Lumen - The Guise of Darkness

Men tremble,
as the humble stumble
before the proud.

Women quiver,
shudder and shiver,
while evil walks in pride.

Inside, hearts cry out:
For justice, for truth,
for light.

Night falls.
The righteous whisper,
the bellicose shout…
and though fading
like the last rays of day,
hope calls…

Lumen: The Guise Of Darkness!

You can always read the first Lumen story online for free. But, paperback, e-book, and audio versions are also available!



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LumenTheGuiseOfDarkness

Chapter 1
Chapter 2

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Lumen: The Guise of Darkness by Patrick Bain

Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved

This is the world's first VEIN... ok, I made up that name. A VEIN is a Visually Enhanced Interactive Novel. It may not be unique, but it is not common. A VEIN is a novel, but it is made richer by illustrations, pictures, relevant music and weblinks, and perhaps most important, interaction with the readers.

Listen to the songs (many times), answer survey questions, and join the discussion!

GLOSSARY terms are in this color. Move your mouse over a glossary term for a definition help.

Chapter 1 2

“Let the wicked flee
the approaching darkness.
Those who continue to practice injustice
will receive no mercy.”
-- Lumen

Chapter 1

When darkness falls in Caliginos City, it is more than a rotation of Earth upon its axis. The transition from light to dark is marked by the deeds of darkness as well.  Among those, temperance is discarded for indulgence, especially in the bar district.

Midnight was two hours ago in the city of darkness. Most of the bar district’s patrons had their last call 90 minutes earlier.  After all, it was now the wee hours of a Wednesday.  However, for VJ and her boyfriend, the balmy spring weather, comfortable outdoor seats, and cool drinks made them numb to the time.

“We better head home, VJ… the boss was pretty mad at me last week when I showed up an hour late.  I thought he was going to give my truck to the new guy.” The twentyish man grunted to his overly made up girlfriend.

The girlfriend, decked out in a black one-piece that was a little too tight detached herself from her straw and stood up, wobbly. Her too short dress was riding up as she tried to steady herself.  “OK, I guess I can go shopping if I wake up early enough before my Four PM shift.”

“I’m not excited about walking all the way to the car.”  The girl complained.  Her shift had ended late, so the couple arrived later at the bar than they liked.  Parking was a pain.  “If you were a gentlemen you’d bring the car to me.”

The boyfriend grunted again, “Come on.”

The derelict couple paid and left.  Their stroll took them out of the main drinking district .  Now they passed small businesses like the QuikCash Pawn Shop and Colored Ink, a tattoo parlor. Forty year old dry cleaners and restaurants also dotted the street on both sides.

VJ tended to overdrink when she was out; in spite of frequent practice, she couldn’t hold her liquor.  A very bad feeling came over her.   She was trying to decide if she should keep walking and hope it passed… or look for the nearest restroom. Oh, oh.  It was too late!  Racing into the nearby alley, VJ let it go.  Her boyfriend stood there laughing.  This wasn’t the first time this had happened.

Every time he heard the ‘retching’ sound VJ made, he guffawed a little louder:  Then silence… then some spitting sounds…then cursing… then the sounds of VJ blowing her nose… then a piercing, harrowing scream that rattled old window panes!

Running into the alley, VJ’s boyfriend didn’t know what to expect.  Instantly, he was no longer tired, no longer half-drunk, he was ready to punch out a homeless man or kick an alley dog.  Though the alley was dimly lit, he saw VJ standing completely erect, with her hands over her mouth.  Slowing, he stepped closer.  At VJ’s feet was the body of a dead woman.  He leaned over to get a better look, a queasy feeling came over him.  Now, it was his turn to hurl.

VJ was sober now.  She called 9-1-1.

The first responders, there within moments, took even less time to declare the victim was dead.  It was obviously a crime scene, thus homicide and a forensics team were dispatched quickly.  Though it was early in the morning, standard operating procedure for the department was to inform Detective CT Thornbush.

Lieutenant Thornbush of the Caliginos City Police Department was the top man in homicide.  Freaks and whackos were someone else’s department, until they became murderers.  In 13 years, Thornbush built a reputation in and outside the force for his ability to bring killers to justice.  

“Lieutenant Thornbush, sorry to wake you.  This is Jamison.”  Jamison didn’t know the detective had only fallen asleep about 30 minutes earlier.  “Uh, Lieutenant, we’ve got a homicide down in the district.  Did you want to come down and check it out, or should I just brief you later?” 

Thornbush had a legendary surly mood, doubly foul when called out to an early morning crime scene.  Jamison was timid, but he wasn’t going to be the one that broke protocol and failed to inform the Lieutenant.

