“The Jagtooth Lane Horror” sees Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass confront a malevolent draugr in York in 1921. It was published in issue 5 of Pro Se Presents from Pro Se Press in 2011, which is still available from the publisher. Excerpt below the cut.
The steps were flat slabs of Yorkshire stone, leading down and around. True to Gordon’s word, they were damp, and the smell of the wet seemed to permeate the air. As they carefully made their way down, St. Cyprian said, “How close are we to the river?”
“Far enough that it shouldn’t be this damp,” Gallowglass murmured. “So why is it?”
“My question exactly,” St. Cyprian said, stepping into the glow of the electric lanterns hanging from the low ceiling of the cellar. “It’s almost an animal smell, isn’t it? Like an otter’s nest.” A pulley and winch had been set up and more electric lanterns sat near the hole, as if in preparation to be lowered down. “What do we have here?” He crouched at the edge of the hole, looking at the large flat slab that had been removed. “Ms. Gallowglass, what do you make of this?”
“In my expert opinion, it’s a hole,” Gallowglass said.
“Not that. This,” St. Cyprian said, slapping the slab.
“That? That’s a rock.”
“No. It’s a very special rock. A barrow-rock, to be precise,” St. Cyprian said. It was cold in the cellar, far colder than it should have been, and his breath rose up to wreath his head like a halo.
“I thought barrows were made of dirt.” Gallowglass leaned down curiously.
“Sometimes dirt, sometimes rock.” St. Cyprian traced the crude carvings that covered the surface of the slab. “What do you make of these?”
“Are you testing me?” she said.
Gallowglass snorted, but she bent her head. “Scandinavian? Curse-markers, perhaps.”
“A warning to the curious, to quote M.R. James.” St. Cyprian rested back on heels. “And note the iron filings in the edges of the rock?”
“Something was sealed in there,” Gallowglass said. She looked at the hole and extended a hand into the darkness. “Cool air. Very cool…cold as blazes, in fact.”
“Care to take a closer look?” St. Cyprian said.
“I’d rather not,” Gallowglass said.
“A good apprentice would,” St. Cyprian said.
“I thought we’d already covered what kind of apprentice I am?” Gallowglass said. He looked at her steadily, and she grimaced. “I bet Carnacki never made you climb into any dark holes.”
“What occurs between gentlemen is none of your concern,” St. Cyprian said, grinning. “Down you go!” He grabbed hold of Gallowglass’s wrists as she turned her back to the hole and crouched. She blew a kiss and then stepped off. St. Cyprian slid forward, lowering her down, his coat pulling tight across his shoulders.
“Lower a lantern,” Gallowglass called.
St. Cyprian grunted and stretched out a hand, grabbing one of the nearby lanterns and lowering it down by its length of sturdy cable. A moment later, after the lantern had sputtered to life, Gallowglass said, “The floor is only a few feet down.”
“Oh thank the Lord. My arm was beginning to slide out of the socket,” St. Cyprian said.
“Was that a comment on my weight?” she snapped.
“A gentleman never comments on a lady’s particulars,” he said.
“And you’re no gentleman.”
“Be off with you.” St. Cyprian released her, and she fell lightly into a crouch. He leaned over the edge. “Do you see anything?”
“Plenty,” Gallowglass said. “Come join me and see for yourself.”
St. Cyprian rolled his eyes upward. “It’s so hard to find good assistants these days,” he said and then he lowered himself awkwardly down into the hole and dropped to the ground beside Gallowglass.
The space was not a large one, but that may have been more due to the wealth of debris that littered it than anything else. Sodden lumps of what might have been fabric or wood jostled for space with rusty chunks of once-metal. Glittering pinpoints of light caught St. Cyprian’s eye and he knelt, drawing his fingers through the heaps of moldy refuse.
“Ah,” he said, pulling up a tarnished golden bracelet. “Look at this.”
“Put that down,” Gallowglass said. “You’re disturbing the site. What would the Yorkshire Archaeological Society say?”
“What they don’t know won’t inconvenience me,” St. Cyprian said. “Look.” He reached up and grabbed the base of the lantern, angling it so that it cast its light on the point where the sloping roof met the floor. In the flickering light, it appeared as if something very wet had lain there.
“The Ouse,” Gallowglass said. “The air in here is full of damp from the river.”
“But only recently, I’m betting,” St. Cyprian murmured. “Say, six days or so.” He stood, brushing his hands off.
“I wonder what the late Professor Hogg saw down here that caused him to keel over,” Gallowglass said.
“Who said it was down here? Let’s-” He stopped, watching as his breath crystallized in the air. “Humph. Ms. Gallowglass?”
“The temperature definitely just dropped,” Gallowglass said, stepping closer to him. Her breath came in short spurts of icy fog. “And I can hear something. That’s unusual.”
“More than unusual, I’m thinking. Up you go,” St. Cyprian said, grabbing her hips. She yelped and squawked as he thrust her upwards.
“Hey! Wait a bloody minute-” she began.
“No time, apprentice-mine,” St. Cyprian said. His clothes felt stiff against his skin, as if he’d been soaked in freezing water. There was a sound like the river rushing across rock, growing louder and louder. Gallowglass grabbed the edge of the hole and scrambled up, then turned and extended a hand.
“Come on then!” she said. St. Cyprian ignored her and turned in place, his eyes squinting against the sudden gloom. The electric lantern rattled in its housing and the light dipped and dimmed erratically. His hands and feet were numb. The water sounds grew louder still, and, with a start, he realized that it wasn’t water at all…