prologue to the mad bride of the ripper
I have deeply enjoyed writing the sequel to The Satanic Brides of Dracula. For me, it's been largely a nostalgic journey as I remember the nights spent watching midnight horror marathons of old 50s-70s horror films.
In the late 90s, I used to run a few blogs where I reviewed horror films. Mostly Indie Horror Films. What ended up more or less depressing me was the influence Wes Craven had on the genre, which left it stuck in a murk of slasher/parody. I missed horror which were monster films where the monster had a streak of recognisable humanity.
Slashers turned monsters into silent soulless voids with no real personality. Their personality was entirely a uniform. A mask or a gimmick such as a quick one-liner. There was nothing exciting about them.
Rise of the Fel Queen as a series revels in the villains as people, possibly to the point of being cruel. This book, dealing with Jack the Ripper as it does, continues the cruelty. Perhaps adds to it from the previous book.
I was torn between making Jack the Ripper too human, which would diminish (in my opinion) the historically accurate abomination of his acts. I didn't want to do that. Nor did I want to glorify them. It was a difficult line to tread, and one I tried to think carefully about. Including the Angel-maker as a character only dialled that difficult path up to 11.
I hope you take this series in the spirit it is written. A tasteless homage to an exploitative genre which threw all sense of morality out the window in an unapologetic effort to entertain the sadistic corner of our psyche which loved to see others suffer.
And, as has become my tradition, here's the prologue to Rise of the Fel Queen #2: Mad Bride of the Ripper!
The little girl’s fists knuckled tears from her eyes.
She refused to lift her head. Just looked down at the muddy leather scraps which were her shoes.
Arthur winced at the sound. Disgusted by the dirty creature. A homeless waif, one of five living in a nearby shack. If you could call it a shack. It was hardly a shed. Dirty floor. Dirty walls. Grubby little fireplace. Reeking of rotten food and excrement. Eldest child only twelve.
Or so he’d claimed.
This one no older than nine.
In his mind, he thought they should be rounded up by the police.
Little body shivered. Shock had turned her skin so pale it was almost translucent.
Which made the swollen red marks on her throat redder than they should have been. Bruised veins webbing her neck.
Kneeling, Van Helsing lay one hand on the girl’s shoulder. With gentleness in his voice, but not reflected in his unblinking gaze. His eyes remained twin orbs of stern ice.
“You’re safe now, Tammy,” he said. “I promise. But you have to tell me. Tell me who did this? Who did this to your neck?”
“It were the Bloofer Lady,” Tammy cried. “She were here. She were. Really, mister, she was. No one believes me, but she were here. In her white dress and everything. Just like they say. Please, mister, please let me go.”
“Bloofer Lady,” Arthur grunted. “That’s a hoax. Everyone knows that. Even the newspapers think it’s a frightful joke. This is rubbish, Abraham. We’re wasting time on filthy peasant superstition.”
“Hush, Arthur,” Van Helsing said. No emotion. Clipped German accent accepting no argument.
Arthur looked away.
Lord, Arthur thought. I’m a fucking Lord. Would it hurt the old bastard to use the fucking title?
“I believe you, Tammy,” the old man said. “Tell me where she went, won’t you? The Bloofer Lady. Where did she go after she hurt you?”
“Please, mister,” the girl whined. Sniffed again. Thick and nasal. Had the child ever washed? Arthur didn’t think so, and he took another shuffled step further away from her. Wiped his hands on his coat as she continued to sniffle. “Don’t make me tell. If she knows I said anything, she’ll come after me, won’t she?”
“How can she find you? She doesn’t know where you live, does she? You didn’t tell her? About your little friends?”
“I didn’t tell her anything. I didn’t want her to come for Lizzie.”
“And you don’t want her to come back for you either, do you?”
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He took both shoulders. Hard grip which made her only wail louder. “Then tell me! Tell me where she’s hiding.”
“You’re hurting me.”
The old man forced himself to loosen his grip. “I’m sorry, Tammy. Really, I am. I didn’t mean to hurt you. But I can’t catch her if I don’t know absolutely everything. All I want to do is help you. So, I need you to be brave. Very brave. Can you do that?”
Tammy slowly pulled her fists from her eyes.
Red eyes soaked with fear.
Arthur shuddered. Grotesque, he thought. Someone should put her out of her misery.
He felt the gun in his pocket.
Promise of a merciful death.
More than these street urchins deserved. Before the vampire had grabbed her, she was no doubt picking pockets or something equally unsavoury. A part of him wondered if they should let the vampire roam a little longer. Perhaps it would clean the city of unwanted trash.
A bit like wolves picking off the weakest deer.
“She had ghastly eyes,” the girl said. “The Devil’s eyes, they were.”
“I know.” Van Helsing’s voice was calm. He smiled at the girl. “I promise you, I won’t let her hurt you again. Do you believe me when I tell you that?”
“Then be a good girl and show me which way she went. You don’t have to come with us. Just point the way, and then you can run home. You want to go home, don’t you?”
The little girl looked back down the street at the row of degenerate houses.
Ramshackle and covered in filth.
Coal smog crawled through the streets, adding to the gloom as early morning fog began falling away from the streets. “I don’t know.”
“Of course you do. Your friends are waiting. Lizzie is waiting, too. You’ll be safe there. Safe while we make sure the Bloofer Lady never comes for you again.”
Shoulders buckling, the little girl wiped her nose across the back of her sleeve.
Arthur suppressed a gag.
Watched as the girl gave a defeated nod. Raised a little arm and pointed. “She went there.”
