A half-mad, alcoholic Edgar Allan Poe aims to defeat an occultist’s terrifying plot in this “intelligent, suspenseful” thriller set in 1840s New York ( Booklist ). It is said that beneath Solomon’s glorious throne, books that gave the fabled king control over life, death, and demonic power were buried. The throne has been lost for millennia, but now one man seeks to find it and harness its secrets to unleash hell upon the world. Jonathan is the most powerful psychic on earth, and in service of his god, Lucifer, he will tear civilization apart. To combat his dark designs, mankind’s hopes rest on a troubled author named Edgar Allan Poe. In the shadows of New York City, Poe drowns his talent in rotgut gin, trying to forget the death of his beloved wife. A bare-knuckle fighter named Pierce James Figg arrives with a letter of introduction from Charles Dickens, begging for Poe’s help chasing down the power-mad devil worshiper. Now, writer and fighter must stand together to save humanity from a darkness beyond even Poe’s tortured imagination. This fast-paced tale of historical supernatural suspense, which Booklist hailed as “unfailingly readable and terrifically well-written,” provides “one cliffhanging chapter after another” ( Kirkus Reviews ).
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Marc Olden (1933–2003) was the author of forty mystery and suspense novels. Born in Baltimore, he began writing while working in New York as a Broadway publicist. His first book, Angela Davis (1973), was a nonfiction study of the controversial Black Panther. In 1973 he also published Narc , under the name Robert Hawke, beginning a hard-boiled nine-book series about a federal narcotics agent. A year later, Black Samurai introduced Robert Sand, a martial arts expert who becomes the first non-Japanese student of a samurai master. Based on Olden’s own interest in martial arts, which led him to the advanced ranks of karate and aikido, the novel spawned a successful eight-book series. Olden continued writing for the next three decades, often drawing on his fascination with Japanese culture and history.
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Poe Must Die
By Marc Olden
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated MediaCopyright © 2010 Marc Olden
All rights reserved.
London, January 9, 1848
Jonathan's eyes were bright, alert. He stared across the cluttered table at Arthur Lecky, whom he had just hypnotized and would soon kill.
"Tell me about the Throne of Solomon," Jonathan said.
"I know of no throne, sir." Lecky frowned at the sound of his own voice. "The American never mentioned a throne to me."
Jonathan inched forward in his chair, palms down on the table. The little fingers were missing from both hands. "The American sought your services. I know this to be true."
"To steal books for him, sir. Only books."
"Tell me about those books."
Arthur Lecky shivered. "Works of darkness I would say, sir. Books on demons and devils. Books for them what loves Lucifer and the anti-Christ."
Jonathan thought: This fool reeks of onions, tu'penny gin and bread piled high with lard, and the opium pipe in front of him means as much in his useless life as do the small boys who warm his bed at night. Yet he presumes, dares to speak of Lucifer, whom I serve.
But when Solomon's Throne is mine never again shall I have to serve Lucifer, for he and all demons will be at my feet and even Asmodeus, king of all demons, will be forced to bow to me.
Asmodeus, whom Solomon the master magician forced to build the Temple of Jerusalem, who later took his revenge on Solomon, sending him into exile and ruling in his place.
Asmodeus, the fiend of Persian and Hebrew scriptures, who filled men's hearts with anger, lust, with the desire for revenge.
Asmodeus, whom Jonathan had twice attempted to conjure from the world below, failing to do so each time and who Jonathan knew wanted revenge for those attempts to force him into submission.
Which is why Jonathan desperately needed Solomon's Throne; without it, he was doomed to a horrible death for having dared to enslave the king of demons. The throne was survival and it was more. It was immortality and power equal to that of Lucifer, power surpassing that of all demons including the dreaded Asmodeus.
Spiritualist, psychic, devil worshipper, hypnotist, doctor, murderer.
Conjurer of demons and a witch, a master black magician who exalted evil above all good, a man with an obsession for dominance and supreme power.
But even his powers could not long resist those of Asmodeus, who would never stop seeking vengeance on Jonathan for trying to subjugate him. To get Asmodeus to bow as he had once bowed to Solomon, Jonathan had to possess the throne and the books of magic hidden beneath it.
