Monday, January 30, 2012

"Last Tango in Bolivia (excerpt)" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in the August 2001 issue of The Oblivious Plethora; from The Jericho Files collection]

It had been a fifteen-hour flight beginning in San Francisco International, with an hour layover in Miami where I was subjected to the same harried-looking woman and her screaming toddler everywhere I went, then about six hours of peace to La Paz, Bolivia, and then into the northern Bolivian town of Rurrenabaque.

I was investigating a case of strange seizures affecting residents in over two dozen cities across the Midwest and another half-dozen up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Victims were said to experience violent twitching in their eyelids, calves, feet, legs, and arms. One female victim in North Dakota experienced eyelid twitches followed by calf twitches and then severe arm flailing all while shopping at a local mall. The flailing took out six other women around her who ended up in the hospital with concussions.

Two days after the Dakota Episode, I had gotten a call from a man who identified himself only as La Rana who said he had vital information for me.

"I know about the sickness happening in the news in your country," he'd said. "You must come here. Ahora. Now. To Bolivia. Rurrenabaque. That is all I can say for now."

Then the line went dead.

I quickly called Jonesy at Plethora and told him about the Bolivian lead. He jumped on the story and said he'd make arrangements for me to fly out.

* * *

The plane, a nineteen-seater Fairchild Swearingen twin turboprop, touched down on the grassy runway of Rurrenabaque airport just before 7:00 am and the temperature was already climbing into the low 80s. I got off the plane into warm and humid air ripe with the smell of vegetation and was met by a tall, well-built, lantern-jawed man with close-cropped brown hair and ruggedly handsome features. He was dressed in khaki pants, a tan work shirt, battered brown leather jacket, and an equally-battered fedora canted at a rakish angle. He spotted me, raised a hand in greeting, and strode over.

"You must be Doctor Jericho," he said. "I'm Wyoming Knott."

"Heinlein?"

"Excuse me?"

"Nevermind," I said, then indicated his clothing. "That's very Indiana Jones," I said.

Knott made a face. "That damn Lucas."

"George Lucas?"

"Yeah. Based that character on my grandfather who was an soldier of fortune in the twenties. Gramps wrote a book about his time in Egypt called Raiders of the Lost Arch. Never got any credit for it."

"I thought the character was something Lucas and Steven Spielberg came up with."

"Nope, that lying sack of warm cat vomit. Lucas stole a lot of the details from Gramps's book. The jacket. The fedora. The satchel."

I looked around us, cautious. "Best take care. Lucas is know to have long litigatory arms. He may have spies posted around here."

Knott grunted. "He can try to sue me. But he best beware. I have detailed files." He gestured toward a ten-year old gray, dirt-splattered Suzuki Grand Vitara parked nearby. "Anyway--come on. We're meeting folks at the docks. We'll talk more in the car."

* * *

On the way to downtown Rurre (as the locals called Rurrenabaque) Knott filled me on the details.

"My local contact, who calls himself La Rana, tells me there's one guy who's manufacturing the stuff," he said.

"La Rana," I said. "He's the one who called me about this."

"Apparently he's got the inside scoop on our guy."

"Who is our guy?"

He reached between the seats, pulled out a manila folder, and handed it to me. "Doctor Manuel Gilipollas de Madera. Went to Universidad Autónoma Juan Misael Saracho for a biochemistry degree. Then got his Masters in molecular biology from Universidad Mayor de San Simón."

I skimmed the file then found a photo of de Madera. He was a small man with thinning hair and droopy goldfish-bowl eyes.

"Biochem and molecular biology," I said, looking up from the file. "So he's making drugs?"

"Biological weapons," said Knott.

"How do you figure?"

"La Rana tell me de Madera has his people searching the jungle for a certain types of poson dart frog," said Knott.

"Poison dart frog," I said, considering. "So he's probably taking their skin secretions and manipulating them to create these drugs."

"Biotoxins," said Knott.

"Which are making people in the States go into seizures."

"Yeah."

"Why? And how is he getting them out of the country?"

Knott shrugged and glanced at me. "Isn't that what you're here to find out?"

"It is," I said.

"You've got good shoes on, right?"

I lifted my foot and showed him my well-scuffed pair of black Corcoran jungle boots. "Why?" I asked.

"We'll be trekking into the jungle," he said. "Downriver on the River Beni, first. Then we take one of the forks. And then on foot into the jungle. Maybe a mile or so. There's a place there that used to be called Grano Verde. Abandoned village from the looks of things."

"You've been there?"

Knott nodded. "It's where the lab is at."

"You're sure."

He nodded again. "And we'll need to be armed." He reached behind his seat, pulled out a plastic and paper-wrapped bundle, and handed it to me. "Take this and keep it close."

I opened the bundle and found myself staring a golden fish head the size of a basketball.

"Jove's hairy nutsac!" I said, nearly jumping out of my seat and dropping the head into the footwell. "What the hell is that?"

"Fish head," said Knott, chuckling. "Roly-poly."

"I can see it's a fish head. But I'm not going to eat it up. Why is it on my lap?"

"It's the head of a Golden Dorado," Knott said. "Aggressive critters. The locals call them River Tigers."

"Big damn fish," I said, looking it over and quickly extrapolating likely size of the body. I noticed a handle had been attached to the back of the head. I looked at Knott. "Why is there a handle on this fish head?"

"Grano Verde sits in the middle of Ahbeeg country."

"In Ahbeeg country?" I said. "Why walk? Why not take ATVs?"

"It's thick jungle. ATVs would just get stuck."

"And who or what are the Ahbeeg? Mysterious women who will chase us and burn down farmhouses?"

"Indigenous peoples. Fierce warriors. And cannibals."

Damnation. I hated cannibals. Fine, young, or otherwise. They drove me crazy. And gave me the heebie jeebies.

"So what--we give them the fish heads, they don't eat us?"

"They're icthyophobes. Scared of fish. Specifically dead fish. More specifically, dead Golden Dorados."

Ah.

Genius.

As we drove into what passed for downtown Rurre and I looked around at the dirt streets and single-story buildings, a thought struck.

This was Bolivia.

I said to Knott: "Butch and Sundance died here, you know."

"Not in Rurre," he said. "Further south. Or so the story goes. And I wouldn't worry too much about that."

