This episode of the Drabblecast brings you “A Last Kiss for Lazarus Winters,” another story in D.K. Thompson’s Saint Darwin’s Spirituals series.
D.K. Thompson was the host and co-editor of PodCastle, a fantasy fiction podcast, for five years, and has narrated audiobooks by Tim Pratt, Greg van Eekhout, and James Maxey, among others.
I was born again on New Year’s Eve, full of broken promises, and slick and sticky with two kinds of blood. One of them was a ghost’s. That didn’t surprise me, though. I’ve seen my share of ghost blood.
I’d spent most of my life working with spirits and principalities — tracking ghosts, and making demands of them. That’s what people hired me for. But I wasn’t one of Darwin’s spiritualists, though I’d read his Origin of the Spirits and wore the goggles he’d fashioned. No, the spiritualists aided the spirits, providing a bridge between the living and the dead to help care for them. Me? I took all of Charlie Darwin’s studies and tools, and crossed those bridges to make certain demands of ghosts. I was a spiritual extortionist.
Enjoy (the full text is printed below the player):
Drabblecast 376 – A Last Kiss for Lazarus Winters (A Saint Darwin’s Spiritual)
A Last Kiss for Lazarus Winters (A Saint Darwin’s Spiritual)
by D.K. Thompson
I was born again on New Year’s Eve, full of broken promises, and slick and sticky with two kinds of blood. One of them was a ghost’s. That didn’t surprise me, though.
I’ve seen my share of ghost blood.
I’d spent most of my life working with spirits and principalities — tracking ghosts, and making demands of them. That’s what people hired me for. But I wasn’t one of Darwin’s spiritualists, though I’d read his Origin of the Spirits and wore the goggles he’d fashioned. No, the spiritualists aided the spirits, providing a bridge between the living and the dead to help care for them. Me? I took all of Charlie Darwin’s studies and tools, and crossed those bridges to make certain demands of ghosts. I was a spiritual extortionist. Sometimes I’d clench a grounder in my fist, the talisman prying at their essence like a crowbar, and demand they move elsewhere. Other times I’d demand some sort of payment. Occasionally, I demanded that they bleed. There were tools to make ghosts bleed. Talisman, spells, holy weapons. Most of them were illegal, and I’d used most of them once or twice.
So, I was well acquainted with the blood of ghosts. What startled me was the other kind of blood. A thick, red puddle of my own blood on the floor, pooling around my body.
They came for us in the darkness, while I was trapped between the land of dreams and flesh.
We’d just found each other again, Neena and I, on New Year’s Eve. I lit a cigarette to fight the biting chill as I walked the cobblestone street, and thought about the promises I’d broken over the last year when Neena floated toward me.
She’d been stabbed in the back, the spectral gash still looked fresh and wet and angry, but wounds like that were permanent in the afterlife. I hadn’t even known she’d died, and I felt guilty about that. Neena said I could make it up to her.
I brought her back to my rooms, and poured myself a glass of whiskey.
She observed my amber settee and crystal decanter. “You’ve done well for yourself, Lazarus.” But I felt the edge of her criticism hidden beneath. No black man with an honest job could live like this, Neena meant. I didn’t let the remark sting. It was hard enough for a young brown girl named Singh to find honest work as a scullery maid.
I drank the whiskey down as she floated before me, the warmth of it pushing back against the chill. Neena looked at the drink longingly. Back when she was alive, she hadn’t drunk much. I poured another, lifted the glass toward her, and asked, “Do you want a taste? You can use me, if you do.”
She hovered even closer, and I remembered the way her mouth had tasted, and felt another pang. “That’s very generous of you, Lazarus,” Neena said, and then slipped inside me.
I staggered back and gasped as she fluttered beneath my skin and twisted with joy. She raised the glass to my lips, savored the way the whiskey burned on my tongue, on my throat. I took my fingers, Neena’s spectral fingers, and traced them around the glass’s edge, then put them between my lips and licked. Neena moaned and moved inside me, enjoying the way the warmth spread in my belly.
I’d fallen back on the settee, the glass in my hands empty. Neena slid back out of me.