Solomon's Throne. Hidden for thousands of years, its untold wealth, and power eluding all. But it wouldn't elude Jonathan, who now knew how to obtain it, who now knew how to bring it from the other world into this. He knew.
But first, he needed those books that Arthur Lecky had stolen and passed on to the American. Lecky was a kidsman, the manager of a band of child thieves whom he forced to climb down narrow chimneys where panic meant being trapped and suffocating to death. Ugly little Arthur Lecky, with his toothy, squirrel-like face pitted by smallpox and framed by a shoulder-length red wig.
A wooden leg was attached to Lecky's right stump by a thick, brown strap, whose brass buckle was polished daily by one of his tiny thieves. Tonight, his unwashed bony body was wrapped in a filthy, lice ridden brocaded robe of yellow silk and like others living in Victorian slums and eating the poisonous foods of those harsh times, Lecky looked much older than he was. He was thirty and looked sixty.
Some of his child thieves were purchased from parents too poor to raise them or from other kidsmen; the rest were street orphans willing to steal in exchange for food and a place to sleep. Tonight, only two were in the dirty, cluttered room used by Lecky as living quarters and storeroom for his stolen goods. Barefoot and in rags, the pair slept on the floor in front of the dying fire, drugged into sleep by "Godfrey's Cordial," a combination of molasses and opium used to quiet children.
To the right of the fire and half in darkness, a gray rat, its eyes pinpricks of light, silently watched the sleeping children and waited.
Jonathan and Lecky were on the second floor of a decaying tenement in The Holy Land, London's worst criminal slum. Stretching from west London's Great Russell Street to St. Giles High Street, The Holy Land was a dangerous and disease-ridden congestion of passages, lanes, courtyards and vile housing all overcrowded with thousands of starving, unemployed poor. Sharing the slum with them was the nation's largest collection of thieves, whores, beggars, gamblers and murderers, who only left The Holy Land to prey on the city surrounding them. Having struck, the predators quickly retreated back to the sanctuary and asylum of the infamous area, knowing its reputation would discourage all pursuit.
"Books belonged to Sir Norris Davy, sir," said Arthur Lecky. "The American come to his house and he seen 'em and he requests that I pinch 'em for 'im, me and me little ones. The American told me where they was, the books, and he told me when Sir Davy and the missus would be gone and where the servants slept. Sent in one of me little ones, I did, and she come down the chimney, opens a door and the others they come inside."
Damn the American. Like Jonathan, the American had spent long months pursuing the throne and like Jonathan, the American had a strong reason for risking everything to get it. Justin Coltman of New York, was wealthy, young, and dying, a doomed millionaire obsessed by spiritualism and the occult, by a belief that only the Throne of Solomon could cure his terminal cancer.
Neither man had met, but each knew of the other.
Jonathan, wrapped in a black cloak, his face hidden by a hood and the chilled darkness of the room, pushed an oil lamp across the table and closer towards Arthur Lecky.
"You were paid well for stealing."
"Most handsomely sir."
"Tell me what you saw when you read the books."
"Devil books they was, sir. Books to summon devils and demons, to make 'em do your bidding."
"The names of the books." Under hypnosis, even a dirty pile of rags like Lecky could remember things eluding his brain in a waking state.
The kidsman, rigid and upright in the stolen church pew he used as a chair, blinked and remembered as the soft voice insisted that he do. "Yes sir, I did look at 'em, I did. Three books. Very expensive pieces of work. A Smagorad was one and two had Solomon's name."
He paused. Dearest Jesus, allow me to sleep, to enter that warm darkness this most sweet voice lures me into. But ... but the voice is also holding me back, holding me back. Yet I must please it, I must do as it commands.
"The names." Jonathan's voice was a hard hiss, a knife drawn quickly from a sheath. He needed answers now; there was no time to spare and he had enemies. There was Asmodeus and there was a mortal enemy, an Englishman whose life had been touched by Jonathan's evil and had vowed to kill him for it. The mortal was Pierce James Figg, a prizefighter with no power except that in his fists. Jonathan, who feared little on this earth, feared Figg without entirely knowing why. Two days ago, Jonathan had killed Figg's wife.