“What are the particulars, Jamison?”

“It’s another one.”

“I had a feeling you were going to say that.  Yeah, I’m coming out.” 

It was Thornbush’s prerogative to check the reports that afternoon, but this was one he needed to investigate, personally.

Though it was early, curious thrill-seekers gathered to see beyond the police tape and obstruction barrels.  Police cars, lights still flashing, formed another barrier suitable for blocking the view of gawkers and rubberneckers. A half-dozen uniformed police were in the area re-directing traffic and keeping the curious at a distance.  The police presence was unusually large for a simple murder.

The cool spring morning chill couldn’t temper the heat of Thornbush’s vexation. “I want traffic directed away from here—no rubberneckers!”  Literally shouting, Thornbush ordered, “Move the crowd even farther back!” 

A forensics team comprised of a photographer and a man with an on-location lab kit were already on the scene.  Standing nearby, positioned to do their jobs, they waited the go-ahead from Thornbush.  Other uniformed officers were scurrying around bringing in equipment that the Lieutenant had insisted was needed.

Thornbush, in his drab beige slacks and faded blue short-sleeve shirt, surveyed the scene.  His officers were in place, the forensic team was in place, there was just one thing still bugging him.

“Did the screens I asked for arrive?” Thornbush interrogated the officers near him. “Look, if this is what I think it is, I don’t want a single photog with a telephoto lens getting a visual on this victim.”

The officers looked at him compliantly.  They understood that any questions or comments would not be appreciated.  Thornbush barked emphatically, “I mean it—no newspaper pictures, no video cameras, no eye in the sky!”

A mysterious presence, an eye in the sky, watched the events and investigation unfold from above.  Unseen, it slipped through police barriers and vigilant officers.  The figure noiselessly examined the prostrate victim, carefully observing the remarkable aspects of the heinous crime.  It silently glided throughout the alley, listening to the officers discuss notes and observations.  The presence regarded the man in charge and the unfortunate victim, each were equally unaware of this presence and its proximity.  One moment, he or it, was a shifting shadow, the next, completely gone.

Brazenly, the apparition drew near the sullen detective.  The investigator’s keen peripheral vision glimpsed what he thought was a tall slender obsidian character in an inky black trench coat.  Turning sharply to confirm his vision, Thornbush shook his head and blinked his eyes when he saw nothing but cops in the distance working crowd control. 

“Thirty minutes wasn’t enough!  Sleep deprivation is playing tricks with my eyes.”

The groggy detective re-focused on his task.  Meanwhile the presence, perhaps a doppelganger of the weary investigator, continued with its own examination.

Not tarrying long in any one place, the apparition moved in and out among the gawkers loitering across the street. The diverse crowd of young and old from a dozen different races jockeyed to see the curiosity called murder.  The curious, foolish, and fearful were all there.  The presence sought onlookers in the diverse crowd hiding malice. 

“Can you see what’s going on?”

“Nahh, they put up screens.”

“It was a young woman, wasn’t it?”

“I think so.”

The gathering restrained by police tape could have been waiting for a parade or a glimpse of a dignitary’s motorcade.  Eyes hidden in darkness scrutinized each of them for signs of motives beyond curiosity.

As the inky figure passed, many thought they saw a shadow, like a black sheet waving in the wind momentarily obscuring their view.  Others felt a sudden chill, a pang of guilt; they might have described it like a cloud passing in front of the morning sun.  Pausing, the apparition carefully studied each of those who shuddered at the weight of their own consciences.

A young girl complained to her mother standing next to her.  “It’s cold, let’s go, Mom.”  And then a moment of contrition, “I’m sorry I yelled at you about my homework.”

A man and woman looked on.  The man shuddered when he felt the presence.  “Uhh, look, I’ve got to get going.”

“I thought we were going back to my place.”  

“Maybe another time.”  The apparition surmised he was a married man with someone other than his wife.  His crime was unfaithfulness, but not murder.

Others in the crowd trembled as the pitch apparition passed, yet none were apt to be the killer.  The presence moved on, unsatisfied.

Two onlookers joined the throng—young ladies walking to the nearby high school.  Their conversation about boyfriends and the results of a biology lab was momentarily forgotten.

“Hey, what’s going on?” the young African American coed asked a pudgy man in a suit and tie.

“I just got here, too.  But from what I can tell, it sounds like a young girl, maybe about your age, was murdered.  This town’s getting crazy.  I walk by here to the office every day.”  The middle aged man with a paunch at his mid-section looked at the two High School girls with concern.  He noted that they also appeared to travel this circuit daily.