“Thank you, Lazarus,” she said. “I’ve missed that.”
“Tell me why you’re here, Neena.”
She’d been working as a scullery maid in Blisterfield Manor. Lord and Lady Blisterfield, staunch anti-Darwinists of a rogue sect, styled themselves as the apostles in the Upper Room, when Jesus appeared in their midst without opening the door. They thought He was a spirit — a ghost. But He offered to let them touch the wounds in His arms and legs and side. Only Thomas tied his faith in the Lord’s resurrection to the material, demanding to touch the Lord’s wounds.
Poor Thomas. I can’t say I fault him for his doubts.
The anti-Darwinists believed old Charlie Darwin’s discoveries of the spiritual were the greatest blasphemy and abomination of them all. Instead of following in Thomas’s footsteps, they followed in the Lord’s. For years, the Blisterfields and their sect had been searching for the means to move through the world the way Christ did. To walk through walls. To materialize from the shadows.
According to Neena, they’d finally found it.
I’d heard from acquaintances and friends of ghosts vanishing from the city, never to be seen from again. I, of all people, knew that ghosts could be hurt. And I’d heard of the cruelty of Lord Algernon and Lady Penelope Blisterfield, and their three daughters: Joy, Prudence, and Constance. Servants disappeared never to be seen or heard from again. Strange happenings went on after dark in their manors. Parties were held, odd masquerades where all the guests wore blindfolds, and danced in the dark.
Neena had been in attendance at one of those parties the night of her death. That’s when she’d discovered that the blindfolds were more than just an eccentricity. They were cut from the fabric of a certain funeral shroud, and dipped in the blood of ghosts. When the Blisterfields wore them, they could move through walls and vanish into shadows.
She’d found them summoning a spirit, and watched in horror as the three Blisterfield daughters took stained glass daggers and stabbed the spectral form of a man they’d bound in the circle. The ghost’s blood swirled through the air like milk-white dandelion seeds. The poor spirit howled at each thrust the daughters paid him, while Lord and Lady Blisterfield smiled upon what their sweet children had done.
They found Neena despite the blindfolds. She’d covered her mouth, tried not to make any noise, but still, they’d become aware of her presence. The head butler caught her as she tried to flee. Lady Constance, the youngest Blisterfield daughter, stepped forward with a stained glass dagger in hand. She greeted Neena with a twisted smile and a mock curtsy, then requested her parents’ blessing. Lord and Lady Blisterfield beamed at their daughter, so proud of her initiative and willingness, and gave their consent.
Lady Constance yanked Neena by her hair, and stuck her in the back with the stained glass dagger. The blade broke off in a kidney.
Neena screamed, but Lady Constance held her down until the life bled out of her, then tossed the ruined hilt to the floor. She asked Lady Joy lend her another stained glass dagger, and waited for Neena’s spirit to be born.
There was no circle to bind Neena in death, though, and she wasn’t the only spirit present that night. The other ghost, not quite vanished, struck one of the candles in the circle. Lady Constance shouted as her dress caught fire. Flames danced up her hems, searing fabric and flesh.
In the chaos, Neena’s spirit escaped.
“I know of Lady Constance’s scars,” I said. “They’ve turned her face into some gristly rubber mask, the features all but burned away. But, Neena, that was two years ago.”
For the first time she looked uncomfortable.
“God. Why didn’t you come to me before?”
“We didn’t part on the best terms, Lazarus. I wasn’t sure you’d want me. And I wasn’t sure how I felt about your profession.”
My stomach felt hollow, like a spirit had reached inside to hollow it out. The truth was, I’d never stopped wanting her. “And now? Why have you sought me out now? What finally happened to drive you to my protection?”
“One of Lady Constance’s servants visited London, and I paid her a visit. They’re not content on sacrificing just any ghost, Lazarus. They have their sights set on a very particular one. They feel persecuted, these poor bags of flesh and blood. They want to make a statement.”
“How noble of them. What statement?”
“Break into Westminster Abbey, steal Charles Darwin’s bones, summon his spirit, and destroy it.”