"Why worry?" I said. "We're just about to hike into cannibal country armed only with fish heads."

"At least we're not wearing unlicensed nuclear accelerators on our backs."

"Good point," I said.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Release: 30 Minutes or Less


30 Minutes or Less is a new short story that takes place in Bay City (the same stomping grounds as everyone's favorite gun-toting duo, Kat and Mouse) and involves armed pizza delivery.

Get it for your Kindle now.

Nook version will be available soon. I'll let you know when.

"More Notes From The End Days" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

"I'm not convinced," Anne said from her desk, "that the world will end on December 31st."

"Even though Duke and Mallory Braus have talked about it?" I said.

"Even then. Because The Hobbit, Part One comes out the same month."

"The Armored anthology by John Joseph Adams comes out in late-March," I said.

"And the restraining order against you is still in effect. Besides, March is too early. December supposedly marks the end. But I disagree."

"March is also the time of WonderCon," I said.

And it was. But WonderCon was in Anaheim this year, owing to renovation at the Moscone Center. There was something not quite right about those so-called "renovations," something that gnawed at my insides like Graboids, and I had a few calls out on it.

Anne and I had originally planned to partake in the glorious three-day extravaganza but now it was not in the cards. "They show a three of cups, a six of diamonds, and a Seven of Nine," she'd said, "which is the symbol of a narwhal lost amid the lilacs. Not a good sign."

Indeed. Not a good sign.

"I've been doing some research on this whole dastardly business," said Anne, gesturing to her laptop. "It all just points to a new cycle beginning. And if you look at 2012 numerologically, it adds up to 5."

"Five?" I said. "Five is right out."

"But in the Mayan calendar, every date expressed in long count terms contains five numerals. And Agrippa showed Man inscribed in the five points of a pentagram."

"And Agrippa cancels out Thibault canceling out Capo Ferro."

"Different Agrippa. That was Camillo. This one is Heinrich. And Heinrich's diagram, oddly enough, corresponds to the image of Vitruvian man."

"Meaning?"

"Vitruvian Man, Jericho. DaVinci?"

"You mean--!"

"Yes. Part of the Code."

"Ah, yes. The Konami Code."

"No no," said Anne. "The other Code."

"The Source Code?"

"The other other Code."

Realization finally dawned like an ice cube down the back of my shirt. How could I've been so blind? Science, it was. And The Light.

"Oho!" I said. "Code Geass."

"Jericho," said Anne. "I'm talking about the DaVinci Code."

"But that was about the Sacred Feminine being left out of Christianity," I said. "What's that got to do with beginning a new cycle?"

"You just answered your own question."

"I did?"

"Think about it."

And then it hit me. Like a ballpeen hammer to the temple. Sacred feminine. New cycle. Of course!

Sweet Mother of Dingos!

I gaped at Anne. "Are you saying--!"

Anne nodded, smiling. "Yes," she said. "The Universe is simply ending her period."

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Deadlines and Soul Stealing" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was hip-deep in the middle of frantic writing fueled by coffee and Mr. Sketch grape markers when "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana blared from beneath a small pile of notes on my desk.

My cellphone.

I fished it out from the pile and put it on speaker. "Go away!" I said. "I have a deadline!"

"Thief!" cried the voice on the other end.

I recognized it.

Tammy Farmer. Book blogger. Who, along with cohort Holly Dell, ran the urban fantasy blog Midnight Readings.

"What are you talking about, Farmer?" I said. "And make it quick. I'm on a schedule."

"You stole that line," Farmer said with a slight drawl. "Jim Butcher had it on a t-shirt in a Suvudu interview with Patrick Rothfuss at Comic-Con."

"I've seen that interview" I said. "Isn't Rothfuss one of the guitarists on ZZ Top? Along with George R.R. Martin?"

"Swine!" said a different voice.

Holly Dell. The other book blogger. They always traveled in pair.

Always there are two, as the wise man once put it.

"Dell," I said. "I should've known I'd hear from you, too. How are the Alaskan wilds treating you?"

"Don't change the subject," Dell shot back. "How dare you steal from The Man."

" 'The Man'?"

"Yes," said Dell. "Jim Butcher himself."

"I didn't steal anything from him," I said. "T-shirt or otherwise. I'll bet you're both still miffed I nitpicked him in that review I wrote, right?"

"You called him an indie brownie, whatever the hell that is," said Farmer.

"I said Indy also used a Browning," I said. "Dresden pointed out that Indy just used a revolver. But he also used a Browning Hi-Power in the tavern sequence. A Browning is a semi-automatic."

A few months earlier, The Oblivious Plethora had run a review I'd written of Jim Butcher's novel Turn Coat, the eleventh in the Dresden Files series. It was a good read and I'd enjoyed it but simply pointed out what thought was a minor detail.

Farmer and Dell had immediately jumped on it and had been harrassing me ever since. Calling my phone and screeching at me. Leaving vile emails with instructions on folding my laptop into sharp points and inserting it into various uncomfortable body cavities. And sending me teddy bear heads in ornately gift-wrapped boxes

"Jim Butcher is an artist!" Farmer said.

"And a god!" said Dell.

Then a high-pitched trilling wail erupted from my cellphone and I leaped from my chair.

Jove's hairy nutsac! I'd heard it right, hadn't I? Both women had just squeed.

"Did you two just squee?" I said.

"None of your business!" they chorused.

"You did, didn't you. You both squeed."

"You're changing the subject again," said Dell.

"I don't have time for this," I said. "Why are you calling me for the twentieth time?"

"You're keeping track?" said Farmer.

"Yes," I said. "In case I need to turn state's evidence."

"We're giving you a warning," said Dell. "Don't you ever contradict Jim Butcher again."

"Ever!" said Farmer.

"Or we'll hunt you down like the English pig-dog you are."

"I'll have you know I'm a journalist," I said. "And a Professional. I'm free to write what I want. And if it means contradicting Jim Butcher or anyone else, so be it."

"Jim Butcher is a saint," Farmer retorted.

"I thought he was an artist and a god?"

"He helps save the boobs!" Dell said.

"Good for him," I said. "And I see he finally went with a shorter hairstyle."

"Don't you make fun of his hair!" Dell said. "He has awesome hair."

"Sweet Mother of Dingos!" I said. "He had a mullet at one point! I've seen pictures!"