“Oh wow, this really creeps me out!” the other girl, Hispanic and pretty, interjected.  “Let’s go, Shanaya, before we’re late.”  Urging her to leave, the Hispanic girl grabbed her friend’s arm and dragged her away.  Hurrying off, their glib conversation was momentarily suspended. 

The apparition observed even these young women, but found no one that appeared directly connected to this crime.

Thornbush, finally satisfied that his investigation could continue without media observation, huddled closely to his forensics team.  “We’ll start with a visual of the body.” Then, leaning closer and speaking with the authority only an officer of the law can assert, “I want you guys to file every loose hair, every drop of blood, every thread on the ground…”, Thornbush was now so close they could feel his breath, “…every smudged footprint—are you getting the picture?  If you have to pick it up with a glue stick, I don’t want anything missed!”

The officers looked at each other.  Neither dared crack a smile at the absurdity of Thornbush’s last statement.  They knew the tall angular man with hawkish features had a sense of humor.  They just weren’t sure if this was one of those times or not.  Thornbush’s sober countenance didn’t project an easy-going manner that people could feel comfortable chuckling at his offhand statements.  Even among the few that knew him well, his droll humor was often lost in his regimented approach to rules and absolutes. 

His occupation as a homicide detective was a perfect match for his sense of justice and adherence to immutable principles of right and wrong dictated by his own conscience.  It worked for his sense of humor too, because dead men don’t laugh.

“The pep talk’s over.  Let’s take a good look now.”  Thornbush, preoccupied with the victim, walked into a puddle of vomit.  He muttered a curse and scraped his shoe on the ground,  “When will bystanders stop throwing up at the scene of a crime?  It’s bad enough that it messes with my evidence collection, but it also stinks something awful.”

“Even a casual look around at the alley makes it clear there was little or no struggle by the victim in this location.”  Thornbush had turned on his digital recorder to collect notes.  A secretary would transcribe them later.  “I’m uncertain if the crime was committed here, or if the body was dumped here later. If she was killed here, she didn’t put up much of a fight.”

Thornbush continued his observations.  “The victim is a young woman, probably a teenager. She is wearing a sleeveless dress with a V-neck.  The color of the dress is off-white, ivory or bone.  My wife would be impressed by that fashion statement… hey strike that last part.  The dress is short and has a red belt…” 

“I think it’s called a sash, Lieutenant.”

“Ok, sash… and it’s more of a dark red, blood color, I suppose a crimson sash.  Her arms and legs don’t have any distinguishing tattoos or scars.  She has various body piercings, though, multiple holes in her ears, and one in her lip; that’s all that are outwardly visible.”

Thornbush bent over and examined the long wavy brown hair that hid part of her face and came down around her shoulders.  He continued his recitation, “The glaring thing that stands out about the girl is her pasty white skin tone.  It’s not the typical loss of color associated with such a recent death.  She wouldn’t look like this if she was an albino.  She just looks completely drained of natural color.”

Thornbush stepped out of the way for his forensics team.  Murph and Ernie, started to work.  It wasn’t unusual for them to pull this shift, still no one liked being up before daylight collecting evidence in the dark.  They knew they would still be here after most everyone (and the body) was gone.  ‘Every smudged footprint’ was what Thornbush had said.

“Thornbush has us hopping like crickets on a hot skillet, what’s his deal anyway?”  Ernie, a photographer and the younger of the two officers, fumed.  Though competent and thorough, Ernie hated to be pressured while working his forensics photography; photo magic, he called it.  It may have been the artsy side of the short, curly haired man.

Murph, poking his head out from his portable lab, looked at his partner.  He noted the photographer had turned his hat around so it wouldn’t interfere with his picture-taking.  “I was with Detective Thornbush on an unsolved case similar to this a few weeks ago…same ghastly skin color.”  Then imitating Ernie’s down home style, Murph countered, “Don’t take off your dancing shoes, little cricket.  You’ll see for yourself in a minute why Thornbush is throwing logs on the fire!”

“Making it real hot!” they chorused in unison.  The two had been partners for a long time and knew when to take the edge off a bad situation.

As Murph and Ernie continued with their collection activities, Thornbush purposefully walked around the scene hoping to surmise what happened.  Carefully walking in from different angles, at times taking a knee, the detective didn’t want to overlook anything.  Pulling on a couple latex gloves, Thornbush stepped closer, kneeling, he leaned over the girl’s head and neck area. 