"La Clavicule de Solomon was the second book," said Lecky. "And the third was The Lemegeton of Solomon."
Jonathan inhaled with excitement. The very books he had traced to London and now had just missed.
"What did the American say to you?"
"Say, sir? He seemed most pleased. The books appeared to be important to 'im. He stares at 'em for a time and he ignores me. He speaks to the books, sir. He says 'soon, soon.' Then he says, 'I'll have it. It will be mine.'"
Jonathan, tense, angry, quickly stood up. The American knows. He knows that these books can lead him to the throne.
Smagorad. A seven-hundred-year-old book of magic and spells said to have been given Adam by God in consolation for the loss of Abel.
La Clavicule de Solomon. The Key of Solomon, a collection of writings on magic dating from the fourteenth century. Said to be the work of King Solomon, to be used in finding treasure and in summoning good or evil spirits.
The Lemegeton of Solomon. The Lesser Key of Solomon. Writings on magic dating from the seventeenth century. Used in summoning good or evil spirits.
Jonathan had sought these books for years, never getting closer than one more clue, one more trail to follow. And then his cunning had told him to stay close to Justin Coltman, to let the dying American's wealth and determination lead Jonathan to the throne.
Did Coltman know that their power lay in combining their knowledge? For hundreds of years, those who owned one or more of the books had lacked the knowledge to effectively use them. But Jonathan, who challenged God and demons, had that knowledge of the black arts; he knew how to use the three books to find the Throne of Solomon.
Find Justin Coltman. Find him before he stumbles across the secret in those writings. Coltman was no sorcerer, no magician; he was only a man driven by desperation, by fear of death but his wealth gave him power to buy any knowledge he needed. Sooner or later, he would find someone to pull Solomon's Throne from the pages of the three books he had just paid to have stolen.
Suddenly Jonathan froze, listening carefully, every instinct on edge. He heard angry noises coming from the muddy, uncobbled street, from scrawny cows and pigs rooting in the garbage in front of the tenement. Someone had savagely pushed and kicked the animals aside, someone who now ran into the building. Male footsteps. Heavy boots speeding along a dark, foul smelling hallway and towards the stairs leading to Arthur Lecky's room. Danger.
Was it the boxer? Was it the ring-scarred Pierce James Figg, the only mortal Jonathan had ever feared? For a few seconds that fear tried to rule him but he forced it down deeper and deeper inside himself and now he was again in control.
He quickly looked around the room. Only one door and not even one window.
The one door would lead Jonathan straight towards the boxer?
In front of the fireplace, one of the child thieves now sat up, rubbing sleep from her eyes. The long-tailed gray rat, which had been just inches from her face, now turned and scampered back into darkness.
Stolen loot—clothing, furniture and bric-a-brac from a silver-mounted ostrich egg to a collection of stuffed birds under glass, covered almost all of the room. Even thieves like Arthur Lecky shared the Victorian passion for possessions and clutter.
Jonathan blew out the oil lamp, leaving only the tiny fire to light the room. Now he was on his knees in front of Lecky, fingers moving quickly in the darkness, finding the leather strap that held the wooden leg to the kidsman's stump.
Seconds later, the door to Lecky's room crashed open and a male voice screamed, "Magician, you are a dead man! I will have your life now!"
To the left of the door, Jonathan stood flat against the wall in total darkness, one end of the strap wrapped tightly around his left fist, the heavy buckle dangling at his side and lost in the folds of his cloak.
Jonathan waited. Not my life, fool, but yours.
The footsteps rushed through the door, into the room and past Jonathan who lifted his arm high. The brass buckle gleamed brightly, catching the eye of the grimy faced little girl who sat on the floor and stared up at it.CHAPTER 2
London, January 19, 1848
Charles Dickens, fighting a sore throat and a growing cold in his chest, sipped warm gin and lemon. His head throbbed, his voice was hoarse and he longed for a soft bed in a quiet, dark room. But quiet darkness would have to wait.
This morning the thirty-five year old Dickens had stood in a cold rain with a crowd of twenty thousand people and watched as a fourteen-year-old boy was hung in front of Newgate Prison. Tonight, the boy's grieving father sat in Dickens' book lined study.
