ALEXANDRA HOLZER’S GHOST GAL: THE WILD HUNT
EXCERPT WRITTEN BY BOBBY NASH
Energy crackled through the halls of the old castle like a thing alive.
With each whip-snap discharge, loud, thunderous booms echoed off the thick stone that made up the walls of the castle keep. Those stones, which had been so meticulously removed from their original home and shipped over to the New World piece by piece from an Irish castle the wealthy new owner had recently purchased, were unlike any other. It had taken months for shipping magnate Conrad Bartlett to disassemble the castle, catalog, number, and crate each piece, ship it across the Atlantic, and reassemble it on his families land in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Under normal circumstances, such an undertaking would have been a costly endeavor, but tensions in the Atlantic were high as both Nazi and Allied forces ran their military campaigns in the region almost non-stop. Soon, the entire planet would be gripped by the hells of war. If not for Bartlett’s military contract allowing him to cross the ocean at regular intervals, the yearlong reconstruction of the castle in the United States might never have been completed.
In hindsight, Conrad Bartlett might have wished that to be the case.
In addition to the physical attributes of the castle keep, he also brought with it the castle’s dark secret, a long and bloody history dating back to the earliest days of Ireland itself, perhaps even before that, a secret that had been locked away for centuries, hidden from prying eyes.
And now that secret had been loosed on an unsuspecting world.
Unless the specialist he called in could put a stop to it.
Outside, lightning sparked while thunder roared as the storm grew more and more fierce. Gale force rain pelted everything in its path with big wet droplets mixed with hail and flying debris tossed about by violent winds. The turbulent weather outside was like a mirror to the chaos brewing inside the recently rebuilt castle.
Hans Holzer let out a breath. He had only been on the scene an hour before things took a turn to the strange. Conrad Barnett’s telegram about his unique problem had piqued his curiosity, but he hadn’t expected to find anything more than a minor disturbance. He hadn’t expected to find much, most likely a displaced spirit long dormant that had been disturbed when its home had been disassembled and reassembled halfway around the world. It was enough to throw off anyone’s equilibrium, even if they had been dead for decades or longer, but as threats go, it was probably minor.
He was wrong.
Once the storm began to strengthen in intensity, he realized that things were worse than he had first believed.
Hans Holzer held a torch in front of him as he moved through the darkness. Flames from the torch cast the only light since the generator succumbed to a lightning strike just a few moments earlier. The torch had once been the leg of an antique chair, or at least an expensive recreation of one. A cloth curtain pulled from one of the windows then doused with lighter fluid and ignited completed the makeshift lantern. It was a quick solution to a minor problem.
It was the problem that lay ahead that concerned him.
“These walls are not pure stone,” he said aloud, running a callused hand across the uneven stone. “Whatever that metal component we discovered turns out to be, it is highly conductive. The lightning striking the weather vanes on the roof is not simply redirecting the electricity of the strikes. The energy is being absorbed through the walls.” He leaned in close enough to smell the earthy musk of the hand-carved stone. “Incredible. It’s almost as if the entire castle is alive. I’ve never seen--”
Holzer sighed loudly at the interruption. It was not the first one of the evening. “Yes. What is it, Jamie?”
“I need a moment, sir,” Jamie McClenndon said from somewhere in the dark behind him.
Jamie was the latest in a long line of assistants who came to him because they wanted to learn the “real truth” of the world. Most were college students, like Jamie. They rarely lasted long in the position and Holzer suspected that Jamie would be no different than those who came before. Like the others before him, his desire to experience a supernatural moment came from seeing motion pictures featuring scary monsters. He wanted to see a ghost, to prove that they were real, and that he would be brave enough to interact with it. The reality of the moment was never what any of them expected and was rarely like what they saw in the movies. Ghost hunting, for lack of a better term, was not easy and the professor had little time or patience for handholding. If Jamie wanted to be coddled in the face of the unknown then he had come to the wrong place.
As his family was of Irish descent, Holzer had hoped Jamie would come in handy on this excursion, but sadly his knowledge of the homeland of his ancestors was severely lacking. He blamed modern education for the boy’s lack of knowledge.