Murph’s interest was piqued while he watched the detective’s careful study of the girl’s neck. A small bead of sweat formed on Thornbush’s large forehead.  Murph uttered a barely audible sound when he made that observation.  He couldn’t remember a time when Thornbush was fazed by a case, let alone having sweat run from the receding hairline of his sandy blonde roots down to his unkempt eyebrows.

Under his breath, Murph said as much to his partner.  “Wow, this is big.”  Murph heightened the focus on his own work and urged Ernie to do the same.  Any case remarkable enough to rattle Thornbush couldn’t be taken lightly. The forensics specialist felt a twinge in his own neck.

“Hello…I thought I recognized the pallor of the skin,” Thornbush uttered to no one in particular.  Pulling the girl’s brown hair away from her neck, Thornbush leaned in close to carefully examine the two puncture wounds prominently located on the vein in her neck.  The size of the wounds suggested they were created by two tubes, or perhaps something else of uniform structure about the size of straws.

Thornbush continued with his recording.  “There is surprisingly little blood on the wounds, considering it must have hit an artery.  Remind me to check with the coroner.”

A touch of irony invaded his thoughts.  Thornbush was afraid that when the examination took place, the summary conclusion would be ‘there is surprisingly little blood’… anywhere.

An awkward look of surprise expressed itself on Thornbush’s face.  He was taken aback, which is odd since he clearly expected to make these observations.  Further, he couldn’t think of a single snide remark or amusing comment.  His normal ability to inject dry humor and wit into any situation, though unappreciated by his audience, seemed dulled in the early hours of this morning. For better or worse, this crime had left the homicide detective pensive and speechless.

Regaining his composure, Thornbush called the two forensics officers over and spoke in hushed tones, “Cover Jane Doe up before the boys come to take her away.” He went on, “I don’t want anyone but you two, me, and the coroner seeing her!”

Murph nodded.  Ernie started to say something and thought better of it. Initially, Thornbush looked away from the officers.  “Have the coroner do a full work up,” he ordered.  Then, for emphasis he looked at them both directly in the eyes, one after another, “Find out what really killed her…What was in her system?  I don’t care how long it takes…”  Thornbush clearly wasn’t accepting any mythical explanations for what happened to the victim.

Ernie couldn’t bite his tongue this time. “Uhh, won’t the family be crying, you know… bloody murder?”

Thornbush didn’t smile.  He realized the photographer’s pun was unintended.  It was a legitimate question, typically people are anxious to have a family member’s body returned for proper burial.  Legal red tape preventing a speedy funeral can lead to anger and resentment, but that wasn’t likely to happen in this case.

“If the M-O holds, next of kin doesn’t even know where she is.  Dollars to disappearing donuts, she’s a runaway!”  The detective finished with a depressing thought, “No, it may be awhile before any family members realize she’s dead.”

Thornbush’s sardonic sense of humor returned, “By the way, the last thing you would call this is a bloody murder.”  Then he added a sober aside, “I wish someone would tell me where the blood is.”

The humorless statement added to the sober nature of the macabre scene.  All murder scenes are grim.  The dichotomy of violence without obvious signs of struggle: that contradiction made this scene perplexing. 

The officers were ready to complete their duties and get back to the station.  This was their job; they dealt with these types of things fifty weeks a year, but this crime seemed a little different.  Thornbush sensed a little levity was seriously needed. “Keep this under your blue lids,” Thornbush warned.  “The last thing this town needs is an urban legend circulating in the coffee shops... about vampires!”

Ernie appeared to gulp.  Ernie might be a gullible man, but the detective wasn’t smiling before, during, or after making that comment.  To the short photographer, it wasn’t a joke.   Pulling off his cap, he ran his gloved fingers through his hair.  Looking down at his hand, he realized that some of his dark curly hair had come out.  He immediately peeled off his latex glove to replace it with a new one.  Putting his cap back on, he hesitantly voiced his feelings.  “I don’t mind saying, it’s got me a little freaked out.”

As Ernie confessed his own queasiness about the affair, a presence seemed to momentarily flicker into view.  It came close as if very interested in the dialogue of the police officers.  Perhaps an arm’s length away, yet completely unobserved, the invisible participant listened intently as Ernie’s words seemed to echo, “…it’s got me a little freaked out.”

“Why,” Thornbush countered, “do you believe in vampires?”  The detective’s accusation only hung in the air for a moment.

Ernie responded unabashedly, “It wouldn’t be the strangest thing happening in this town.”

 

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Copyright 2015 Patrick Bain All Rights Reserved.

oddly amusing
division into two contradictory groups
derisive, mocking
unchanging
a ghostly double of a living person
irritation, annoyance
one who stares with great curiosity
distressing
neglectful of duty