“Down this street?”
“Did you see which building she went into?”
“She didn’t,” the child said. Lowered her voice to a frightened whisper. “She went to the graveyard. That’s where she took me, mister. She said we could play a secret game. That it would be fun. She said I shouldn’t be afraid. But I was. I didn’t want to, but she held my hand very tight and wouldn’t let go. And then she made me lay down on one of the stones. It was so cold. She told me she wanted to kiss me. A gentle kiss, she said. But it wasn’t soft at all. She bit me. The Bloofer Lady bit me on the neck and it hurt.”
The girl burst into tears again, sobs chugging like a train as Van Helsing patted her head.
“There there, Tammy. You run along now. Go straight home and don’t talk to anyone, you hear?” He dug into his pocket and pulled out a small roll of notes. “Take this. And don’t be frightened. We’ll deal with the Bloofer Lady for you. After tonight, you’ll never see her again.”
“Really?” The girl took the money, eyes wide. Sobs choked off by sight of more than she’d ever seen in her life. “I can have it?”
“Yes. Now, run along home. Off you go.”
“Bloofer Lady,” Arthur snorted as the girl scurried away without a word of thanks. “Do you really believe that, Abraham?”
“Yes, actually,” the old man said. Wiped his hands on a little handkerchief before dropping the tainted cloth to the ground. “I do.”
“She hardly seemed very reliable. She’d have said anything for money. Anything at all.”
Couldn’t hide the bitterness from his tone.
Had begun to wonder if Van Helsing was the same kind. The old man seemed to be taking an awful lot of Holmwood money to fund his crusade. But not much of it had yielded results.
“Would she? What about the marks on her neck?”
“Probably some infection. Enough of it around here. God, Abraham. I feel dirty just being near the little monster.”
“She’s not the monster, Arthur. The real one is this way.”
“You honestly want to go to the cemetery?”
“Naturally. That’s where this Bloofer Lady is.”
“If this Bloofer Lady is a vampire, shouldn’t we wait for the sun to come up?”
“It’s close enough to morning. She will have taken refuge by now. Come.”
Arthur followed the old man, hand inside his pocket. Fingers around the revolver’s grip. Something about the heavy weight made him feel less afraid, even though he knew bullets wouldn’t stop the undead.
For that, he had a mallet. Two long stakes. Crucifix.
Small bottle of holy water.
And a bible.
Didn’t much believe the bible, but he’d seen vampires cower from it so was happy to use it as a shield if he had to.
The cemetery’s gravestones were a mix of old and new. Some looked close to toppling over, faces obliterated by muck and lichen. Others were fresh. Clean. Names etched crisp into stone.
Names with no real value, he thought.
Who were they anyway? Did anyone even remember anything about the dead lying buried here? The majority were simply names and dates on a stone. What had they done to deserve being immortalised?
He followed Van Helsing. Watched as the older man knelt to rub his fingers through moist grass. Or sniff at the air. What he was smelling, Arthur couldn’t guess.
With the factories nearby, all Arthur could smell was the stink of industry and the echo of Tammy’s unwashed body. He put his sleeve up to cover his nostrils.
“This way,” Van Helsing said. Headed swiftly toward a crumbling crypt. “It’s in there.”
Mist crawled on its belly around surrounding graves, sucking at the rotting gasses of decaying corpses.
Arthur shuddered. “How can you tell?”
“Can’t you smell it, Arthur? Brimstone. The vampire’s unholy bargain with the Devil leaves a trail anyone should be able to detect.”
“Brimstone. Are you serious?”
“Never more so. Look! Did you see that?”
“Something moved in the shadows.” The old man pulled out his crucifix. “Be ready, Arthur. And don’t hesitate. No matter what you see, do not hesitate.”
“Why would I?”
Van Helsing said nothing. Crept toward the little opening. Peered into the darkness.
Licked his lips.
“I’ll go first. You can watch my back.”
And ducked inside.
Arthur followed, drawing mallet and stake. Took a shallow snatch of breath and was overwhelmed by its thickness.
Whispered; “God, Abraham. The dust. Are you sure this is the place?”
“Yes,” the old man said. Pulled out a torch and lit it. Let the flame peel away the shadows of the crypt. A heavy coffin lay in the middle of the small room.
Beside the coffin, the bodies of two children.
Each with throats torn out. Flaps of skin raked back to expose ripped arterial cords.
Arthur covered his mouth and nose with his cuff. “Oh, God.”
“There. Inside the coffin. The vampire is here. And torpor already clasps her awareness. We’re just in time, Arthur.”
“Right.” Arthur tried not to gag as he stepped past Van Helsing. Eager to get the job done and get out. Held stake out in front of himself and saw the white dress. Stained with blood. Fresh blood still wet. Gleaming in the torchlight.
Eyes half-closed and wincing, he pressed the stake to the vampire’s breast.
And, though he always tried to avoid doing so, looked at her face.
“Arthur?” Van Helsing whispered. “What is it?”
His strangled cry echoed within the crypt. “Lucy. It’s Lucy!”
Her eyes flicked open.
Lips drew back in a savage grin to show fangs. Mouth opened in enraged silent roar.
Van Helsing rushed up. “Arthur! Strike!”
“No. I can’t. Look, Abraham. Look at her. It’s Lucy, damn you.”
From her open mouth, the shriek finally emerged. High and piercing like the scream of a bird.
Her arm flashed, clawed fingers streaking toward Arthur’s neck.
Van Helsing shouted.
Mallet hammered home.
And then there was silence. Broken only when Arthur began to sob.
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