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Authors: Josh Lanyon

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The Dark Farewell

BOOK: The Dark Farewell
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Don’t talk to strangers, young man—especially the dead ones.

It’s the Roaring Twenties. Skirts are short, crime is rampant and booze is in short supply. Prohibition has hit Little Egypt, where newspaperman David Flynn has come to do a follow-up story on the Herren

Massacre. The massacre isn’t the only news in town though. Spiritualist medium Julian Devereux claims to speak to the dead—and he charges a pretty penny for it.

Flynn knows a phoney when he sees one, and he’s convinced Devereux is as fake as a cigar store

Indian. But the reluctant attraction he feels for the deceptively soft, not-his-type Julian is as real as it gets.

Suddenly Julian begins to have authentic, bloodstained visions of a serial killer, and the cynical Mr.

Flynn finds himself willing to defend Julian with not only his life, but his body.

Warning: This novella contains phony spiritualists, cynical newspapermen, labor disputes, illicit love affairs, high-calorie southern cooking, and more than fifty-percent humidity!

eBooks are
not
transferable.

They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520

Macon GA 31201

The Dark Farewell

Copyright © 2010 by Josh Lanyon

ISBN: 978-1-60504-944-1

Edited by Sasha Knight

Cover by Natalie Winters

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Firs
t Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: March 2010

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The Dark Farewell

Josh Lanyon

Dedication

To my dad—whose own stories brought history alive for me.

Chapter One

The body of the third girl was found Tuesday morning in the woods a few miles outside

Murphysboro. Flynn read about it the following day in the
Herrin News
as the train chugged slowly through the green cornfields and deep woods of Southern Illinois. The dead girl’s name was Millie Hesse and like the other two girls she had been asphyxiated and then mutilated. There were other “peculiarities”, according to the newspaper, but the office of the Jackson County Sheriff declined to comment further.

The peculiarities would be things about the murder only known to the police and the murderer

himself. At least in theory. Flynn had covered a few homicides since his return from France three years earlier, and it wasn’t hard to read between the lines. But there were already rumors flying through the wires about a homicidal maniac on the loose in Little Egypt.

Flynn gazed out the window as a giant cement smokestack came into sight. The perpetually

smoldering black slag heap, half-buried in the tall weeds, reminded him in some abstruse way of the

ravaged French countryside. His lip curled and he stared down again at the newspaper.

He didn’t care much for homicide cases; he’d seen enough killing in the war. And reading about poor, harmless, inoffensive Millie Hesse and her gruesome end in the dark silent oaks and elms of these lonely woods dampened his enthusiasm for the story he was there to cover, a follow-up on the Herrin Massacre the previous summer. Not to write about the massacre itself. More than enough had been written about that.

It had been a big year for news, 1922, between the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote

and the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the States who hadn’t heard about what had happened in these parts between local miners and the Southern Illinois Coal Company. Flynn wanted to write about Herrin one year later; the aftermath and the repercussions.

Plus, it was a good reason to visit Amy Gulling, the widow of his old mentor Gus. Gus had died in the winter, and Flynn hadn’t made it down for the funeral. He didn’t care much for funerals, either.

The train had been warm, but when Flynn stepped down onto the platform of the old brick station in

Herrin, humidity slapped him in the face like a hot towel in a barber shop. It reminded him of summer in the trenches, minus the rats and snipers, of course.

He nodded an absent farewell to his fellow passengers—he couldn’t have described them if his life

had depended on it—and caught one of the town’s only cabs, directing the driver to Amy Gulling’s

boarding house. Heat shimmered off the brick streets as the cab drove him through the peaceful town past
The Dark Farewell

the sheriff’s office, closed during the violence of that long June day last year, and the hardware stores where the mob had broken in to steal guns and ammunition which they had then used to murder the mine guards and strikebreakers.

The cab let him out in front of the wooden two-story Civil War-style house on the corner. Flynn paid the driver, picked up his luggage and headed up the shady walk. He rang the bell and seconds later Amy herself was pushing open the screen door and welcoming him inside.

“David Flynn! I just lost a bet with myself.”

“What bet?” He dropped his bags and hugged her hard.

“I bet you wouldn’t come. I bet you’d find another excuse.”

Amy was big and comfortable like a plushy chair. She wore a faded but well-starched flowered dress.

Though her hair was now a graying flaxen, her blue green eyes were as bright as ever. They studied him with canny affection.

Flynn reddened. “I’m sorry, Amy. Sorry I didn’t make it down when Gus…”

She waved that away. “The funeral didn’t matter. And you’re here now. You must be tuckered out

from that train ride.”

She led him through to the parlor. A fat woman in a blue dress sat fanning herself in front of the big window, and in another chair a small, slim girl of perhaps twenty was reading a book titled
The Girls’ Book
of Famous Queens
. She had dark hair and wore spectacles.

“This is Mrs. Hoyt and her daughter Joan. They’re regular boarders. They’ve been with me for two

months now, since Mr. Hoyt passed.”

