Exclusive – Educated Corpses Chapter One

EducatedCorpsesCoverI have recently completed my third full length novel, Educated Corpses. It's the third novel in my Lucius Fogg series and is available now on Amazon.com in both print and digital formats.

The Fogg series had a very interesting origin. The character started as a digital chapter book for Cellar Door Publishing ran by Jade Dodge. It was an ambitious project, but Fogg never got to be released in that format. So a few years later I took the short story and collected it together into a novella that I sold at Comic-Con. The book did pretty well. Not great sales but very positive feedback from those who bought it.

A few years later, a friend named Salome Jones convinced me to try and write a novel. I decided to take the Fogg character and his detective Jimmy Doyle and put them on a new adventure. But to help push myself, I wrote the story live on Twitter. What I wrote there was combined with the novella to create the first novel Deadly Creatures. That was followed by Malicious Intent and now finally Educated Corpses.

The stories focus on Lucius Fogg, the preeminent occultist in a 1950's New York where the supernatural lives in every shadow. Fogg keeps the uneasy balance between humanity and the creatures of the night. He also helps the NYPD with cases to bizarre for the normal laws of man. But Lucius has one limitation, he can never leave his house. Enter Jimmy Doyle, a former soldier turned private investigator. He works as Fogg's legman. Doyle is the everyman in a world of vampires, werewolves and magic. You see through Doyle's eyes the world that few humans ever get to really see.

It's a mix of hard-boiled detective, fantasy and horror. But why tell you when I can show you? Here, exclusively on Bleeding Cool, is the first chapter of the new book. If you like it, you can order the full book on Amazon as well as the two previous novels.

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CHAPTER ONE

I'd only shot the phone once in the month since Fogg had the infernal thing moved onto my desk. That was because it had jarred me from a particularly interesting dream involving Julia Adams and a certain white bathing suit I had seen in the cinema a while back. The phone didn't ring often. Most of the time I could just use the black Western Electric as a paper weight and forget it was even there.

It had been remarkably silent since Election Day and the showdown with Kieran Drake. Not a single case in three months called out for Lucius Fogg's attention. That meant I spent a lot of time sitting at my desk twiddling my thumbs, or doing some custom armor work to my 1952 Chevy Coup. That morning I was alone in the office as the sun was starting to rise. I may have been drifting off a bit when the startling clamor of the phone jarred me back. It took two more rings before I was cognizant enough to pick up the receiver.

I spit out the rehearsed line without a second thought. "You've reached the home of Lucius Fogg, Jimmy Doyle speaking."

A familiar voice responded. "Jimmy, it's Elias."

"Elias?" It felt strange hearing his voice after so long. "Why it's been…"

"Don't have time to reminisce right now. I've stumbled onto something big here. Bigger than I can handle alone. I need your help."

His voice had a nervousness to it I'd never heard from him before. "Name it."

"Meet me at the Bronx Zoo in an hour, east side." He hesitated. "And you'll want to bring a piece."

"I'll be there."

He hung up without another word. I put the receiver back and grabbed my .45 from my desk drawer. I checked to make sure it was loaded, slipped on my shoulder holster and dropped some extra rounds into my pocket. I'd seen Elias take on a half dozen men in a fist fight and show no more nerves than ordering breakfast at a diner. He'd rather pull his own impacted tooth than ask anyone for help. Whatever was going on wasn't going to be pretty.

I scribbled out a quick note for Fogg and left it on his desk. He wouldn't see it until sunset. We had very little planned for the day. I was supposed to meet Tiny, my golem friend, for lunch and Fogg had a woman he knew coming over to visit him that evening. I would probably be back way before that, but it was better to play it safe.

I grabbed my trench coat and hat, and then circled back to the kitchen. Ariel, Fogg's guardian angel and the one who kept both of us going, stood by the back door holding a small, brown bag out for me. A look inside the bag revealed two fresh-made biscuits with sausage patties inside of each. I thanked her and dashed out into the back alley. The Studebaker was out front with a full tank of gas, the one errand I had the previous day.

By the time I got onto the road I still had forty-five minutes to get up to the zoo. Depending on the number of other cars on the road heading to work, I was likely to get there at least a few minutes early. I spent the drive thinking about the last time I'd seen Elias. It wasn't a good memory. It was before I got my PI license or went off to war. I'd said a lot of harsh words, things I wished I could take back, but that wasn't how things were between us. Even when I got back from Europe and I better understood his side of it, I couldn't bring myself to track him down. Apologizing was a sign of weakness to Elias. And I couldn't see a way of moving forward without an apology. So we just didn't talk for years.

As I turned onto Bronx River Parkway, I was shaken from my thoughts by the sound of sirens. I pulled over to the shoulder. Two squad cars, an unmarked car and a fire truck all whizzed by me. That much activity heading in the same direction as me? It couldn't be a coincidence. I pushed the gas pedal to the floor and followed in behind. When they turned into the east entrance of the zoo, my stomach dropped.

I didn't bother looking for a parking spot. I pulled the Studebaker up behind the patrol cars and headed straight for the group of cops getting their orders. I recognized a few of the uniforms including Jim De Carlo, who wasn't my biggest fan. I shifted my approach to stay out of his eye-line. In the center of all the officers was a small man in a suit. He looked worried and was pointing frantically in every direction. The cops just nodded, and then split into teams of two and headed off into the zoo leaving the nervous little guy standing alone.