"Vicious lies," said Dell. "It was a ponytail."

"And it was charming," said Farmer.

"And we'll have you know that we are Jim's close personal acquaintances!" said Dell.

"Yeah!" Farmer put in. "We spoke to him in Lexington last July. When he was at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. He knows us."

"Wait a minute," I said. "You went to see him speak?"

"Yeah, we did," said Dell.

"What of it?" said Farmer.

"You two don't live anywhere near Lexington," I said. "Farmer's in Arizona. And Dell's in Alaska. What did you do? Fly out to Lexington?"

"Blue Grass Airport," said Farmer.

That's called 'stalking'," I said.

"You'll rue that remark!" Dell cried.

"Pootyhead!" Farmer screeched.

I'd had enough. They were questioning my integrity as a journalist. And they had disturbed me in the mighty throes of writerly creation. That, in itself, was a crime. A travesty. A transgression of the highest order.

This would simply not do. They had to be shown this was unacceptable.

Plus, they were trying to stop the signal.

No.

The signal must go on!

"Call me again," I said, "and I'll personally find you and feed you both to a pack of rabid lawn gnomes!"

There came vicious gibberings and chatterings over the phone speaker. I tried to make them out but all I could decipher was howl howl gargle howl blargh weep howl bargle yowl howl howl snorfle howl.

Then the line clicked and they were suddenly gone only to be replaced by another voice.

"Is this Doctor Jericho?" it said.

"It is," I said. "Who's this? And make it fast."

"This is Patrick Rothfuss, fantasy author and alternate guitarist for ZZ Top. I am coming to steal your soul."

I screamed and hung up.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"A Crisis of Unicornian Proportions" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

Anne gasped and went saucer-eyed. "They have them in Russia?"

Elaine Goodgulf, tall and slender with high cheekbones, her long white-blond hair tied in a loose bun, sat on the couch with Anne and nodded. "Rossiya yedinoroga," she said. "The Russian Unicorn. And they are in danger of becoming extinct." She looked at us. "That's why we need your help."

"Anne and I are both animal lovers," I said, sitting on a small stool facing the two women and trying not to pay any attention to the whaling harpoon on the wall just above my desk. "Of course we'll help."

Elaine and Anne were old high school buddies and had kept in touch while they were both away to college. Three days ago, Elaine had called the house asking to talk about a grave matter. We had agreed.

And now: saving the Russian Unicorn.

"You must get the word out to the people," said Elaine. "They have to know. It's imperative!"

"What about the WWF?" said Anne. "Can't they help out?"

"Yes," I said. "I've heard Vince McMahon is an animal lover."

"Not the World Wrestling Federation," said Elaine. "The World Wildlife Federation. And no. They won't help. They won't even give me the time of day."

"That's insane!" said Anne. "You're the one of the world's leading biologists not to mention an expert in evolutionary biology. And from Harvard, no less. Why won't they listen to you?"

Elaine harrumphed. "Those bastards think there's no such thing as a Russian Unicorn. But I know there is. I've seen it."

"You have?" I asked. "Incredible!"

"Well, I've spoken to those who have," Elaine replied. "Evenks from Tura, in the Evenkiysky District of the Krasnoyarsk Krai Federal District. Northern Russia. Several folks claimed to have seen a large one-horned creature out in the taiga. I spoke to three of the witnesses. They report at least three to five of the animals being seen. They think there may even be more."

"Evenks?" I asked, pulling out my small moleskine notebook and jotting notes.

"One of the indigenous peoples of northern Russian," said Elaine. "But the WWF idiots keep telling me it's a sham. One of their blowhards pointed out they might be imagining it, that it's probably left over from Evenk legends of the Elasmotherium."

"Which blowhard was that?" I said

"Thornton Chugwell," said Elaine. "I have his phone number. You can talk to him."

"I will," I said, writing the name down in my moleskine.

"Wait--" said Anne. "Elasmotherium?"

Elaine noddeed.

"Didn't Willy Ley write about that in his book Exotic Zoology?" Anne said.

"A great Trap Door Spider, was Willy," I said.

"Ley did," said Elaine. "Chugwell mentioned that, too. Then the pox-ridden slimebag had the balls to refer me to Karl Shuker at the Centre for Fortean Zoology." Her eyes blazed. "Hah! The nerve of the man!"

"I know about Shuker," I said. "A cryptozoologist and John Joseph Adams lookalike wannabe."

Anne turned to me. "Is he that Mongolian Death Worm Guy?"

"Yep," I nodded. "And a bad movie, too. Damn roaring worms. Arrakeen sandworms would have them for breakfast."

Anne nodded. "Poor poor Sean Patrick Flannery."

"Forget him!" I said. "Poor Vicki Pratt. I hope they do a Cleopatra 2525 reunion show."

"Mutant X!" Anne shot back, wagging a finger at me. "Mutant X!"

"Can we get back to the crisis at hand?" said Elaine.

Anne and I nodded. This was definitely a crisis. I wondered on the best way to deal with the situation. Perhaps hiring mercenaries to go into Russia to capture them? Take them somewhere where they'd be safe? No no. Too risky. And Elaine did say she wanted to get the word out first.

I decided to ask.

"How do we want to handle this?" I said. "Get the word out, right?"

"Yes," said Elaine. "We must make their existence known to the world."

"Makes sense," I said. "Exposure is an excellent thing. I'm thinking 10,000 words. Feature article. Do some history. Eyewitness accounts. Maybe talk about any work you've done for and about them."

Elaine nodded. "Sounds perfect."

"I'll call my editor at The Oblivious Plethora. They're a widely read magazine that caters to an elite crowd who'd probably be more than happy to help this cause. We should get pictures, too."

"Call Nardy," said Anne. "He's well-seasoned now."

"Nardy?" said Elaine.

"Nardo Bones. Photographer for the Plethora. Helluva nice guy. Likes zoot suits for some reason. But a crack photographer. Marinated. Hard-core. Very tactical. We'll need that for this story, I think. And we'll have to go to Russia."

"I'll get our passports and make some calls," said Anne.

"Call Jones first," I said to her and turned to Elaine. "My editor at Plethora. Milton Seth Jones. Great guy. He can probably grease some palms for us. They grow taller with grease. Bigger fronds, too. Yessir. Exposure is vital."