“Summon Darwin’s spirit to destroy it,” I said. “Sounds a bit redundant.”
“It will tell spirits they are no longer welcome in London, Lazarus. And that Darwin’s spiritualists aren’t either.”
“Don’t they realize the implications?” I asked. “Sooner or later, we all pass on to the other side. We all become ghosts.”
“Why me?” I asked. “Why now?”
She didn’t want to go to the Paranormal Patrol, because she believed them compromised by the Blisterfield’s wealth. I didn’t want to go to the Paranormal Patrol for my own reasons. My last encounter with Detective Inspector Lucy Stone and her golem Constable Lump led me to believe they’d be less inclined to offer assistance.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked. “Keep you safe? Hurt someone? Fighting ghosts and the spiritual is one thing. But a black man attacking the Blisterfields will be scrutinized, regardless of their monstrous beliefs.”
“I don’t need you to protect me. I’m dead. I can take care of myself.”
It didn’t matter whether she was dead or not. People still had ways of hurting ghosts. The story she’d just related proved that. She’d left me because I made a living hurting ghosts. But something else she’d said kept me from arguing. “So what do you need me for?”
She smiled. “You can start by pouring me another drink.”
For a night, we found contentment as I let her back inside my body, and we led each other back to my bed.
Even then, I knew it couldn’t last.
You never remember falling asleep.
I don’t remember dying either.
Something hissed, like the shadows themselves had lost their breath. I thought it had been my own, maybe another nightmare.
I saw the ghost blood, and cried out Neena’s name. Then I saw my own blood, and realized I wasn’t breathing anymore.
I floated above my broken corpse and stared down at my own damn face while it stared right back up at me. The ghost blood mingled with mine, spreading over the wood panels of my bedroom floor.
A candle flickered on the bedside table beside my glass. I tried to inhale the scent of whiskey and came up empty. No, I couldn’t smell anything — the whiskey or the burning candle or my own death.
Maybe I should’ve been thankful for the last, but it all made me sad.
The shadows in the room constricted, like they’d just taken a deep breath.
Something colorful sparkled amidst my red blood, like jewels lost at sea. I waited to feel my body react in horror which, of course, was no longer possible. So I cursed instead.
“Neena?” I breathed, and only then realized whose blood the ghost’s must’ve been.
I’d only just found her again. She’d said she didn’t need to be protected. But she’d come to me, and died in my home. And the Blisterfields had found and killed her.
I thrashed about the room, manifesting long enough to shatter the glass and decanter we’d shared, long enough to smash the window and the lenses of the goggles that covered my own dead face.
I’d been so stupid. They’d found us, and they’d destroyed us both.
No. No, they hadn’t destroyed me. Killed me, yes. But I was still here, just in a different form. I was dead, but I was far from broken. I would exact my revenge on the Blisterfields. I spun through the air so furious the candles flickered. I howled a promise for retribution.
That’s when the Paranormal Patrol broke down my door.
The Paranormal Patrol and I don’t have the most comfortable relationship. I’d heard it said that being a black man in England meant I could be hit in public without fear of consequence. I decided if that was the case, I’d do some hitting myself. The odd thing was, people were quite content for a black man to hit ghosts.
Well, most people. Not DI Lucy Stone and the Paranormal Patrol. I didn’t know the young constable or the fat ghost who came with him first through the door, but I recognized the DI who wore the grounder around her neck and the goggles over her eyes.
“New dead?” said the blond man, a trace of sympathy amidst the bored voice. “Happy New Year. You may want to rethink those resolutions.”
“Don’t be so rough, Fortgang,” said the heavy ghost hovering over my corpse. “This lad’s had a rough transition from the look of it.”
“He’s not the only one,” Fortgang replied, stooping beside my bloodied body. He brushed strands of hair back and studied the gore painting my bed and floor. “A ghost vanished here tonight, DI.”
“Lazarus Winters,” DI Stone said, holding the lapels of her brown leather coat. She glanced from me to my corpse, then shook her head. “This is a cruel irony, isn’t it? The spiritual extortionist now a poor spirit. Who is the other victim?”