I headed straight for him. "What's going on?"

The man jerked around at the sound of my voice. "Who are you?"

"Jimmy Doyle. I work with the police on occasion." Not a lie. "I need to know the situation before I can help."

The trick to getting information out of someone isn't convincing them that you need it, but rather showing them that you already should have the information and they are holding you up. And always make direct eye contact. People assumed you were telling the truth if you were looking them in the eye.

"This whole thing is crazy. We thought it was dead. I mean, it was dead. But it's not." He was literally pulling at his hair. "Why on earth would we strap it down if it was dead?"

"Calm down," I said. The little guy was losing it. "Tell me who you are and exactly what happened."

He nodded his head nervously. "I'm Bill Upton. I run the zoo."

"Why are we here, Mr. Upton?"

"Yesterday one of our gorillas passed away. We had him in the veterinary center so they could determine the cause of death. Being that it was dead, we didn't have it caged or anything. Except it came back…"

"Your gorilla came back to life?"

"Yes." More nervous head nodding. "When the vet and his assistant went in, the gorilla went crazy and tore them apart. Then it got out into the zoo itself. A visitor tried to help, but he was killed as well. We're trying to evacuate the park while hunting the creature down but we just don't have the manpower to do it ourselves. The park is far bigger than people think. Even with the officers that are here now, I think we're still going to need more."

"Stay on the gorilla a moment." I started to think I might have wandered into a mystery for Fogg. "Who told you the creature was dead in the first place?"

"It was Roy, the keeper for that area."

"And there's no way Roy could have been mistaken?"

The little man shook his head. "He's been with us fifteen years. I don't think there's anyone in the state that knows more about primates. There is no way he could make that serious of a mistake."

Before I could respond, a rumbling noise caught my attention. The escaped gorilla bounded into the clearing and headed straight for a group of kids that were trying to get out of the zoo. I reached for my piece, but the thunder of gunfire rang out before I even touched the handle. De Carlo ran in, putting himself between the wild creature and the children. He fired off two more rounds. The .38 slugs from his service revolver were having no effect on the gorilla. They were penetrating the skin, but not slowing it down.

De Carlo stood his ground and double tapped two more slugs into the gorilla's chest. The creature roared out and bashed the officer with his powerful right arm. De Carlo flipped end over end three times before slamming into a metal railing. The gorilla was ignoring the children, moving in toward the downed cop.

With bullets doing nothing, I looked around for anything that might help. I found it hanging off the side of the fire engine. I grabbed the axe off the hooks and raced across the pavement. De Carlo was trying to get to his feet.

"Stay down!" I yelled.

There was a bench a few feet ahead of me. I used it like stairs to get above the creature and add force to my swing. Leaping as high as I could, I brought the razor sharp edge of the axe down into the back of the gorilla's neck. The force of the blow and my own weight was enough to drive the steel blade through the vertebrae and out the other side. The creature's head slammed into De Carlo's chest and the rolled off to the side. The body staggered a bit, still viciously swinging about. I had to duck to keep from being hit. The headless primate continued to stumble about, its arms flailing violently, and headed back toward the crowd. I scrambled to my feet, axe in hand and gave chase. Just as I was about to plant the blade into the creature's spine, its knees buckled. It fell to the ground with a bone-jarring thud and stopped moving.

I kicked the gorilla's side once just to be sure. No movement at all. So I turned and helped De Carlo to his feet. "Up you go, hero."

"What are you doing here, Doyle?"

"Just here to meet a friend. Saw the commotion and decided to see what was going on."

He gave me half a smile. "For once I'm glad you did. You ever see anything like that? I might as well have been shooting spit wads for what good my bullets were doing."

"That's not really the oddest part, now is it?" I asked, looking at the streaks of dust and splatters of mud on the cop's uniform.

"What am I missing?"

Normally I'd not let that easy of an opening go, but with what he'd just gone through I decided to be nice. I gestured to the area around us. "I just took the head off of a gorilla and there isn't a drop of blood anywhere. It should have come gushing out like a geyser."

"Oh no, this isn't going to be one of those cases." He ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "Don't even mention your boss's name. Get out of here before someone sees you."

"Of course." I knew the drill all too well. "Let me find Elias and then I'll go."

"Elias?" De Carlo's expression changed and not for the better. "You mean Elias Chandler, the private eye?"

"Yeah. Have you seen him?" My stomach was doing that dropping thing again.

The look on his face told me it wasn't good. "You'd better come with me."

The officer led the way through the zoo and toward the employee only area. He pointed out where the veterinary building was and where the gorilla's rampage had begun. He went past the building, though, and over to a metal fence with pointed spires across the top. Two firemen stood over a body covered by a sheet. I could see where blood was soaking through the material.

"We found him stuck to the fence. He must have tried to stop the gorilla and got hit instead. He was impaled on the fence." De Carlo nodded to one of the menm who then reached down and unveiled the body. "I worked a case once with Chandler, so I recognized him. I'm sorry."

I looked down and saw Elias. His hair was grayer than I remembered and there were a few more lines around the eyes, but there he was, my one-time mentor and friend. Many times over the years I had thought about tracking him down, mending what was between us. But something always stopped me. No matter how much I wanted to, his rule of never apologizing kept me from finding him. His dead body told me I had waited too long.

About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.

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