"Agreed," said Elaine. "It is very vital. And by doing so, we will fuel the auric energies that will bring the Dark Elders back into this realm."

Anne and I sprang from our seats.

"Auric energies?" I exclaimed. "You're planning to siphon off from Gamma Flight?"

"Forget that!" cried Anne, jabbing a finger at Elaine. "Did you just say 'Dark Elders'?"

"No, I didn't," said Elaine, looking between us, worry creasing her features. "Why--why would I mention my masters in the netherrealms--" She went saucer-eyed and clapped a hand over her mouth.

Anne backed away. "You're with them, aren't you."

Sweet Mother of Judas! Anne was right.

I stepped back, too, and picked up the stool. "You dare enter our domicile, minion of darkness?"

Elaine exploded from the couch into a low fighting stance. "You will be devoured in the everlasting fires of destruction."

"Jericho!" Anne called out.

I turned and caught the cutlass she tossed to me.

She'd also grabbed one.

We faced Elaine, swords at the ready. Elaine wasn't just an evolutionary biologist. She was also a Dark Elder Minion. And that wouldn't stand. Not with us.

I may be just a Professional. I may be just a Rogue Journalist.

But I was also a Warrior for Goodness and Light. And so was Anne.

I leveled the cutlass at Elaine. "Time to meet your masters, you abomination."

"Kiss my ass, Hack Boy," snarled Elaine.

"Don't you know who we really are?" I said. "We are members of the Order of the Three Dragons."

Elaine's eyes went side. "The Chan-Hung-Biao? The dreaded Tactical Thespians?"

"That's right!" said Anne. "The Warrior-Actors. So bring it on, bitch!"

We lunged at her, our blades spinning and twirling.

Elaine evaded effortlessly, bobbing, weaving, knitting, and I quickly recognized the knitwun-purltu evasive manuever.

She was well trained.

"My master will see you suffer in torment!" Elaine rasped, her voice raspy. Long, curved talons ending in razor-sharp claws popped from her fingertips. She swiped at us.

"And who might your master be?" I said, dancing back out of range.

Elaine pressed forward. "The Destructor," she said. "In his human guise, he's already started his work in subduing you."

"What human guise?" said Anne.

"As Michael Bublé," said Elaine and lunged, swinging.

Anne cackled, feinting and riposting. "That Harry Connick, Jr. wannabe? At least Harry teamed up with Lonestar and Agent J. What did your Mikey do?"

"X-Files, you pathetic cow," Elaine shot back.

"Hah!" I said, parrying. "Two measly episodes! Uncredited!"

"He was in Duets with Paltrow!" she growled. Then she leaped back with preternatural speed, executing a backflip that sent her flying toward the front windows. She landed on all fours, Spidey-on-the-wall-style, and her eyes blazed blood-red. She bared teeth and spittle dripped from the corners of her mouth. "The Destructor is only the beginning. He will pave the way for the Dark Overlord. The Great Father Oomaumau who is also called Kali Ma."

"What's happening to you, Elaine?" said Anne.

"Puny humans!" she rasped. "Elaine Goodgulf was only my corporeal vessel. I am H'kk'tuuee. Leader of the Sh'boig'ans. Shock troops of the Dark Elders. This world will soon be ours. First we will overrun the Muslims. Then the Hebrew god will fall. And then the Christian god will be cast down and forgotten. Soon Kali Ma will rule the world."

"You're going back to Kali," I intoned.

"To Kali," Anne agreed.

"Kali," I repeated. "You're going back to Kali."

"Uh-uh," Elaine replied. "I don't think so."

"Then prepare to meet Kali," Anne and I chorused. "In HELL!"

We charged.

Elaine whirled and hurled herself through the front windows.

Thank goodness they were already open.

By the time we reached the windows, Elaine/H'kk'tuuee/whatever was gone.

A cold breeze blew into the house, and the curtains billowed around us.

"This could get ugly," said Anne, her expression grim.

"We'll be ready," I said.

First, we had to save everyone from Michael Bublé. Then get to the Russian Unicorns before Elaine/H'kk'tuuee/yaddayadda could. It wasn't going to be easy. But we knew people who could help.

Plus, I was a Professional. And so was Anne.

Time to bring it.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Fracas in Fargo: Further Notes From The End Days" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

Lack of coffee and Oh-Dark Hundred make for twisted and strange bedfellows, especially when combined with a supersonic flight from the West Coast into Fargo, North Dakota. Back again, into even stranger country.

Omega-13's YF-12 variant pulled Mach 2 eastward then went VTOL and deposited me at Hector International Airport in the middle of Fargo under the cover of 4:30 in the morning. I was met on the tarmac in 20 degree weather by a black Crown Victoria and a petite blond woman dressed in black under a black trenchcoat who introduced herself as Absentia Rhodes.

"But you can call me Abby," she said.

Abby gave me the skinny: For the past three days, Neil Gaiman had been spotted sitting in a Starbucks on Kristen Lane South. This was shortly after rumors of a Mecha Gaiman had been circulating on the Intertubes. Abby was one of the Omega-13 operatives tasked with patrolling the Midwestern Sector and Duke had dispatched her to the scene to investigate.

"Was easy enough," she said as she pointed the big car southbound onto US-81/Interstate 29 from 19th Avenue North. "I'm local."

"You see a lot of this kind of thing?" I asked.

"You mean the odd stuff?" She nodded. "About five years ago. Little town northwest of here."

Ah yes. "In Devil's Lake," I said. " Haunted body parts."

"You know?"

"I was there. Wrote a piece about it."

"Ah, you're that guy."

"I am. Who told you?"

"Besides Duke? My old mentor, Jonquil Burkhardt. She was working that particular case."

"Tall?" I said. "Short dark hair? Looks like Ripley?"

"That's Jonquil. 'Jonni' for short."

"Ran into her while I was investigating the story."

"What happened out there? I was working another case at the time."

"Things got hairy for a while," I said. "Eventually worked out. But had to bring in the big guns."

"A plunger, they said."

"Lies," I replied. "It was a mutant shillelagh. The báeth cluith. A little-known Celtic holy weapon. Like a mace but bent and gnarled. Pistol grip. Anyway, I'll tell you about it later. Have to focus on this crisis first."

"Is it a crisis?"