“A ghost,” said Fortgang.
“Her name was Neena. Neena Singh,” I replied.
“A friend, I presume?” asked Stone, a surprising softness in her voice.
“Something like that.”
The heavyset ghost jabbered something about the necessity of getting me to the station, to process me and provide me with the latest pamphlets.
“God, not the pamphlets again, Hardingham,” groaned Fortgang.
“Of course the pamphlets. He’s just died, man! I spent a lot of time and effort working on the literature, filling it with the most helpful information for the newly dead I could conceive.”
“There’s something glittering in there,” said Stone, pointing at my blood. “Dear God, is that stained glass, Lazarus?”
“I think so.”
“Lump, get in here!” Stone shouted.
The hall outside my door thundered, and the golem constable stepped through. I had a moment of vertigo as my room shuddered, because I couldn’t feel any of it. I wasn’t moving. Everything felt serene and still, despite what I saw.
“Hello again, constable,” I said.
The golem didn’t say anything, of course. Golems weren’t blessed with the gift of voice. But the flames behind his hollow eye sockets danced as he stared at me, his mouth a tight line.
“We don’t have time for games,” Stone said. “What happened here?”
“What do you know about the Blisterfield family?” I asked.
“Those crazy anti-Darwinist bastards? Enough to be happy they’re not in London.” As soon as she said it, she crossed her arms and cocked her head. “Oh, hell. They’ve come to London?”
DI Stone’s face went tight. “Constables, I believe it’d be in all of our best interests to escort Mr. Winters back to the station at once,” she said. Nobody argued with her.
We didn’t make it to the station for me to be processed. We didn’t even make it out of the bedroom before the killing started.
An artificial hiss echoed through the room and something glinted in the shadows behind the hulking grey creature. Shades of green and blue and red, slender and jagged like a dagger.
The stained glass blade slashed past Stone and sliced right through Hardingham’s swollen belly.
He flickered and cried out, white mist trailing the blade until it shattered against the wall. The fat ghost gagged, vomited white mist out of his mouth as he sank to the floor. He flickered and spilled like melting ice. His blood sizzled through the air.
Only then did I see the woman in the shadows. She wore a blindfold over her scarred face. Her face resembled a hideous mask — the cheekbones and nose all melted together. Permanent droplets of flesh beaded down her nose and cheeks and jaw only to harden, like a cooling candle.
Lady Constance Blisterfield.
With one hand, DI Stone waved the grounder at me. I screamed in pain as my spirit flickered, and was flung past the golem into the hallway. I’d never been on the receiving end of a grounder before. With the other hand, Stone removed her pistol and fired at Lady Constance. The golem lashed out with his great clay fist.
They were both too slow. Lady Constance had stepped back into the shadows and melted away with the darkness. The golem flicked a match and held it up against the wall while Lucy covered him with the pistol. Nothing.
Another hiss, like a gasp for air. Then Fortgang gurgled behind me, his red blood spattering through me to paint the golem’s back. I shrieked and dove at Lady Constance, hoping to pull her apart from the inside, not thinking about the stained glass blade she wielded. But she stepped back into the shadows and disappeared, and I went right through the wall into the next flat.
I could hear Fortgang’s pitiful pleas and prayers from the next flat as he died.
I growled, spun around, and dove through the wall again.
“Lump! Get him out of here!” Stone shouted. Trying to save my life, or my afterlife. I appreciated that, and wanted to save hers. I had just enough time to see DI Stone’s pale, blood sprinkled face, saw the eyes beneath her lenses go wide just before Lady Constance materialized behind her, raising her stained-glass dagger high.
I dove inside Stone’s body, throwing her to the floor. Lucky for me, the grounder was still clutched in her fist. Lady Constance’s dagger swung above us. Inside DI Stone, I could feel the air shift her blow.
“Dammit, Lazarus!” We crashed together on top of Fortgang’s twitching body. I pulled out of her, disoriented by the DI’s breathing and heartbeat and the pain that shot through her back.