“Make it quick,” Holzer said, not bothering to hide his annoyance as he checked his pocket watch. “Our quarry is here. I can feel it.”
“Yes, Professor. I know,” Jamie said softly. There was an unusual quiver to his voice.
“We must find him before…”
The crash of his equipment hitting the hard stone floor behind him interrupted his train of thought and Hans Holzer spun around to face his assistant, ready to give him an earful about responsibility and taking care of the sensitive equipment left in his care. The equipment he had been tasked with carrying was not only delicate, it was also very expensive.
“I’ve told you repeatedly to be careful… with… that…” his voice trailed off when he saw why Jamie had discarded the equipment in so loud a fashion.
“I–– I think I’ve already found him,” Jamie said softly, careful not to move lest the sharp blade at his throat draw blood.
“Easy now, Jamie,” Holzer said, taking a tentative step forward, keeping the torch an arm’s length ahead of him and casting an orange glow on the intruder who held his young assistant hostage. “Don’t move.”
“Who are you?” Holzer asked the man holding the knife.
“You know my name, laddie,” the intruder said. He was tall, towering a couple of inches above Jamie’s six foot-two lanky frame. His arms were thick, muscled, and looked as though they could snap his assistant like a twig. His face was obscured by the light, his skin dark, but made darker by the soot and ash that clung to his body, giving him a mottled gray pallor. Long black hair hung behind him, matching the color of the thick matted beard he wore.
“I know the man whose body you wear,” Holzer said. “His name is Duncan. He works for Mr. Bartlett.”
“Very clever, you are,” the entity that had taken control of Duncan McGrath’s body said. “I see that you are familiar with my kind. So much the better. Oh, and his name was Duncan. He has no use for a name any longer.”
“Do not hurt that boy.”
“You’re not in any position to be giving orders, Hans Holzer.”
“You know my name?”
“Oh, yes,” the man said. “I know everything my host knew. Young Duncan knew who you were. He seemed to think you might save him somehow, although I think his faith might be a wee bit misplaced myself. You’ve given me a good laugh watching as you run about the castle with your little toys and gadgets. You amuse me, Professor.”
“What do you want?”
“Such a leading question.” Duncan smiled. “What do you think I want?”
“I already have freedom, sir. I am free to roam this castle at my whim. Look around you, do you see any chains to hold me hither?”
The professor smiled. “Actually, I do.”
“It’s so obvious. Curse me for a fool; I should have noticed it sooner. This place…” he motioned toward the castle around them. He rapped a knuckle against the stone wall. “This place is your prison. The lightning, the stone, the mystery metal, those things aren’t meant to empower you, are they? This castle is your prison.”
“Oh, sure, this far removed from your ancestral home, the power that keeps you trapped here has lessened, but not enough for you to escape. Not completely. You can move about within these walls, but you can never venture beyond them. You’re trapped here like an animal in a cage.”
“We’ll see about that, laddie,” Duncan said, his smile widening. “This animal still has teeth.”
“Don’t,” Holzer warned, but it was too late.
With a powerful shove, Duncan threw Jamie McClenndon at the ghost hunter. The student crashed into his teacher and they fell to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, the torch falling from Holzer’s hand and rolling away.
There was just enough light to see Duncan run past them down the hallway.
About GHOST GAL: THE WILD HUNT--
Alexandra Holzer is just your average young paranormal investigator out to show an early 1960s New York City she knows a thing or two about ghosts. Join Alex's alter ego, GHOST GAL, and her fiancé, Joshua Demerest as they do battle with a very ancient ghost and his pals who have a score to settle with her famed father, ghost hunter, Hans Holzer.
Alexandra Holzer's Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt by Bobby Nash is the first book in a series of new horror/adventures novels from Raven's Head Press.
Thank you Bobby for sharing your work here at the South Branch Scribbler.
Next week 4Q will be interviewing Lockie Young, an author living in Albert County, New Brunswick. Lockie has been a guest author several times and we look forward to reading his answers at 4Q