"Too early to tell but you never know. Could change in a heartbeat."

"Duke send you out for that? The Devil's Lake Haunting?"

"All on my own, actually. Met Duke after that story ran. But didn't know anything about this. About Omega-13."

"He told you recently, didn't he."

I nodded. "And then told me about the Fae Invasion. He thinks this is related, doesn't he."

"Possibly," said Abby. "Is that why you're here?"

I nodded. "If it is part of the Invasion, I'm here to cover the story and make sure the public knows about it."

"I'm not sure how Mecha Gaiman fits, though. Iron and Fae don't mix much."

This much was certain. I, too, wasn't sure about the Mecha Gaiman connection. Unless, like the Auto d'Fae the Unseelie Court had dispatched against Carina Press editor Mallory Braus, it was a remote agent, enchanted to do its bidding then controlled from afar, maybe from a La-Z-Boy. Or perhaps, it only looked like it was made of iron.

Abby turned off the highway onto 32nd Avenue South and headed down a long stretch of road past small strip malls, turned on 25th, then pulled into the deserted parking lot near an insurance office and backed into an empty slot in front of Starbucks.

"That's it?" I said, gesturing to the building.

"Yep," said Abby, cutting the engine. "We've got about forty-five minutes before they open."

* * *

We waited until 6 a.m. before getting out of the car and sprinting into the place to warm up. Their heaters were at full-blast and the welcome warmth was much more welcoming than the lined leather gloves and Grabber Warmers Hand Warmer packs I'd had in the car during the wait. Even at this early hour, the place was filling up fast. They opened at 5:30 and cars had already begun to trickle in around us. By the time we shuffled inside, at least a dozen people were already seated, several cars were waiting at the drive-thru, and a line of ten people were at the counter.

Abby ordered a venti drip coffee for herself. I got two venti white mochas with two extra shots each, two breakfast sandwiches (sausage), and a bottle of water (cold).

"Hungry much?" Abby asked, eyeing my order as I brought it to our table.

"Fuel," I said, sitting down and unwrapping the first sandwich. "Body must be properly nourished in these situations. So when is he supposed to show up?"

"Based on reports, between 7:30 and 8," said Abby. "And he sat over there." She gestured toward a table next to the big front windows currently occupied by a small elderly Chinese man wearing Han Solo's blue Hoth parka with fur-line hood, baggy chinos, and Ugg boots, hunched over an iPhone and humming the theme to "The A-Team" to himself.

"We're early yet," I said, chomping away at my sandwich. "Gives us time to reconnoiter then blend in with the crowd."

"Good plan," said Abby. "Then we nab him when he shows up and take him to the local base for questioning."

"I'll make positive identification. I know Neil Gaiman."

"You two are close?"

"No. But I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once. And I've made an extensive study of his photos, videos, and audio recordings over the last few days. I'll be able to tell if it's really him."

"With 100% certainty?"

"Yes."

"Amazing."

"Yes."

"So you're skeptical it is Gaiman."

"I am. I've been following his Twitter feed since the reported sighting."

"And?"

I leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner. Abby leaned forward, too. "No indication that he's anywhere near here. He's been in Australia and only recently got back to the States. So this guy is either a bad celebrity author look-alike, a clone, or..." I looked around. "Or a doppelgänger."

* * *

It was 7:36 a.m. and the baristas were humming the Super Mario Bros. theme song out loud when Neil Gaiman walked in and got in line.

It took me under five seconds to check and re-check and double-check based on my extensive research and I quickly leaned toward Abby. "Not a look-alike. Not a clone, either, since there's no goatee."

"So doppelgänger?"

"Doppelgänger," I said. I downed the rest of my mocha and got to my feet. As I did, I drew the retractable harpoon from beneath my jacket, deployed the fluke, and leveled it at Faux Gaiman. "Fake!" I called out. "Pretender!"

Faux Gaiman whirled on us, dropping to a crouch, baring teeth, and snarling. "You fools!"

"Suck on this, asswipe," Abby said, drew a Taser from beneath her coat and fired. The twin barbs plunged into Faux Gaiman's torso but he just ripped them off and threw them to the ground.

I charged, harpoon jabbing, and got in two good hits before he backhanded me and I went down.

People were screaming and running now. Someone yelled "Mortal Kombat!" Then came a chorus of voices humming the theme song and drumming the bassline against countertops.

I heard two blasts of thunder near me then an explosion of glass. When I looked up, Abby was empty a breech-loading sawed-off shotgun and shoving two more cartridges into it. I turned to where Faux Gaiman had been and saw a blown out window and a figure on the ground in the parking lot outside.

We bolted outside in time to see Faux Gaiman get to its feet and face us. "We are coming," it said, long ropes of saliva dripping from the corners of its mouth. "I am but the beginning."

Then it turned and bolted toward 32nd Avenue, leaping over cars and buildings.

"Pretender?" Abby said. "You got a Michael T. Weiss vibe, too?"

I nodded. "It was the voice. Same as Jason Blood on Justice League and Adam Strange on Batman: The Brave and the Bold." I collapsed the harpoon. "Crisis now."

"Infinite?"

"Yes. But not the gauntlet."

"Oh man," she said.

"And OMAC," I said then pulled out my phone and dialed Azerov. "We need more data on doppelgängers."

"The Gaiman sighting, yes?" he said. "I was afraid of that. I'll let Duke know and send over the material. Give me half an hour."

I hung up and Abby turned toward me with a questioning look.

"Azerov and I are on the same page," I said. "That doppelgänger is a scout."

"The Invasion."

"Yeah. We need to find it and stop it." I started for the car. "Let's hunt some Orc."

"Doppelgänger," said Abby.

"Don't change the subject."

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

"The Right Place" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was alone in The Lair about to watch Venkman and Co. rid NYC of Zuul for research purposes when a lightning storm exploded in the middle of the living room between the couch and my desk.

When the storm dissipated, a blue porta-potty stood in the middle of the room.

I leaped to my feet, spilling a bag of Swedish Fish, snatched up the shotgun I had leaning against the couch, and leveled the barrel at the porta-potty.

Then the door squeaked open and a tall, slim man with sideburns wearing a brown pinstriped suit and sneakers stepped out and looked around.

"Hello," he said.

"State your business," I ordered, keeping the shotgun aimed at his face.

