The 19th Century Paranormal Investigator: Chapter 1

“I apologize for the mess, Mr. Branner,” the doctor says.

I can’t respond. This is insane! I need to calm down. Somehow, Doctor Maladar is completely unresponsive to this madness, as if… as if this has been happening for a long time.

“Is there something wrong? You do know how to handle something like this don’t you?”

His voice is cool, as unemotive as when he greeted me outside. He slowly paces around the hall as he speaks.

“I would hate to think I wasted the funds to bring you here. You declared yourself the expert. So please, enlighten me.”

I take a deep breath. I’ve dealt with worse.

He’s testing you, I realize.

He purposefully put on the fancy display outside, had us walk in without any explanation, and has been suffering from this haunting for an extended period of time. He wants to see if I really can help him.

“Of course. Excuse me but a moment, I need to verify what is happening here.”

I step aside, walking up to one of the walls. The servants were cleaning what they could, but there seems to be an unending flow of blood. I take a handkerchief from my pocket and wipe some away. Underneath is another layer, only darker, drier, and crusted.

“Doctor,” I call, “This blood has been here for some time, hasn’t it? I’d estimate a few days at least.”

Robert seems taken aback, for only a moment. He quickly regains his composure and replies.

“About three days, to be a little more specific. No matter how much the maids clean, more and more comes back. It is as if the walls themselves bleed.”

“Yes…” I say to no one in particular. I’m too busy calculating how much strength I’ll need. They should be fairly weak.

“This won’t take long,” my mind back in the moment.

Back in the center of the hall, I set my bag down, rifling through it for a small octagonal talisman and a piece of chalk. There aren’t many places clear enough, so I can only hope not being in the precise center of the beasts doesn’t leave any alive.

I find a bit of floor space the size I need with no blood and set to work. I use the chalk to draw an octagon on the floor, comparing to the disc in my hand to ensure a congruent shape. My work complete, I stand in the center of the drawing, hold the talisman in my hand and focus.

Energy pours from my being into the talisman. From there it pushes out, stopping where I drew the chalk shape. At this moment, something material happens. A brightness illuminates the room, as the white octagon on the ground becomes engulfed in light. The crew around me stop scrubbing and quickly move to one side of the hall.

The power increases my senses and I can feel them. I feel their squirming on the walls, their mindless intent just creating more and more of this blood. But I could also feel their strength, and knew not even the one furthest away would survive.

My chant rings out with the pulsating energy flowing from the talisman. The octagonal ring flashes brighter than the daylight, blinding us all.

As the maids and the doctor rub their eyes to regain their sight, you hear it. The splash and splosh of the creatures as they fall to the floor. Nasty buggers.

My own vision comes into focus and they are as I expected. They appear like giant red maggots, and just looking at them makes you feel wrong. The surprised look on the everyone’s eyes tell me it’s time to explain.

“They’re the servants of Dämon des Blutes.”

I cross over to one and hold it up to better illustrate. The maids all recoil in horror at the closer look.

“They produce blood in almost unlimited quantities. They’re very low spirits, unable to be seen or touched by mortals while alive. It was understandable you would think the blood came from the walls themselves.”

“Astounding…” Dr. Maladar was looking intently at the newly visible creatures. “And what was that light?”

“This small stone talisman I have here has been blessed to attack demons.” I pull it from my pocket, holding it up for all to see.

“I’ve found that by adjusting its focus with the chalk, I can destroy weaker beasts all at once.”

I toss the maggot onto the ground, hitting with a gross thud.

“Their bodies should fade back into the spirit realm soon enough, but in the meantime, you may want to remove them from the premises.”

The doctor looks around the hall, realizing the kind of work this will take. He straightens up and turns to one of the maids. She must have been in charge. He gives her a very pointed look, and the young lady immediately begins organizing the rest of the staff there to get these creatures out of the house. One of them is sent off to get the groundskeeper and his tools to make the work easier. His people are very impressive.

“You’ve inspired some hope in me, Mr. Branner,” the doctor says as he strides past me. He exits through the door on the other end of the hall.

I rush back to my bag, replacing the talisman and chalk inside, then hurry to follow Maladar. As I finally enter the house proper, the scale of this estate finally hits me. The grandiose architecture and massive size has me wondering if the doctor inherited this place, or had it designed himself. It felt very off for the reserved quiet man employing me.

“One of my servants will take you to your room. When you are prepared, we can discuss the incidents affecting my home.” He gestures to another young woman to take me up the stairs.

Oh, Branner. What have you gotten yourself into?


I stare blankly at the man, my mind slowly processing his request.

“Right! I’m so sorry of course!” I rustle through my bag searching for the long slip of paper. That was foolish. It wasn’t like he was speaking a foreign language.

I find the ticket and present it to the ticket taker. The tall, rather rotund man is smiling politely as he waits. However, there’s something off-putting about his demeanor. He takes my ticket and punches it, handing it back to me. As he walks to the next compartment, a shiver crawls up my spine, nagging the back of my mind.

