus arrived in front of the hospital. I got out. I moved slowly and cautiously, as if I was in a dream. I went to the front entrance to the hospital, a bland, monolithic NHS monstrosity. The nurse on duty, Mrs. McConnell, greeted me absentmindedly, her fingers holding the pages of a romance novel she was reading. I attempted a crooked smile, then I dashed to the elevator. I was already feeling guilty.

I took the elevator up to the eighth floor, where Mom was. I remember slowly walking down the hospital corridor.

It seemed, at that moment, to never end. One of the nurses was pushing a cart down the hallway, but she ignored me. I reached her door, room number 829.

I knocked, very gently.

There was no response. I slowly pressed the door handle down and opened the door.

My mother was asleep. I still remember her as a beautiful and vivacious woman, with flowing, auburn hair. Not the skinny, bald creature I saw in front of me. The cancer had taken everything from her: her facial features, her healthy skin tone, her long hair. She was, at the end, like a living skeleton. Not quite dead, but not truly alive either. Not anymore.

I entered the room and closed the door, very slowly, so as to not make a sound.

Then I sat the duffel bag down on the floor and opened the zipper.

The metal barrel of the rifle felt cold in my hands. The gun was too big for my hands; I had trouble holding it properly. I pressed the butt against my shoulder. I was breathing heavily now, just as I had done a few months ago, when the deer was dying and Mom was still living.

I aimed the rifle at her head.

Her eyes were closed. Her chest was rising and falling slowly. There was an IV in the crook of her arm. A television stood on a cabinet against the other wall, but it was turned off.

From somewhere outside the room, I heard distant laughter. It seemed out of place here.

I can’t remember how long I stood there like this, the rifle aimed at her.

My body was rigid. I couldn’t move my fingers.

My father’s words were still ringing in my ears.

Aim true.

I took another step toward her bed. I didn’t know it then, but later I realized that I had been crying. Tears were slowly running down my cheeks.

And then she opened her eyes, and she saw me.

Her eyes suddenly widened with shock and she tried to sit up in her bed, but she was too weak. The doctors had said it was pancreatic cancer, the worst kind. As if there was a best kind, I had thought at the time. Dying had been quick. She was consumed within weeks. Her skin was sallow and yellow, like old parchment.

“Johnny,” she whispered. “What are you doing?”

I didn’t respond. But I heard the rifle rattling slightly, because my hands were shaking now.

“Don’t do it,” she said. There was fear in her voice. “Please, Johnny. I love you.”

The tears were coming stronger now; I could feel them stinging my eyes.

Why does she want to live? I wondered. So close to the end. Doesn’t she want to stop the pain?

I held the rifle. My aim was true. But my hands, my hands wouldn’t obey.

“Please, Johnny,” she said in a whisper. “Not like this. Please.” And again: “I love you, Johnny. You are my sunshine.”

That was a song she used to sing to me: You are my sunshine, my only sunshine …

I didn’t notice that she had pressed the call button, hidden underneath her blankets. She didn’t speak, and for a few moments, all I heard was breathing, hers and mine.

I heard footsteps outside, and then the door opened behind me. Dr. Halloran came into the room. He gasped when he saw me, when he saw the rifle.

“Johnny,” he said, trying to sound calm. “Don’t do anything rash, now, Johnny.”

More and more people arrived. I was frozen in place. I had no more strength. I was unable to resist. A moment later, I felt his hand on my shoulder, and he whispered into my ear. “Don’t, Johnny. Just lower the rifle.”

I ignored him. I simply stood there, like a statue, the .450 aimed at my mother’s forehead, and her fearful eyes — not unlike the deer — burning into my soul.

***

Harrow’s Gate, Yorkshire, 8:37 p.m.

It was after nightfall when they opened the first grave. Dr. Adam Boscombe was chewing nervously on his fingernail. This is it, he thought. The big moment.

And it was. Four years of research had led to this … a barren marsh. Dr. Boscombe was standing next to a tall work light. The entire area was lit up like a football field at night. The sun had gone down about forty minutes ago, and darkness had taken the land. A group of workers stood huddled behind a garish yellow cordon of tape. The wind twisted at the tape and caused the men to shiver, their hands buried deep in their coat pockets, chins down. A small, rough road had been cleared from the Fox and Hound, a nearby pub on the outskirts of town, toward the marsh. By the side of that road stood cars, a truck, and several tents. Volunteers with shovels trudged through the mud. A fine mist clung to everything and everyone, a damp chill seeping into clothes and bones alike. Cheeks were rosy, eyes and noses watery. But the mood was splendid. Dr. Boscombe was positively giddy. The thumbnail on his left hand was chewed bloody by now, so he moved on to the right. His mother, may God keep her, had always admonished him for chewing on his fingernails, but he never managed to shed the habit. Even when she went to the doctor and got a garlic paste to rub on his fingernails, hoping that the taste would deter him. It didn’t. He liked garlic, as it turned out. And so he kept chewing. Especially when he was nervous, or excited, and right now, he was both.