He gave me a toothy smile and extended a hand. "Professor Xip," he said. "And you are...?"

"What kind of professor shows up in the middle of a person's living room in a porta-potty?"

He winced. "Wrong place, wrong time, I'm afraid. Travelling circus out near Kappa Tucanae. Anyway, my ship--"

"Ship?"

"Ship." He patted the porta potty. "Space-time vessel."

I gestured with the shotgun barrel at the porta potty. "That's a space vessel."

He nodded.

"So you must be an alien."

He nodded again. "I'm from a small planet six light years from Alpha Sculptoris, in the Scupltor constellation. Anyway, the onboard stealth circuits on the ship went dodgy while I was taking a rest stop by that circus. Caused the ship to take the shape of the nearest object."

"A portable toilet."

"A blue one at that. I would've preferred something in black or thunder gray." Xip shook his head. "Anyway, I never got your name, friend." He looked at me expectantly.

I hesitated. He hadn't attacked me. Yet. And he looked vaguely like a character in a TV show I watched off and on. Plus, I had the shotgun trained on him. "I'm Dr. Ace T. Jericho," I said finally.

He arched one eyebrow. "A doctor? Of medicine?"

"An honorific. I'm a writer. Rogue Journalist, really."

Xip's eyes widened. "Fascinating," he said. "I'm a bit of a poetry aficionado myself. Keats. Shelley. Yankovic. Golaca. The great ones, you know."

"Golaca?"

"Yes. Kraalian poet. Wrote a famous ode about the scent of space lice."

"There's lice in space?"

He nodded. "And they smell of cinnamon, apparently."

I shook my head. "No poetry. Sorry."

"What do you write?"

"I freelance."

"Outstanding. I'm a bit of a freelancer myself."

"We have something in common," I said.

"We do."

"What kind of freelancing do you do?"

"Tax collector. This week at least."

"And what brings you to Earth, Space Tax Man?"

"Call me 'Xip'."

"Zip?"

"No relation."

"What?"

"Nevermind," he said. "I'm here to find someone."

"Who?"

He started to reach into his jacket.

"Slowly, Sonny Jim," I said.

He froze and frowned at me for a moment, then smiled and nodded. "Of course. I keep forgetting some Earth people are naturally wary."

"Do you meet many Earth people?"

"I've met a few in my time. And space." He chuckled. "Science joke." He flashed a toothy grin, then gestured with the hand still near his jacket. "May I?"

"Slowly, please."

He complied and drew out what looked like a stainless steel twin-bladed speculum attached to a multi-buttoned remote control

"That better not be a weapon," I said.

"It's not," Xip said. "It's a data wand."

"That's all it better be."

"Let me show you a picture."

I steeled myself for whatever heinous image he was about to show me. A space speculum and the threat of pictures conjured up a series of horrific possibilities in my mind, not including Natasha Henstridge and teeth. Sharp, Great White Shark-sized teeth. And claws. Despite her having been a San Francisco lawyer who worked with a aneurysm-inflicted prophet and the father of a covert government agent.

Xip manipulated the speculum/data wand and a image appeared in mid-air. It looked like a teddy bear with dark fur and a weird topknot.

I lowered the shotgun. "A teddy bear?"

"No," said Xip. "A Furry. From the planet Daykin."

I pointed to the topknot. "Why is that thatch of hair on top of its head shaped vaguely like a hypodermic needle?"

"It's just a Furry with a syringe on top. Very common species."

"And why is a tax collector looking for this creature?" I said.

"He owes four time ticks of back taxes. That's equal to twelve of your Earth years."

I gave a low whistle. "That's a helluva lot of taxes."

"He's number one on our list."

"And you think he's here on Earth?"

Xip winced. "Ah, no."

"Then how'd you end up in my living room?"

"Miscalculation of coordinates," said Xip. "Also, I'm out of fuel. And that's where I believe you can help me."

"How's that?" I said. "I don't think I have anything like rocket fuel in the place. Or even dilithium crystals. Or a beryllium sphere."

"I need sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite," Xip said and gestured with the data wand. "And according to this, you have both in great abundance." He depressed a few buttons. The image of the Furry was replaced with that of a blue-labelled can that read: Libby's Potted Meat Food Product.

I had a box of those in the kitchen cupboard.

"Mister," I said. "You've come to the right place."

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Remember, Remember, The 31st of December" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

Glenn Lord died on New Year's Eve and a thousand Robert E. Howard fans mourned and a thousand more wailed and clawed at the skies but we heard about it on Monday the 2nd.

The 2nd was also Isaac Asimov's birthday and the the Good Doctor and I shared titles. Anne and I, Alabaster McMurdo, and the Peninsula Gang (Parker and Marc Muldoon, KC, and Chin) were all at Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill to raise a toast in his honor. He didn't do much drinking in life so we were doing it for him in rounds, shots, fifths, and jiggers, and for the next three hours, we listened to man himself narrate Foundation from a copy I had of a Bantam Audio production, played on an old Optimus CTR-111 cassette recorder. Every time he said "Foundation," "psychohistory," "Hari Seldon," or "The Seldon Plan," we drank.

Then around 1:36pm, Louie the bartender got a call and when he hung up, tears were streaming down his face and he dropped to his knees behind the bar and screamed "Crom!" and clawed at the sky.

Al and I dove behind the bar to check on the man. I snatched up the phone. It was Duke.

"Glenn Lord's dead," he explained. "Word came in on the Locus website. I had to tell him."

"I understand," I said. "We'll take it from here."

Louie curled up in a fetal position, clutching a bar towel, and began muttering under his breath. The two of us knelt beside him.

"What's he saying?" Al asked.

I bent closer so I could hear better.

"Know, oh prince," Louie rasped in a choked voice, "that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities..."

I straightened. "The Nemedian Chronicles," I said. "It probably helps ease his pain."

Sally, one of the other two servers, hurried to the bar. "What happened?" she said, her brown eyes wide.

"You'll have to take over for a bit," I said to her. "Louie's not well."

Sally peered over the bar and gasped when she saw Louie. "Holy shit! Did we call 9-1-1?"

"No need," I said. "He's just crying, that's all. He needs some time alone."

"Crying? What happened?"

"Glenn Lord died."

"The guy who played Jonathan Kent in the original Superman?" said Parker. "I thought he died a while back?"