Lump stepped forward, and swung at Lady Constance. She vanished again, and his blow crashed through the wall of my flat, knocking bricks down into the alley below.
“Get him out of here, Lump!” Lucy shouted as she got to her feet.
She pushed me again with the grounder, this time out the doorway.
She slapped the talisman into the golem’s big hand, and retrieved another pistol from somewhere. “Now!”
The golem hurtled down the staircase after me. Behind him, shots fired, wood and glass splintered. A scream. DI Stone.
I tried to go back, but the golem brought the grounder down in front of my face, and I rebounded off him, out into the street.
“We have to help her!” I screamed.
The golem shook his head and showed me the grounder, as if I needed reminding. I wondered if he was enjoying hitting me with it. But something in his stoic clay face told me he didn’t relish leaving DI Stone behind.
A carriage waited for us outside. I made for it, but Lump smacked the door and gestured at the driver to go, then beckoned me to follow him down an alley. I hesitated long enough to to hear the hiss again, and another scream. The driver slid from his seat and smashed into the cobblestones as the carriage rode on. Atop it, I could make out the thin, athletic form of Lady Constance Blisterfield.
I stared after her for a long moment, thinking about Neena, thinking about revenge. The Paranormal Patrol had just been torn apart.
I flew after the golem.
It was well after midnight, and so no respectable businesses were open. But Lump pushed open a door, spilling out a warm yellow light. He looked back at me, then nodded his head, indicating I follow him.
Inside, men and women sat astride chaise lounges, or pressed against walls, in various states of undress. They were all isolated — none of them together. None of the living, at least.
A woman giggled and stumbled past me, the expression on her face filled with desire as she staggered into an open room and collapsed on the bed. I didn’t need to see the spectral flickers moving beneath her flesh to realize I’d entered a ghost brothel. She ran her hands over her hips and stomach, then paused and looked over at me, surprised. Two ghosts slipped out of her, and slammed the door closed. A moment later, and the giggles and moans continued.
Across the room, a dark woman sat in a chair with a champagne flute. She crossed her legs and tilted her head at me, an invitation in her eyes.
A man in a tuxedo cut across the hallway and offered his hand to to me. I shook my head, and he smirked before leaving to debauch another ghost.
I’d never frequented this particular establishment, but I’d been to others like it. I realized that if I ever returned to one, it would be as a spirit, not as a man of flesh and blood, and felt a tremor of loss.
“Well, constable,” I said. “I’m afraid this is where you and I must part.”
Lump shook his head as he watched me float backward, a sad expression on his clay face.
The door clicked open behind me, and for just a moment, I’d swear the damned golem grinned.
Pain shot through my back, and I felt my spirit contract and pulse.
“I rather think we’ll keep you with us for a little bit longer, Lazarus Winters,” said DI Stone, lowering yet another grounder.
“Until you can tell me why the Blisterfields are in London, and how the hell you’re involved.”
Westminster Abbey. It all came back down to damned Westminster, and old Charlie Darwin’s bones. So many bones buried in Westminster, it’s a wonder that the Blisterfields would stop at Darwin’s. DI Stone wanted to mobilize not only as much of the Paranormal Patrol as possible, but also Scotland Yard. I did my best not to laugh at that, especially after all we’d just been through.
Stone’s shoulder had gone red with blood, but when she’d forced myself and Lump out of my flat, she’d also saved herself. Constance Blisterfield had abandoned her to give chase to us. I supposed it was a miracle that we’d all managed to escape. Dead men, I soon learned, tend to believe less and less in miracles.
“She just ripped apart your Paranormal Patrol,” I told Stone. “I’m worried if we involve more, it will only get them killed.”
Another spirit hovered beside me. Even without the goggles over his eyes, I recognized the long blond hair and the torn throat. “With respect, Mr. Winters,” rasped Fortgang’s ghost. “We’re the damned Paranormal Patrol. We don’t give up just because those bastards have hurt or killed us.”
“True,” said Stone. “But I’m curious to hear what Lazarus’s alternative is.”