“How do,” said Mrs. Hoyt. The fine, sharp features of her face were blurred by weight and age. When

she’d been young she probably looked like Joan. Her hair was still more dark than silver.

The girl, Joan, gave him a shy smile and a clammy hand.

“David’s an old friend of my husband. One of his former journalism students. He’s going to be

spending the next week or so with us.”

“Are you a newspaperman, Mr. Flynn?” asked Mrs. Hoyt.

“I am, but I’m on vacation now.” Flynn knew this old beldame’s breed. She’d be gossiping with the

neighbors—those she considered her social equal—in nothing flat. And he wanted the freedom of

anonymity, the ability to talk to these people without them second-guessing and censoring their words.

There was plenty for people to keep their mouths shut about considering Herrin had a national

reputation for being the worst of the bad towns in “Bloody Williamson County”. The trials of the men who had murdered the Lester Mine Company strikebreakers and guards had ended in unanimous acquittals,

shocking the rest of the nation.

“David was in France,” Amy said with significance.

“My son was in France, Mr. Flynn. Where did you see action?”

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7

Josh Lanyon

“I went over with Pershing’s American Expeditionary Forces, ma’am.”

“As a soldier or a journalist?”

“As a soldier.” He had been proud of that. Proud to fight and maybe die for his ideals. Now he

wondered if he wouldn’t have done more good as a reporter.

“My son fell in the Battle of the Argonne.”

The girl bowed her head, stared unseeingly at the book on her lap.

Flynn said, “A lot of boys did.”

“My son was the recipient of the Medal of Honor.”

“I’m afraid I didn’t win any medals.”

“Well, let’s get you situated,” Amy said briskly, breaking the sudden melancholy mood that had

settled on the sunny parlor. “I’ve got David in the room over the breezeway.”

“That’s a mighty pleasant room in the summer,” agreed Mrs. Hoyt. The daughter murmured

acknowledgement.

Flynn smiled at Amy. “I remember.”

He nodded to the ladies and followed Amy. She was saying, “I’ve turned Gus’s study into a library

and smoking room for the gentlemen.”

Flynn asked unwillingly, “Has it been tough since Gus died?”

“Oh, you know. I manage all right. I keep the boarding house for company as much as anything. I

never was happy on my own.” Amy paused in the doorway of another room. “Here are our gentlemen.

Doctor Pearson, Mr. Flynn is an old family friend. He’ll be staying with us for a few days. Mr. Devereux, Mr. Flynn.”

The gentlemen appeared to have been interrupted in the midst of writing letters. Doctor Pearson was

small and spry with snapping dark eyes and the bushy sideburns and whiskers that were popular before the war. Mr. Devereux was older than the doctor, but he dyed his hair and mustache a persevering jet black. He had the distinctive features—aquiline nose and heavy-lidded eyes—Flynn had grown familiar with in

France.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Dr. Pearson said, putting aside his pen and paper and offering his hand.

Devereux was equally polite. “A pleasure, sir.” He had a hint of an accent, but it was not exactly

French. French Canadian perhaps? Or, no, French Creole?

“Mr. Devereux is a regular contributor to a number of Spiritualist periodicals,” Amy commented.

Mr. Devereux livened up instantly. “That’s correct. I’m penning an article at this moment for
The
Messenger
in Boston.”

Flynn nodded courteously. Spiritualism? Good God.

Perhaps Amy sensed his weary distaste because she was soon ushering him out of the room and down

the hall.

8

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The Dark Farewell

They started toward the long blue-carpeted staircase. A quick, light tread caught Flynn’s attention. He glanced up and saw a young man coming down the stairs. He was tall and willowy, his black hair of a bohemian length. His skin was a creamy bisque, his eyes dark and wide. Flynn judged him about nineteen although he wore no tie or jacket. He was dressed in gray flannel trousers, and his white shirt was open at the throat, the sleeves rolled to his elbows like a schoolboy.

“This is Mr. Flynn, Julian,” Amy said.

Julian raised his delicate eyebrows. “Oh yes?”

“He’s an old friend of my husband and me. He’s going to be staying with us for a time.”

Julian observed Flynn for long, alert seconds before he came leisurely down the rest of the staircase.

He offered a slender, tanned hand and Flynn grasped it with manly firmness.

“Charmed,” Julian murmured. He gently squeezed Flynn’s hand back and studied him from beneath

lashes as long and silky as a girl’s. It was a look both shy and oddly knowing. Flynn recovered his hand as quickly as he could. He nodded curtly.

Julian smiled as though he read Flynn’s reluctance and was entertained by it. It was a sly sort of smile, and his mouth was soft and pink. A sissy if Flynn had ever seen one.

“Julian is Mr. Devereux’s grandson.” There was something in Amy’s voice Flynn couldn’t quite pin

down. Either she didn’t like the old man or she didn’t care for the kid—or maybe both.

Julian said slowly, “You’re a…writer, David?”

“How the hell—?” Flynn stopped. Julian was smiling a smug smile.

“I know things.”

“That’s a dangerous habit.”

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