That smile is the essence of nightmares…

With the distraction gone, I return to my papers. I am on a train to my next case. Well, my first real case, I suppose. It looks to be interesting, if simple.

I was engrossed in my research before the train employee had disrupted my reading. We had received word of an ecto-based infestation. A ghost threatened the estate of one Doctor Robert Maladar. I’m unsure of the extent of the hold the spirit has on the manor, as the telegraphed messages were kept short, but I can guess based on the history of the family.

The lady of the house, Madam Maladar passed away from illness a few years ago. However, if she were the cause, it would mean that household has been dealing with this ghost for a very long time. Far longer than they should. While ghosts are among the most benign creatures to plague mankind, having it there for so long would mean it has gained much strength.

I remove my glasses and rub my forehead. Am I overthinking this? Am I not thinking hard enough? Doctor Maladar is unbelievably wealthy. His medical practice aside, he was the heir to a vast family fortune. More recently, he invested early in the very railroad upon which I travel. This took him from being merely incredibly rich to… well… something past incredbily rich. If I can solve this case for him, it would mean my business might finally see something resembling a profit.

The stack of disorganized papers poking every which way from my bag seems to be taunting me. I do wish Ms. Francis had taken the time to at least align the research before shoving me out the door. That cursed woman.

Nothing to do about it now. Focus, Branner.

Robert Maladar will not be an easy person to deal with. The powerful rarely are. Yet, if he’s willing to pay my fare to come examine this phenomenon, perhaps there is a sense of desperation. Indeed, that is my angle. Desperate men are still a chore to work with but do provide some leverage.

I sigh, and return to my papers.

The coach ride to the manor was pleasant enough. The sky is all but clear, with only a few clouds to add character. This countryside might make one think of something from a light novel, starkly contrasted with the dark and busy cities to which I’m accustomed.

The path to the manor was long and winding. Precisely the sort of ostentatious thing a rich person might have. The carriage was already nearly there, so it is time for my final preparations. I gather the papers and trinkets I’d been using into my bag. As each item was placed in its proper storage location, I reminded myself of what was at stake.

I finished straightening out my coat and hair as much as possible as the coach pulled around the front of the manor. Proper presentation is keen in dealing with the wealthy and the supernatural. In front, the servants were lined up, bowing. Dr. Maladar stood in the center, arms behind his back. It was odd though. Normally for such a presentation the entire family would be here yet, his daughter is nowhere to be seen. Such a curiosity.

The coach came to a stop in the middle of the arrangement. The driver came around and opened the door to announce my arrival.

“May I present Archibald Branner, paranormal investigator.”

I step out the door, my tall, thin figure extending fully as I exit the transport. My hair is parted, a little frayed at the edges, yet I had tried my best to make it presentable. My dark vest contrasts with the light, glimmering pendant swinging from my neck as I take each step. My brown coat is old and considered unfashionable, but I will only go so far to appease my clients.

In my right hand I held my cane, a rather unassuming piece of polished black wood. The top was fit with a brilliant cut gem, though any jeweler worth his weight would laugh at the quality. My left hand held my bag, containing more of the tools of my trade.

In all, my appearance might have been off-putting to one of Robert Maladar’s stature, but I am hoping not so much that he sends me away.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Doctor,” I say, as cordial as I can muster.

The gentleman in the center of the display steps forward. His cool stare seems to pierce the air around us. The master of the house was not quite as tall as I, but his stance and presence more than made up for that. He lacked a coat, yet even without it, he was the far more fashionable one. The materials of his clothing were of the highest quality, easily seen at a glance.

I try to match his stare, but find myself lacking. He was not dressed menacingly, nor any action one of malice, but he projected intimidation all the same.

He extends his hand in a welcoming handshake. I tuck my cane under my arm and return the gesture.

When he speaks, his deep voice sounds almost emotionless, like all this pomp and circumstance meant absolutely nothing to him.

“Greetings, Mr. Branner. I certainly hope you can help. Come, let us step inside.”

He turns and heads into the house. The servants break off from their formation and set back to work, a few walking past me to grab my bags from the carriage. Others head into the house to finish preparing for my arrival, or around the side to wherever else they’re needed. I notice some go around the back and follow them with my gaze. The sun is setting, as my train arrived a little later than we had planned. Far off to the side, a young boy stands by a tree. It’s difficult to tell, as he appears as a silhouette against the setting sun, but he doesn’t look like he belongs here.

I’m about to inquire about him, when I step into the entrance hall.

It should have been lovely. I should have thought it absolutely gorgeous. And had I seen it at any other time in my life, I might have. Instead, the grotesque image imprinted itself onto my mind. The oozing red liquid seemed fresh on the walls, the stench of copper all too telling. Almost a dozen servants were washing away what they could. Tables, flowers and other decorations were strewn about, likely bystanders to some rage filled spree. And in the center of the hall, letters carved into the stone floor, a message carved in carnage. The blood flows down the walls, filling the miniature pools.

It merely said:



  1. Ben, I think this is the first of your work I’ve read, and it is fabulous! I am very intrigued by everything, characters, setting, and plot! It’s like you know what you’re doing! Moving onto the next!

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