It was cold in Westminster Abbey. The wind howled outside, and the walls seemed to shudder. I spent a not insubstantial amount of time searching the stained glass portraits for when Jesus visited the disciples His death and resurrection, but couldn’t find it.
The broken chunks of Darwin’s headstone gleamed with promise as the Blisterfields created their circle. There were seven of them — the five Blisterfields, their butler, and another servant they’d taken into their confidence. Lady Constance, with her scarred face, walked around the edge of the summoning circle, the stained glass dagger unsheathed. In her other hand, she gripped a salt crystal vial, stoppered to keep some poor unfortunate spirit trapped inside it.
I went over our plan and thought how fast I needed to move. On her own Lady Constance had decimated a Paranormal Patrol. She’d killed Fortgang, vanished Hardingham, and slaughtered the carriage driver.
She nearly killed DI Stone and myself, and I had no doubts she could do considerable damage to Constable Lump. She’d murdered Neena twice.
And this time, she’d brought her whole family.
Rage filled me as Lady Constance cooed at the trapped spirit inside the salt crystal vial. But I knew I had to be smart. Had to keep the element of surprise, or she and the rest of her family would scatter whatever was left of our spirits like chaff to the whirlwind.
I glanced at DI Stone, who nodded back at me. Time to fulfill the new resolution.
I didn’t forfeit our surprise. Even with all the heightened sense her blindfold provided, Lady Constance didn’t see me until I dove inside her.
I sifted Lady Constance’s mind with savage abandon.
I pushed back to the night of Neena’s death. Lady Constance wore the blindfold as she caught fire in the summoning circle, so I couldn’t see Neena as she died. I was grateful for that. But I could feel the dagger break off inside her, could feel the blood splash against my hands. Then, the flames danced up the dress and her body, while her skin bubbled and melted down. My flesh roasted, and I smelled the stench of burning hair. Lady Constance screamed while her parents and sisters shouted and tried to reach her. While Neena finished bleeding to death, alone and forgotten.
Later. No longer in a blindfold, but in bed. Lady Joy held her hand, said how pure and righteous Lady Constance’s heart and soul were. Lady Joy begged her not to be discouraged, not to despair.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
It must’ve worked. The burns coated Lady Constance’s face and body like misshapen Parkensins, but she wore them with the same pride she wore the blindfold as she bound a spirit in the summoning circle, then eviscerated him. Later, her parents praised her. That night, she’d concocted the scheme to steal Darwin’s bones, much to her family’s delight.
Finally, I found the night I died. The night she’d discovered Neena. An anti-Darwinist acquaintance had witnessed Neena outside Westminster Abbey. It hadn’t been hard to track her back to me from there. She’d been blindfolded with the shroud when her captive ghost delivered her to Neena and myself. I felt her body grow excited as she witnessed us in the throes of ghostgasm.
The ghost who’d helped hunt us must have noticed, and taken it as an invitation. He brushed against Lady Constance once, while I began to snore. Lady Constance’s heartbeat thumped and she allowed herself the briefest forbidden fantasy of his spectral lips brushing inside hers. Guilt and disgust swelled back inside her, and she lashed out at the spirit with the stained glass dagger, spilling his spectral blood through the air of my flat, thick with the smell of whiskey and burning wax and sex.
Neena heard something, and turned just as Constance advanced toward her, a salt crystal vial gripped in one hand, and the stained glass dagger in the other.
But Neena didn’t go quietly. She couldn’t save me. Constance Blisterfield saw to that, and took some satisfaction in Neena witnessing my death before bottling her in the salt crystal vial. Saving Neena for the great summoning the former scullery maid had helped inspire.
“Neena,” I screamed, my voice melting with Constance Blisterfield’s. She was still here. She hadn’t moved on.
I yanked the stopper out of the salt crystal vial, and Neena poured out.
Then I tore off Constance Blisterfield’s blindfold, and raised the stained glass dagger to my throat. To her throat. Through Lady Constance’s eyes, I saw her parents turn and gape at us in confusion, and then understanding. “Lay down your weapons, put out your candles,” I said in unison with Constance. “Or she dies, and becomes the very thing you most despise.”
