Richter's War: Case of the Ghostly Séance
Enjoy this Sample from Sci-Fi Author Daniel P. Douglas's Latest Supernatural Thriller!
The hunt for nefarious Nazi spies in Los Angeles during World War II just took another paranormal turn, which means hardboiled detective Geno Richter is on the case and soon embroiled in wartime action, mystery, and suspense...
A Spirited Tale about a Frightful Plot to Control the Future!
A stakeout at the Los Angeles Central Library ensnares Geno Richter in the roots of a deadly conspiracy stretching back to the dawn of civilization. Soon, the enemy's real motives emerge after they awaken an ancient spirit who's determined to fulfill harrowing prophecies. As Geno combats this devious Nazi plan to harness supernatural forces, he gains the help of an intriguing new partner--former Marine Corps nurse, Anna Torres--but double-dealing associates complicate matters, and an evil entity lures Geno into what becomes a high-stakes and deeply personal war. Sometimes outwitted and outgunned, he never surrenders, and when a few unexpected allies rise to the occasion, Geno gains a fighting chance to defeat his own demons, defy the Nazis, and protect humanity's future.
Excerpt from Case of the Ghostly Séance - Chapter One: Joe Blow
I turned up the collar of my wool trench coat and straightened my fedora after a chilly gust jostled it to one side. In Los Angeles, winter happens anytime the temperature drops below 60 degrees. Although born to German parents, I’m a native Angelino, so this mid-October evening felt out-and-out frigid. It was no more than 45 degrees, overcast, and breezy.
Abbott and Costello’s radio show aired that night, but I missed it because of some strange antics at the Los Angeles Central Library in downtown. A professor from New York City, Emile Durak, was in town. An anthropologist by day and suspected Nazi sympathizer by night, he spent a lot of time at the library, especially after hours.
My boss at the War Department, Dexter Jamison, thought Durak might be using the library for covert meetings with Nazi agents. In just shy of two years since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, I’d seen enough Kraut infiltrators to last me a lifetime. They crawled out from under just about every rock in the city once the war started. It was hard to keep track of them all.
Alone on this stakeout, I stood tucked behind a pillar at the corner of a building next door to the library. Durak went to dinner, then I saw him return to the library a couple hours later and enter through a door that faces Fifth Avenue.
After about ten minutes, I walked over to the door. It was locked, so I took a few steps back and peered up at the building. It looked like an ancient Babylonian temple. A stocky tower, topped with a pyramid, rose from the center of the squat, blocky structure. In a city enamored with the Spanish Colonial style, the library’s architecture was unique. If you squinted at it just right, you could almost see Hammurabi himself walking the grounds.
When the Central Library opened in 1926, I was still in high school. Like everyone else, I heard odd rumors about it. Maybe the sphynx sculptures inside or the many inscriptions and mosaics—all topped off by that pyramid—concocted an unsettling air about the place, especially since the original architect died without warning prior to its opening. Add in collections of ancient manuscripts and Latin quotations chiseled into the outside walls, and presto, you got yourself a foreboding temple of doom.
Not that I believed any of that.
I strolled around the building and checked a few more doors. All were locked, so I went back to the pillar and slipped behind it again. I pulled a turkey sandwich out of my coat pocket, unwrapped half and put the rest back in my pocket. I took a bite and while chewing, got that funny feeling I was being watched. I leaned against the pillar and took a small bite of my sandwich. While I looked around, I slid my Colt .45 handgun from its shoulder holster inside my suit.
A row of tall Italian cypress trees swayed in the wind, then bowed during a strong gust. I pressed down on my hat and squinted as dust blasted my face and eyes. After a faint rumble, like thunder, the wind died down.
I walked to the next pillar, waited, then walked to the next one and stood behind it. I could see the library off to my right, and to my left, the gardens in front of it. That’s when I spotted the observer who tailed me. I glanced around and didn’t see anyone else there. He was alone and making no bones about the fact he had me in his sights.
Slapping my leg, I whistled and said, “Here boy. Come on. Come here.” I showed him what was left of my turkey sandwich and he trotted right over. The dog looked like a light-brown fox terrier and was not much bigger than my shoe. I crouched down and gave him some turkey, then noticed he was shivering. I picked him up. The poor, wet rat didn’t have a collar.
Just as he licked my cheek, I saw bright flashes in the library’s top row of windows. A second later, there was another faint rumble, so I figured the flashes were reflections of nearby lightning. You could’ve fooled me, but I’d swear the pyramid at the top of the library began to glow.
I would’ve paid more attention to something strange like that, except someone came running out of the library just then. Judging from the screams, the person was a woman. She sounded terrified, so I packed the dog into one trench coat pocket and my Colt into the other, then ran toward her.
Had she not stumbled on the wet sidewalk, we would have collided. As I helped her up, I asked, “Are you alright?” No one seemed to be chasing her. “I heard you scream.”
At first, she clung to my coat, but then pushed me away and said a string of things in French, I believe. None of it sounded like, “Thank you,” or “Yes, I’m in grave danger.” I don’t speak French, but I do know when I’m being scolded.
The woman stood a few inches shorter than me and had a face that resembled a lady in one of those Renaissance paintings, like she was well fed. Her pale skin was as smooth as silk.
“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” I asked.
She gasped, took a few steps back, and glared at me.
“Okay, didn’t mean to offend. Looky here, lady—”
“You are with them!” she said in English, backing away. She turned to go but came face to face with Emile Durak and one of those Nazi goons I always seem to run into. They crept out of the darkness like hungry cockroaches.
