by Patrick Thomas
Dark Quest Books, 2009
Review by Ida Vega-Landow
Well, what do you know, here’s another collection of short stories by my homeboy Patrick Thomas! This one was published by Dark Quest Books instead of Padwolf, so you’re going to have to go to www.darkquestbooks.com and click on “Fiction” to get your hands on it. But it’s worth it, believe me! Within this slim volume are eleven tales of terror, most of them with a lighter side to leaven the horror. But not all of them. Be warned, you may find some of these stories a little too much for your psyche, especially if you’re the type who believes in government conspiracies about the paranormal—Area 51, men in black, the Jersey Devil, and so on. Our boy Patrick goes into some deep, dark waters here, the kind where a lot of creepy things are swimming beneath the surface, most of them eager to chew your legs off. But more often it’s just your mind they feed upon, infesting your imagination to the point where you’ll find yourself sleeping with a nightlight on, or keeping a flashlight under your pillow to investigate those strange noises you hear at night when you’re home alone.
You’ll find some old friends here from past publications, like Terrorbelle, the half-pixie, half-ogre warrior gal from Nemesis, Inc. In “Attack of the Trouser Snake”, which also appears in her own compilation, “Fairy With A Gun”, T-Belle takes on a private case for a friend of hers, who runs a hotel where the last five people who checked into room 914 all died mysteriously. It’s a locked room mystery, but the thing that’s doing the killing isn’t in the room. Something from outside is being brought in by one of the hotel’s employees. Which one? The least likely one on a short list of suspects, and that’s all I’m going to tell you.
“Cardiac Arrest” is a Department of Mystic Affairs case file, starring Agent Karver, who was once a serial killer in a past life. He couldn’t help it, he was possessed by a homicidal demon. (So the devil really did make him do it!) In this story, he and his partner, Agent Mandi Cobb (a lovely empath who reminds me of Counselor Troi on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”), are trying to find a heartless bank robber who can’t be killed. This guy has robbed fifteen banks in eight months, he’s been shot at in six of the robberies, even headshot twice, but he just walks away with the money. Why? I already told you he was heartless. It’s an old mage trick; remove your heart and hide it somewhere, then your body can’t be killed. Catching the robber is easy, finding his missing heart is something else. For the first, Karver has to be the bait and go into a gay bar to lure the guy out. For the second, he and Mandi have to do some heart-searching in the guy’s hometown, where a crooked coroner and a lonely little boy who’s being abused at home and bullied at school have both used the mystic powers of the criminal’s evil heart for revenge.
One of the most poignant stories is about Frankenstein’s monster, whom Patrick postulates is still among us, passing as a mortal. In “Spawn of Lightning”, which takes place during WWII, we learn that Captain Adam Frankenstein has lived quietly among the German people since WWI, even served as a decorated fighter pilot, which helps him pass off his many scars as war wounds. Seeing the Nazis rounding up the Jews and the Roma, along with the other “inferior” races, brings back bad memories of how he was once hunted and persecuted by torch-bearing peasants with pitchforks, who also wanted to kill him for being different. That’s why he’s now with the German Underground, helping to rescue people from the prison camps. One camp in particular interests him; that’s where, according to a drunken Nazi scientist he met at a bar, they’re putting together pieces of Jewish corpses in an attempt to duplicate his creator’s experiment. It seems the Nazis want to create a secret weapon, a super soldier to help them win the war. One that is strong, impervious to pain, able to kill many people at once. Frankenstein is determined to spare this new patchwork man the same suffering he has endured, knowing that if they are successful, the Nazis will create an entire army of patchwork men from the bodies of their victims, to commit mass slaughter in the name of the Fatherland.
I could go on and on about the other weird wonders from Patrick’s fertile imagination, like the fedora-wearing gorilla P.I. with a human brain, the high school student who discovers her favorite conspiracy theories are not only real but deadly, and yet another denizen of Murphy’s Lore, Negral, a forgotten sun god who acts as Hell’s Detective. He’s a real character, dresses like Humphrey Bogart and tends to burst into flame whenever he’s ticked off. But I’m not giving away any more freebies; you’ll just have to get your own copy of “Mystic Investigators” and savor it slowly, like hot chocolate on a dark and stormy night, with only one reading lamp on and the door doublelocked, preferably with the dog and/or your significant other asleep nearby. That way, if anything does get in, chances are it’ll go for one of them first.