Dammit, Lazarus, I could all but hear DI Stone hiss at me. You were supposed to convince them all to remove their blindfolds.
And that’s when it all went to hell.
Lord Algernon Blisterfield strutted across the Abbey’s stone floor, an unholy smile on his face.
“Surely, you do not suggest we fear death, or the dead. Were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not saved from the furnace? Was not a ram provided for Abraham once he bound and prepared his own son for sacrifice?”
“God will provide the ram,” Lady Blisterfield whispered, but it carried across the cathedral for me to hear. Gooseflesh prickled along Constance’s body.
They came at us, stained glass daggers raised. They came at their own daughter, ready to slaughter her, to lay her upon a stone altar as a blood-soaked offering. Constance and I stumbled backward as they advanced.
Two pistol shots sounded. A wet, red hole appeared in the butler’s head and he keeled backward. Lady Prudence fell as well, gripping her shoulder. DI Stone aimed her weapons and fired again. Lady Joy disappeared just before the muzzle flash. The other servant beside her wasn’t so lucky, or so quick. She jerked from the shot, and fell to the ground, unmoving.
Fortgang crashed inside Lady Blisterfield before she could vanish, and sent her sprawling, wrestling inside her flesh while she screamed prayers and supplications at him, but he forced her hands up, and tore the blindfold from her eyes.
Lump leapt between myself and Lord Blisterfield. The golem reached out with one great clay hand, and twisted the man’s fist. Bones snapped, and Lord Blisterfield screamed and fell to his knees. Lump plucked the dagger out of the man’s useless hand, and smashed it against the floor him to the floor.
Lady Joy stood over her mother, the stained glass dagger slick with blood. Inside the matriarch, I could see Fortgang writhing in pain.
“I will see you again in paradise, mother,” Lady Joy said. She drove the dagger into her mother’s back, skewering poor Fortgang’s spirit as she did so.
Lady Blisterfield’s spirit lifted out of the woman’s body, tears frozen in her eyes as she attempted to plead with her daughter. Lady Joy brought down the stained glass dagger, splitting the woman’s spirit in half.
DI Stone took aim at the young woman, but Lady Joy vanished just as the shot rang out.
I slid out of Lady Constance and reached toward Neena, hovering behind me. I said her name, wanted her to hear me call it, amidst the violence and the death and pain.
Neena’s eyes widened, and I realized what a stupid thing I’d done: abandoned Lady Constance and her weapon. Even without the blindfold, I didn’t want that woman at my back.
“No,” Neena screamed as she shot past me and rocketed through Lady Constance. “Not my Lazarus. You won’t kill him again.”
Lady Constance swayed and staggered as Neena pulled through her. Then she fell to her knee, and vomited, coating the stained glass dagger she still gripped in bile.
Then Lady Joy appeared, twisting a blade at Neena and me as she reached for Lady Constance with her other hand. I wondered what her eyes looked like beneath the blindfold. Lady Constance had just enough time to wipe her mouth with the back of her hand and sneer at Neena and I. Then, they were gone.
They appeared once more, Lady Joy slashing at Constable Lump even as Lady Constance tugged at her eldest sister. They did not reappear again.
I tried to hold Neena, to put her in my arms, but we just slipped through each other, our forms spilling over one another’s. Slipping through.
“Lazarus!” she said, taking in my spectral form. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “You can protect me now that I’m dead.”
DI Stone sent Paranormal Patrol agents to Blisterfield Manor, but the building appears abandoned besides the servants, many who were taken into custody. I’m still not quite comfortable with the Paranormal Patrol, but I don’t run when I see them anymore, and I’ve come to appreciate DI Stone and her Constable Lump. They haven’t found the Blisterfield Sisters yet, but she tells me she’s confident something will turn up.
I don’t know what the coming year holds for me. I don’t know how to live now that I’m dead. But I know I have a new afterlife ahead of me, just waiting for me to make and break all kinds of promises.
I kissed Neena Singh on the second day of the New Year. DI Stone offered us her body, just for a kiss. If we wanted something more, she said, we’d have to find a willing host.
It was a good kiss.