"Not Glenn Ford," I said. "Glenn Lord."

"Wait," said Marc. "You mean the guy who sang 'The Heat Is On'? One of the Eagles?"

"That's Glenn Frey," said Al. "He's still alive."

"Isn't Glenn Lord the guy who produced Galactica and Night Man?" said Sally.

"And Automan," chimed in KC.

"Automan rocked!" Chin piped up, a big grin splashed on his face. "Cursor was the bomb!"

"Don't forget Manimal," said Al.

"What's a manimal?" Sally asked.

"Nevermind," I said. "No, not him. That's Glen A. Larson. He's still alive and kicking. Glenn Lord was the literary agent for the Robert E. Howard estate."

"The Conan creator, right?" said Sally.

"That's right," I said.

"How sad. Were they friends?"

"They've met a couple times before," I said, remembering that Louie had been to several Howard Days in Cross Plains as a dues-paying member of the Robert E. Howard Foundation and had met with Lord at least twice.

"I didn't know Louie was such a big Conan fan," Sally said. "Of course, I've only been here for six months. And I've only ever seen the Arnold movie."

"Big Robert Howard fan, really," I said.

Sally nodded then crossed behind the bar to take Louie's place. As she passed him, she frowned. "What's he mumbling?"

"An old West Central Texas Death Anthem," I said not bothering to explain the Nemedian Chronicles, especially if she was only familiar with Arnie's Conan. "Hasn't been heard since the late '30s."

"He said something about shadow-guarded tombs." She shuddered. "Creepy."

"It'll be okay," I said.

I heard footsteps come up nearby, looked up, and saw Anne standing on the other side of the bar. "Back office is ready," she said. "I moved those boxes he had on the couch."

Al and I grabbed Louie by legs and under the armpits and carried him to the back of the bar. His voice was rising and falling now.

"What is that now?" I said, trying to listen to the words.

Al cocked his head for a moment and, when we turned into the back hallway, said, "The Song of Bêlit."

Anne kept the way clear and Al and I finally rustled him into the small back office and set him on the faded green couch. It was here, in his private sanctum, that Louie indulged all things Howard and Conan. A framed print of Frazetta's "The Destroyer" hung above the couch. A short bookcase sat against the wall just to the left of the door was packed with all twelve Lancer/Ace paperbacks, the seven Bantam editions, the four illustrated Ace editions, and half of the fifty Tor editions penned by such luminaries as Steve Perry, Leonard Carpenter, Roland Green, and Robert Jordan (before he lost himself in the Wheel of Time). Across from the door, on top of the desk next to an opened laptop was a stack of materials from the Robert E. Howard Foundation and some copies of Howard manuscripts Louie had told me he'd gotten from the Cross Plains Library. Two neat stacks of boxes sat to one side of the desk.

As soon as we had set him on the couch, Louie turned and buried his face against the cushions.

Anne went to his desk, picked up a photograph in a plain wood frame, and handed it to Louie. It was a photo of Louie standing in front of the Howard house in Cross Plain, Texas. Louie took the photo without saying a word and continued mumbling to himself.

"Let's give him some privacy," said Anne, gesturing toward the door.

Al and I nodded.

We left Louie curled up on the couch, reciting the Nemedian Chronicles once more, and clutching the photograph, and Al, Anne, and I, humming "Riders of Taramis," walked back to the main bar.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

"Grim Notes From The End Days" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

Over at the Carina Press blog last Thursday, editor Mallory Braus posted about 2012 being the year of the Zombie Apocalypse.

After the last conversation I had with Duke a month earlier, I thought I'd see if he'd heard anything and called him up the next day but didn't get through.

I finally got hold of him Monday afternoon. He'd seen the post, of course. I figured as much. Omega-13 is tightly wired into the pulse of such matters.

"We did some checking of our own," Duke said. "And we're sending field agents to Miss Braus now. We'll need to brief her."

"So she's on the ball on this?" I asked. "A lucky prognosticatory post?"

"Blind luck," said Duke. "She's probably thinking it's a joke, ha ha, and all that. But it's not."

"What'd you find out?"

"One of contacts, Madame Zamboni, is a regular liaison with the world of the Fae. She's heard some whisperings among the Courts on the other side. The Unseelie Court is planning to use zombies as their vanguard. Both kinds, too."

"The shambling and the running?"

"Yeah," Duke said. "I fucking hate the running ones. Just a sec." He turned away from his phone and spoke to someone nearby. I only snatches of the conversation. After a moment, Duke was back on the line. "Looks like we're also going to send over a protection team for Miss Braus."

"Protection team?"

"Four-man squad. Armed with the latest in supernatural weaponry. They'll keep an eye on her. From a distance, of course. But close enough to act in case something goes down."

"You think it's that bad?" I said. "Needing protection teams?"

"That bad," said Duke. "If word reaches the Unseelie Court about a leak, they're liable to retaliate, albeit as unobtrusively as possible."

"How unobtrusive do you think?"

"I checked with Madame Zamboni. She said there could be any number of different things but thinks they may try to take her out with a car hit."

"A car hit?"

"It's called an Auto d'Fae. Pretty nasty critter from what she told me. Typically appears as a red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury. Swallows its victim through the hood then sucks out their life essence. Force drain style."

"Shades of Exar Kun!" I said.

"Exactly."

"I follow her on Twitter. Mallory Braus, I mean. Should I DM her with a warning?"

"Leave it to us," Duke said. "Better that way."

He had a good point. They were Professionals in that department.

"About the vanguard forces," I said. "The zombies. Did Madame Zamboni give a likely date?"

"No, dammit all. Her people are hush-hush about it. Plus, time works differently over there so any specifics are vague. I hate vague specifics."

"Tell me about it," I said. "They give me gas."

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, January 2, 2012

"Madness At The Moscone Center (excerpt)" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[originally published in two parts in the June and July 2011 issues of The Oblivious Plethora; from The Jericho Files collection]

We were somewhere around Davis on Interstate 80 when all hell broke loose. I remember saying, "I've got a bad feeling about this..." And suddenly, there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge, half-crushed cylinders with glowing red Cyclopean eyes and insectile hook-arms, all swooping and keening and diving around the car, which was going about hundred miles an hour with the windows down to San Francisco. And a voice was screaming: "Holy shit! What are these goddman things?"