Durak, whose long, black cape fluttered like a torn sail, towered over the goon and, in fact, me and the dame too. He first spoke in French to the woman and next in German to the goon, who then ushered the woman toward the library. A modest growl came from inside my coat pocket.
“Sir, we were quite distressed about our lady friend,” Durak said, sounding like a phony baloney. “I’m grateful you helped her before she might hurt herself.”
The fella had to be a full foot taller than me. “I don’t know,” I said, craning my neck to look him square in the eyes. “She seems like the type who can take care of herself. I just have to wonder why she came running and screaming out of the library.”
I glanced at Durak head to toe. His right hand held the lapel of his double-breasted suit, while his left hand clasped the top of a fashionable cane with a rounded brass handle.
“Couldn’t help but notice,” I said, “that’s where you came from, Professor Durak.”
Durak didn’t move. He just stood there, silent, like one of the library’s statues.
The dog in my pocket chimed in. He growled, popped his head out, and began to bark and snarl. I hushed him, then tried to tuck the dog back down into my pocket. He squirmed away, jumped onto the sidewalk, and scurried into the darkness.
Durak poked his cane at the dog as he ran past, then aimed it at my face. “I am in no mood to be trifled with, Mister…?”
Not the first time I’ve been asked to introduce myself.
“Joe,” I said. “Joe Blow.”
Durak snapped his fingers. Two Nazi cockroaches grabbed me from behind. Next thing I knew, the sidewalk rubbed like sandpaper on my cheek, and I had a knee on my neck. In the tussle, my left arm and hand remained free long enough for me to grab the Colt out of my pocket and fire it upward, past my head, toward what I hoped was the goon with a knee on my neck.
It worked. He screamed and tumbled away, then ran toward Fifth Avenue. I saw Durak flee too as I pushed myself up onto my knees, just in time for the other thug to give me a firm kick in the gut. That knocked a bit of turkey sandwich into my gullet.
I keeled over, coughing, gagging, and gasping for air. I rolled onto my side and pointed my gun expecting to see the barrel of a Luger pistol aimed back at me. I was wrong, so I took a breath and looked around.
No one. This party was over.
I made it to my car just as the skies let loose with a lightning flash and clap of thunder. The drive back to my apartment up near Pico and Union wasn’t long. Heavy rain slowed me down and I could’ve sworn I was followed. I noticed a distinct pair of headlights in my rearview mirror—one lamp was dimmer than the other. About halfway home, I took a detour and that seemed to do the trick. If the car was tailing me, then it wasn’t any longer.
Even the weather improved, at least until I parked my car. From around the corner and up the front steps of my apartment, I ran through a downpour and spiraling winds. Across the street, my neighbor, Kenji, struggled a moment to close the front door of his restaurant. Then it was my turn to wrestle the wind and my apartment building’s front door. After shutting it, I headed up the staircase to my second-floor flat.
Once inside, I peeled off my trench coat, and tossed it and my fedora onto the sofa, then called Jamison.
“Dex,” I said, “something is definitely up with Durak.”
"I was afraid of that.” Jamison coughed and sounded congested. “What do you need?”
“First, for you to blow your nose—”
“Some back up. Can you spare Walt Welles or one of your other boys? Durak isn’t alone.”
“Welles is on another assignment…” Jamison paused to sneeze and to blow his schnozz. “But I do have someone new who can help.”
“A tenderfoot probably won’t be a good fit. Is he—”
My jaw didn’t drop when he said this, but my eyebrows set a new altitude record. As they descended, I realized I’d never known Jamison to be the conventional sort. He pushed ahead in unexpected ways at times, but he always had his reasons.
“You there, Geno?”
“Yeah, Dex, I’m here.”
"Her name is Anna Torres. She’s a Marine Corps nurse. She was stationed in the Solomons but was injured. War Department assigned her to me because she’s from San Diego and is still able to work.”
“Looky here, Dex, I have no problem working with a woman, but if this assignment is meant to get her out of your hair and into mine, count me out.”
“I would never.” Jamison laughed, then coughed. “Headquarters says she’ll make a crackerjack gumshoe.”
As I sighed, rain pelted the windows. The lights in my apartment flickered.
“Okay,” I said. “I’d talk all night but I think we are about to lose power from the storm. Have her meet me at Kenji’s restaurant tomorrow, half past eleven.”
“Sounds fine, but what storm are—”
The phone went dead. I clicked it a few times but didn’t get a connection, so I hung it up. The wind howled like an alley cat in heat and the lights flickered again, then went out. I fumbled my way to the bedroom and lifted the window blinds to look outside. My street was dark, but I could see the lights burning in the distance along Venice Boulevard and toward downtown.
A bright flash startled me. I winced, expecting to hear the crash of thunder. Instead, there was silence and the appearance of two lights across the street. Headlights! One was dimmer than the other. The car raced away. I pressed my face against the window in a desperate attempt to see any details before it passed from view.
Then, clear as day, a woman appeared in front of me, the dame from the library. Well, it was only her plump, Renaissance face, and she looked horrified. I stumbled back from the window and drew my gun. My hands felt like ice. My eyes fluttered as I inched toward the window. Peering out, I didn’t see any sign of the lady or the car with the buggy headlight.
As my shock wore off, the lights along the street and in my apartment flickered on. I grabbed my hat and coat, then wandered back outside. Not a cloud or horrified dame in sight.
Strolling back to my apartment, I tucked my hands into my coat and that’s when I noticed a card in my left pocket. I didn’t remember it being there earlier, so I pulled it out. It was a standard index card with writing on both sides. I didn’t understand what the batches of short lines with triangles meant. Those were written on one side of the card. The triangles looked like little arrowheads.
But I did understand the words on the other side of the card. Written in English, they said, “Help me!”