The Los Angeles Post-Examiner is proud to present an excerpt from Cult of the Nosferatu – the first novel in a brand new series from Vampire Hunters, Inc. The second novel in the series, Resurrection and Revenge, will debut in the summer of 2016. Set in contemporary New York City, these novels and audio dramas follow the adventures of Bertram Welles, a private detective who is also the New York operative of a world-wide group of vampire hunters called “The Organization”. Welles leads a team of agents who work tirelessly in Manhattan and the surrounding New York Burroughs flushing out and executing the undead who prey upon the living. Cult of the Nosferatu can be ordered from Amazon. More information about the series may be found at Vampire Hunters Incorporated.
The huge thumb slid over the tablet surface, flipping the internet news pages. Occasionally the thumb would stop and click on a news item, the man’s dark brown eyes would scan it, and then with another couple of clicks, the man would email the news item to himself. As he quickly worked, the man exhaled softly. He missed the touch of physical newspapers and saving articles by cutting them out with scissors. He was old-fashioned that way. He was brought up circling the toys he wanted for Christmas in the Montgomery-Ward Wish Book catalogue, not clicking and saving pictures on a computer. However, the big man wouldn’t give this computer tablet up for the world. It was second nature now. Another indispensable tool for his work. His thumb froze and hovered over a story from his favorite New York news site…
While he read, the train rocked as it came out of a curve and picked up a little speed on a straight-away, the sunlight flashing past the homes, buildings, and signs. The Metropolitan, the Amtrak train that took thousands of people up the NorthEast corridor daily, had left Philadelphia only a few minutes ago. That’s where the man got on. The man’s eyes were brimming with renewed alertness and they widened as they scrutinized the ‘truths’ laid out on the screen in front of him.
Gang Violence Kills 3 in Battery Park
Separate victims were viciously killed by anti-homeless gangs in Battery Park within hours of each other, police said yesterday. At 5 a.m. Tuesday, a homeless man and woman were attacked off West Thames Street, police said. Both victims, still unidentified, died at the scene from multiple knife wounds to the torso.
“One moment they’re rummaging through garbage cans,” one witness said. “Next thing you know they’re swimming in their own blood.” No witnesses saw the attack, which police suspect was gang related.
“Punks getting their kicks out of killing the homeless,” said one police officer who requested to remain anonymous. “Hey, because these people have no families, no friends, they think they can get away with killing them off. Cheap thrills, huh?”
About six hours earlier an unidentified homeless man was attacked in Rector Park. He died from similar knife wounds to the chest.
The man clicked open a file and scrolled to find an article he had stored. The folder was filled with news items clicked, copied and saved from the New York newspapers. He held the tablet up and slightly away, allowing his eyes to focus. Damn, it was true, he was thinking to himself. Most people over forty-five needed reading glasses and damn if he didn’t lose his favorite pair just hours before in The City of Brotherly Love. The man’s eyes squinted as he reviewed an article from April:
Tunnel Worker Disappearance Puzzle
A welder’s torch may have sparked the fire beneath the abandoned subway tunnels under Grand Central Station. No one was hurt and damage was minimal. Police are still searching for Mario Fuentes, a city employee, who had been working at the site.
Police fear Fuentes left the scene after he accidentally started the fire with a blow torch. Fuentes’ mother, Mrs. Maria Fuentes, told police that her son had not returned home since he left for work the morning of the fire.
Other stories flipped before the sharp brown eyes flecked with green and gold. The thumb scrolled and then paused at a story from December of last year.
Missing Priest Feared Drowned in Hudson River
Police were still searching for the body of Father Jeremy Calligari, who left a suicide note at The Church of Ascending Souls on W. 44th St. and abandoned a car and clothes near Pier 83 off of the West Side Highway.
Rescue workers and local police have been searching the Hudson River off Pier 83 since the car was discovered on Christmas Day.
Father Calligari had been the pastor at The Church of Ascending Souls for the past twenty-seven years.
The big man pulled a worn leather case up off the floor and his thumbs flipped the two metal latches to open the case. A flap concealed one side, while a variety of clothes openly packed the other side. A woman’s floral patterned dress was visible on top. He meant to throw that away before getting on the train. Odd and ballsy choice for a disguise, especially for a man his size, but it worked only hours ago in Philadel—
The man looked up and received the gift of an attractive smile from a beautiful brunette who was dressed in a sharp business suit and who was sitting in the seat across the aisle from him. “You have great taste,” she said.
“Thank you.” The big man smiled and brushed his trim black mustache with the back of his right index finger, as he imagined wiping away beads of embarrassed perspiration. He placed the suitcase on the open seat and propped the clothes end against the seat arm hoping to block the view of the contents from his attractive neighbor.
He swiveled the two brass latches and lifted the flap from the concealed compartment in which was displayed a wide selection of religious jewelry, including a dozen crosses of various sizes and religions; a Star of David, and an Ankh. Two wooden mallets, an array of wooden stakes, and several plastic water bottles filled the compartment uncovered by the flap. He secured his iPad in a pocket designed to hold it snugly. He looked at the floral pattern on the dress and wondered to himself, does she really think I have good taste in women’s clothes?
“Business or pleasure?” the woman asked.
The big man in his handsome midnight blue three-piece arched an eyebrow at the slender brunette.