Dickens coughed phlegm from his raw throat. He was small, slim, with a thin, handsome face and still in the red velvet waistcoat, blue cravat and tight gray trousers he'd worn to the hanging.
"Thank you for coming, Mr. Figg."
"Thankin' you for askin', Mr. Dickens, sir. I, I had things to tend to, so I didn't get your message 'til late. Hopin' I'm not disturbin' you and the missus by appearin' at this hour."
"It's gone just half eight, Mr. Figg and you are most certainly not disturbing us. I invited you, if you remember."
"Grateful I am, sir. The boy's taken care of now. I did for him as I promised."
Pierce James Figg, forty-eight and stocky, eyes red rimmed from crying, folded his large, gnarled hands in his lap. He was a bare knuckle prizefighter and boxing instructor whom Charles Dickens, the most prosperous and popular author of his day, the most famous man in England, respected as much as any man he knew.
Dickens threw his head back to clear long brown hair from his face. He sat in the wooden chair he preferred to the overstuffed furniture currently in vogue and now cramming the homes of those Englishmen who could afford it. He thought of the wealth and fame he now enjoyed and sadly shook his head; none of it gave him the power to remove even a portion of Figg's grief. God above, what grief! Figg's son hung for a crime committed by the same man who had murdered Figg's wife.
Dickens sipped more gin, then stroked his painful throat and eyed the silent prizefighter. Not your delicate piece of porcelain, Mr. Figg, with his bulldog's face and round head which he shaved to prevent ring opponents from grabbing his hair. Scars from forehead to stubborn chin and nose flatter than paper pasted to a wall. A slight limp in his right leg. No neck. Not the slightest inch of neck on the man. Just a bulldog's head crowning a body shaped like a large boulder, and yet there was a dignity and inner strength to this Mr. Figg, whose voice was forever soft because of punches to his throat.
Tonight, Pierce James Figg sat in a black frock coat borrowed for his son's hanging and burial, a coat which ill-fitted his squat body. An awesome sight, dear Mr. Figg. Decent, but no man to cross or do the dirty to. Makes his living teaching the use of fist, cudgel, knife and short sword and no one does it better.
Pierce James Figg, descended from a long line of bare knuckle prizefighters, was shrewd and plain speaking, lacking formal education but possessed of an education of a different sort, the kind that came from surviving the brutal prize ring and life on the edge of the underworld. Dickens knew Figg to be an honest man, something which could not be said for others in prizefighting.
"Your wife, Mrs. Dickens. She's well, I trust?"
"Kate's just fine, Mr. Figg." Lord in heaven, thought Dickens, where does he find the strength to be that gracious now?
He smiled at Figg. "She's reading to the children. Helps them to sleep. She says it's better for their health than going on a picnic with me. On occasion, I take my ten-year-old Charley and some of his school chums on picnics down by the river. Jolly, jolly times. We drink champagne. Kate says champagne isn't proper for children, but I tell her it's better than the horrid water spilling from our English taps."
Dickens stopped. Trivial, trivial occurrences in my life and all less than nothing to this man submerged in more agony than any one human being should be forced to endure. Poor Figg loses his wife and son and I talk of champagne. God in heaven forgive me.
Figg tried to smile and failed. Dickens was relieved. At least Figg hadn't taken offense.
Figg flopped his round shaven head back against the leather chair and spoke to the ceiling. "Made me boy a promise, I did. He says to me, 'Don't let them body snatchers dig me up and sell me to the anatomists, them bloody doctors who will carve me into little bits. Promise me, dad. Promise me the sack 'em ups won't get me.'"
Miserable ghouls, thought Dickens, terrifying us all because the desecration of a grave was the most hideous of crimes. In a moment of bitter whimsy, someone had also named these criminals resurrectionists.
Figg dabbed at his eyes with a large white handkerchief. "Filled me boy's coffin with quicklime. Done it meself. What's in there now ain't fit for nobody to touch. Won't be nobody dragging Will off for rum money."
Excerpted from Poe Must Die by Marc Olden. Copyright © 2010 Marc Olden. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Integrated Media.
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