"Probe droids!" I said, ducking as they came at us. "I don't know how, but they found us. Drive for it, Nardy!"

"Who found us?" came the reply. "The Libyans?"

I shot a glance at my driver. "Worse," I said. "Imperials."

Nardo Bones let out a gut-busting scream, slammed on the gas, and the car lurched forward.

Nardo Bones. Scarecrow thin and all sharp angles with floppy blond hair. Dressed in a black pinstriped zoot suit. Nothing at all like Emily Deschanel. Photographer for Plethora. A rookie, not yet bloodied on the journalistic battlefields. This was to be his Guadalcanal. His Trafalgar. His Khitomer.

I'd been sent to cover WonderCon in San Francisco for The Oblivious Plethora. My editor, Milton Seth Jones, had picked Bone to be my photographer. He lived in Sacramento and I had picked him up earlier that morning after spending the previous night at the Banner Manse exploring Mount Waterdeep with a team of fellow spelunkers that included a singing dwarven pirate, a gay halfling thief, and a cross-dressing male elven paladin.

The car suddenly veered off the road and came to a sliding halt in the gravel on the shoulder. The seat belt locked, keeping me from bouncing off the dashboard and flying through the windshield.

The driver side door flew open and Bones scrambled out, howling and flailing his arms.

I leaped from the car. "What're you doing?" I yelled. "We can't stop here. This is no country for Josh Brolin. Or Goonies."

"They're everywhere!" he cried. "They won't go away. And my eyes! They burn!"

"You little fool!" I said. "I told you. Short, quick sniffs!"

He screamed and flailed and ran in circles around the car.

This was bad.

A rookie, yes. But not just in journalism. In Liquid Paper, too. Before we left his house, he'd inhaled most of a bottle and decided to drive. I had tried to talk him out of it. Told him it was best enjoyed in short, quick sniffs rather than one big nasal suck. And no driving. The scent was intoxicating in that fuzzy-brained, light-headed, walking on storm clouds in metal boots way. But he hadn't listened.

I had to calm him down. And we still had to get to San Francisco before the Insanity of the Lines descended upon us.

Oh, the Lines! The Lines! The tintinnabulation of the Lines!

Panic started to creep over me in ninja-silence and I fought to keep it in check.

Focus, Jericho! Focus! One thing at a time.

First thing--I had to calm Bones.

I dashed to the back of my red 1994 Toyota Tercel hatchback and popped the trunk.

In the center of the trunk sat my funbag. The funbag was an important piece of journalistic equipment. I had mighty tools in my funbag, to wit: four classic bottles of Liquid Paper, ten large bags of Swedish Fish, a box of Mr. Sketch Scented Markers, and a red plastic pencil case that contained two black Sharpies, two double-packs of Pilot G-2 pens (black), three yellow Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils (sharpened), and a small green hand-held pencil sharpener (small), plus two steno pads and a small moleskine notebook.

Everything a journalist needed in the field.

But the contents of the bag weren't going to help in this instance.

No. I needed stronger, more powerful medicine.

That medicine sat next to the bag--a stainless steel tank thirteen inches long and two-and-a-quarter inches in diameter attached to a black rubber facemask.

Oxygen. Pure, lifegiving air. None of that crap stuff from across the border, from Sedona, tainted with gods knew what. Charlatans and mountebanks there. The lot of them.

No. This was from Big Sur. Where the air was fresh and clean.

I grabbed the tank, shut the trunk lid, and went to the driver's side.

Bones was still wailing and circling the car, kicking up gravel and dirt in his wake. His cries rose and fell in perfect 4/4 waltz-time.

I shoved the tank into the footwell behind the driver's seat then turned to corral Bones just as he came whistling around to my side of the car, "God Save The Queen" dopplering from him, and snatched him by the back of his pants. His feet shot out from under him and he dropped to the ground on his butt.

Then I pulled him to his feet and wrestled him toward the passenger side and into the car. He started raving and jabbering, arms still flailing, fingers jabbing at the sky.

"Here they come! They're coming! Run for your lives! Run for the hills! The hills have eyes! I, Robot! Robot Carnival! Carnival of lost souls! They want our souls! Funk soul brother! Brother from another planet, where art thou! Soylent green is Heston!"

I finally got him into the seat, all the while dodging and evading his flailing arms and jabbing fingers, wrapped the seat belt around him, and shut the door. He lunged at the window, clawing at the glass, foaming at the mouth, and yowling as if his ass was on fire.

Poor bastard. If only he'd listened to me.

There's nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the throes of a Liquid Paper high.

No matter now.

I pulled out my phone and checked the time.

We had to get into the city. And fast.

I clambered into the driver's seat, shut the door, then grabbed the steel tank and shoved it at him. "Keep it on your face, turn the knob, and inhale. Deep inhales."

His head snapped toward me, his face a Munch scream. "Will it make them go away?" he mewled.

"It'll keep you from screeching," I said. "I have something else for the monsters."

Bones clutched at the tank, jammed the mask into his face, and started taking deep breaths.

"Turn the knob," I said. "It works best that way."

He nodded in a violent bobblehead doll fashion, scrabbled at the knob, and air began hissing forth. He stuck his face deeper into the rubber mask and gulped like a trout in the middle of the Mojave.

Took a quick glance around.

Malformed shadows danced over the car.

They were still out there.

I poked my head out the window to check.

Yep. The beasts were circling overhead like greedy vultures, hook arms flexing, glowing eyes pulsing.

I ducked back inside and reached past Bones to the glove compartment and opened it, then pulled out a pair of fuzzy dice. Fuzzy polyhedral dice soaked in gun oil. A Chumash shaman I met in a Morro Bay dive bar just off Highway 1 told me it was an effective talisman against demons. "They are nunashish," he'd said, nursing his sixth fifth of Jack. "Demons. This will drive them out."

Clearly, that's what these creatures were. Demons.

I hung the dice over the rearview mirror and it worked immediately, like gangbusters.

The shadows squealed and vanished.

Success!

Not bad for the thirty bucks I'd ponied out for them.

Elated, I pointed the car toward the freeway and peeled out, spraying gravel behind us, little realizing what was about to befall us next.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!


It's 2012!

Just 364 days before the world ends, right?


(photo: peterl1084/flickr)