“Pardon me?” he said, in his deep voice with a warm vein of Brooklyn in it. He decided he was finished with work. Time to play.
“Is your trip to New York for business or are you taking a weekend getaway to enjoy the holiday sights?”
“Both, you might say,” he replied with a coy smile and a chuckle. “I was visiting family in Philadelphia. The dress, a Christmas gift for my mother–but the wrong size. I’m exchanging it while I have time. I live and work in New York.” He was babbling, and he knew it.
“Actually, I was born in Brooklyn, but have been in Manhattan for the last ten years or so. And you are contemplating a move to the city yourself?”
“Excuse me?” She looked at him with slight surprise.
“Well I thought since you have two interviews this afternoon—at least one is a job interview for a financial institution. Your final interview, I mean. And you’re pretty positive you’ve secured the job. I think you have it, if I’m reading you right. And I am. The other interview is with a real estate agent to look at property in Manhattan.”
“How did you know all that?” She couldn’t help but smile at the accuracy of the information the man recapped.
“It’s my job to know. I have trained myself to notice what I see.”
“Wow, are you clairvoyant? A mind reader? Or my stalker finally revealing himself?” She smiled to let him know he didn’t have to work so hard.
He smiled back at her.
He liked this woman very much, and while he was talking he realized that he’d been working so hard in recent months, that he really missed female companionship. He wanted to just cut to the chase and blurt everything out: I’m an operative for a world-wide organization that hunts and destroys vampires and I run the New York office and I have several agents under me and I’ve let them all off for Christmas vacation like my secretary Becky O’Hara who I can’t find my keys without her and my top agent Tom Henderson helluva good man in a tight spot and my driver Delilah who’s practically supernatural you wanna talk about knowing The City and I just was sent by the company, The Organization, to Philly where I decapitated a particularly loathsome undead sonafabitch murdered and drained the blood of fourteen—
He opted for the safe route and instead shared a half-truth:
“I’m a private detective.”
“Really?” She slid over to the empty seat at the aisle, getting closer and turning her body toward him. He moved the suitcase to the floor and shifted to his aisle seat. She swiveled toward him a bit more and smiled. A flash of thigh broke from the slit in her skirt. A black lace bra peaked at him from her blouse. She noticed his warm brown eyes appreciating her body.
“You obviously have the eyes for the business. Please, tell me how you knew so much.”
“During this train trip which, of course, takes us to Penn Station, you have read a magazine and a newspaper. In the magazine, you blocked various ads in red ink. The ads refer to apartments for sale. All located in Lower Manhattan, the financial district. When you read the newspaper, you tossed away Sports and Entertainment. You briefly scanned the front section and Metro and then spent twenty-five minutes reading the financial pages, taking copious notes.”
“Like me, you like the tactile. The touch and feel of a newspaper or book in your hands, even though you can’t live without your iPad and your laptop. Am I correct?”
“I don’t know if I should slap you or compliment you.”
“I’ll accept both.”
She laughed. Deep and throaty. “We’ll see… But you didn’t explain how you knew I would be meeting with a real estate agent.”
“Yes, but how did you know?”
“Apartments are as difficult to secure in Manhattan as… well, let’s just say an intelligent woman would use a knowledgeable agent. You are the type that if you don’t know something, you get the people who do in your orbit. You’re a natural leader.”
She laughed again. She liked this man. It began to bug her that he reminded her of someone. Perhaps someone from the movies or television…
“One needs all the help one can get finding a place in New York. Rents are through the damned roof anymore.”
“So, are you currently working on any cases?”
“Oh, not at the moment – Just wrapped up a case in Philly. It looks like it’ll be a quiet Christmas for a change. I’ll be ‘at liberty’, as they say.” He hoped she got the hint.
It was then that she realized who he reminded her of—a young, handsome Jackie Gleason. The serious, charming Gleason of “The Hustler” with Paul Newman, not the comedian, not the Ralph Kramden Gleason.
“But I’m sorry to say, I can’t discuss my cases. Only with my close associates.”
“Well we may have to associate more closely, Mr.–”
She welcomed his large outstretched hand and melted when his hand quickly engulfed hers.
“Elizabeth Sterling,” she said, smiling.
“Penn Station,” the conductor’s voice blurted over the intercom. “Next stop– New York City– Penn Station. Penn Station– next stop.”
“Do you have a business card, Mr. Welles? After all, if my real estate agent fails, I may need an expert detective who knows New York to find me an apartment.”
“Here– here,” he patted his suit coat. “Here you are–” He withdrew a card and handed it to her.
The Welles Detective Agency
“I’ll be calling you,” she said, noting the second number on the card was designated as “private”.
“Please do. Ms. Sterling.”
“My number is good 24-7,” she said, handing Welles her card. She rose from her seat. “Mr. Welles, it’s certainly been a pleasure.”
With that she grabbed her briefcase and overnight bag, her newspaper and magazine, and her coat and hurried off with the other passengers.
“The pleasure was all mine, Ms. Sterling. And my best wishes with the job interview.”
She turned, giving him a view of a radiant profile and a bright smile. She mouthed “Thank you.” Did he imagine it, or did she blow him a kiss?
Welcome to New York thought Bertram Welles. Maybe Christmas won’t be so quiet and lonesome after-all.
© Mark Redfield. All Rights Reserved.