“Stop chewing your fingernails,” said a voice next to him.

He turned.

Dr. Charlotte Manning was a tall woman in her fifties, some ten years older than Boscombe. She wasn’t his mother, but she might have well been. Boscombe was small and wiry, and eternally distracted, or so it would seem. He had a rather brilliant head on his shoulders, but it was always thinking too much. Consequently, Boscombe was constantly forgetting things, such as car keys or lab results, and Dr. Manning had taken on a maternal role. She was a divorcee, the kind who still wore her ring. He (Frank, her no-good, philandering ex-husband) had left her (devoted, loving, dutiful wife, everybody said so), for someone else, someone younger, of course, isn’t it always the same old song? Dr. Manning found refuge in her work and in the presence of Dr. Boscombe. The young man’s excitement for his work, his boyish enthusiasm, never failed to charm her. And so she mothered him. Straightened his tie before a presentation at the university, or made sure that the driving instructions to the site were clearly marked on signs in and around Harrow’s Gate. He never seemed to notice the small kindnesses she did for him. He never seemed to notice her. And why would he? She was a discarded woman, unloved, unwanted. Old. Too tall, too heavy for most men, with a strong face that her girlfriends euphemistically called “full of character.” She called it a “horse face.”

“Sorry,” he said sheepishly and lowered his hand. So obedient, Manning thought.

One of the interns, a young woman with a perky young ponytail and flushed cheeks, came up to them. Manning found herself staring at the woman, momentarily jealous of her youth. There were only three people in the expedition, Dr. Manning, Dr. Boscombe and their intern, Mary. They all stayed at a nearby pub. Manning was inexplicably jealous of the young intern. She felt, if she was honest with herself, threatened by her.

“It’s got to be her,” Mary said.

“Simona Grace?” Boscombe asked.

Of course, Manning thought. Who else? Who else would they have come all the way out here for?

The intern nodded.

“Got to be,” she said. “It all fits. The legends, the description, the place …”

Boscombe shook his head.

“We’re going to need DNA results, nothing else matters,” he said.

Mary grinned and nodded.

“There’s a large stone plate, about a foot underneath the mud, six feet by four feet” she said. “We’ve cleared the area around it. And we’re ready to open it.”

“A stone plate?” Manning said. “Why would there be a stone plate?”

Boscombe looked at her.

“To make sure she doesn’t get out,” he said.

***

From the diary of Reverend Jeremiah Worthington.

Harrow’s Gate, November 9th, 1786.

Last night, we killed Simona Grace.

For weeks now, the mysterious illness that befell our village has been blamed on Ms. Grace, a young widow of ill character, a reputed sorceress who resided in an old manor near the marsh. Yesterday, the illness, if we can call it such, claimed one more innocent, little Sam Baker, a babe of merely two years of age. He had been taken from his cradle, and his pitiful body was found in the woods. His throat had been ripped out, poor child, and there was a look of panic in his dead eyes. My heart sank when I saw the violence that had been done unto his small body.

This was, in our eyes, the moment to act. No longer could we tolerate these assaults. I gathered a few men, and we armed ourselves with pitchforks, saws, hammers and any other tool that might well be used to end a human life. Then we set out across the marsh, carefully minding our path. We knew that those who stray may well find themselves sucked down into a wet grave.

The house of Simona Grace stood on the edge of the marsh. When we approached, it was after nightfall. We saw that there was a light in the house. I knocked loudly on the door and announced our presence.

No one opened, and we forced our way in. We searched the entire house. Finally, in the basement, we came upon the thing, the demon, we had hoped to destroy.

The woman no longer bore any resemblance to a human being. It was Simona Grace, of that I’m certain, but she had changed. Her hair had fallen out and her skin was white and sallow. Her eyes were yellow, as if something other than her soul resided within her body. Her jaw was unnaturally elongated, and her teeth seemed to have grown long and sharp, like the teeth of a deep-sea monstrosity. She appeared to have recently fed, for the lower part of her face was drenched in blood.

Upon seeing this, the men inched backward, overcome by fear. The creature was hunched over, moving more like an animal than a human. It screeched at us. I took out my cross and held it up, reciting The Lord’s Prayer.

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