Floats the Dark Shadow
by Yves Fey
Young American painter Theodora Faraday struggles to become an artist in Belle Époque Paris. She’s tasted the champagne of success, illustrating poems for the Revenants, a group of poets led by her adored cousin, Averill.
When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves. Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass.
Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children.
Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.
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Michel Arrests Viperine at Leo Taxil’s Confession-Floats the Dark Shadow
Ignoring both Taxil and his faux monk, Michel turned his attention to Vipèrine, who had chosen a seat very near the podium. …. The diabolist was at least a plausible suspect—quite capable of provoking some drama to put himself center stage—but was he capable of true villainy? There was little information to be had on him before his appearance in Paris five years ago, not even his real name.
….Michel recognized someone else who provoked his curiosity. Theodora Faraday was sitting with the Revenants. He had seen the tall blonde roaming about Montmartre even before he interviewed her. Tonight she wore a gown of midnight blue satin. The deep hue set off her fair skin and pale, gleaming hair. She seemed far too dynamic for most of that coterie, literary aesthetes who lived on their nerves. He had read the premiere issue of their magazine, which had created quite a stir. There were several striking illustrations, but Michel did not remember them being by a woman. He must have assumed Theo to be a man. Or perhaps she assumed a different male nom de plume, as he’d seen her assume male dress. Quite illegal and quite flattering. She had very long legs.
“Assuming the guise of Miss Vaughan,” Taxil exclaimed, “I revealed the existence of secret rooms hidden within the Masonic temple in Charleston, Virginia. In one, a statue of Eve awaits. When a Templar Mistress is especially pleasing to Master Satan, this statue takes on life. Eve becomes the demon Astarte and bestows kisses on the chosen one.”
A tidbit in the grand tradition of Leo Taxil, ecclesiastical pornographer, Michel sneered silently. Lesbian demons on parade.
“Despicable charlatan!” the abbot cried.
“No priest will take your confession!”
Taxil moved on to the infamous forges buried beneath Gibraltar and fed by hellfire, and the outbursts faded. The opposing side brooded silently, which Michel thought boded ill. He quietly rose from his seat and stood against the back wall, free to move fast if there was trouble. His gaze roved over the gathering as Taxil embarked on a new tale of Vatican conspiracy. “After Jeanne d’Arc was burned at the stake, the executioner discovered that the heart of our heroine had not been consumed. He threw more burning pitch and sulphur upon it, but the heart would not burn! Finally, in desperation, Jeanne’s heart was tossed in the Seine.” Taxil raised a pudgy finger to punctuate his words. “Be sure that one day a mysterious angel will carry that heart, not to France, but to Italy, and Jeanne d’Arc will be canonized by the Pope. French pilgrims must henceforth go to Rome to view this miraculously retrieved heart.”
Odd. One of the Revenants had risen and was urged back to his seat by Theodora Faraday. Did the mockery of the Maid anger him? Many who cared nothing for Luciferian plots or Vatican conspiracy might still take offence at having France’s beloved heroine derided.
Enamored of his own voice, Taxil rumbled on, “Alas, the final success of my hoax was endangered by a Mason who declared these bizarre claims must be a Jesuit plot. Unfortunate Jesuits! I had sent them a fragment of Moloch’s tail as evidence of Palladism!”
In spite of himself, Michel’s curiosity was stirred. What had Taxil actually sent—mummified crocodile? Chief Cochefert would be captivated with this morsel. Personally, Michel preferred Taxil’s story of his first malicious prank—false tales of ravenous sharks hiding in sea caves off Marseilles.
“Fearing my magnificent creation would be suffocated by the evil oubliettes of the Vatican, I have chosen to confess.” With a grand gesture, Taxil proclaimed, “I have committed infanticide. Palladism, the child of my mind, is utterly dead. Its father has murdered it.” Taxil finished with a bow. Silence hovered for a moment, then cacophony reigned. Applause, laughter, jeers, hoots, and accusations rose in the air like myriad squawking birds. The abbot stood on his chair, gesturing for all the faithful to gather round, but the noise drowned out whatever he was saying.
Vipèrine rose, his height emphasized by his theatrical robes. The gleam of their gold embroidery caught the light and drew the attention of the audience. He lifted his chin truculently, his blue beard pointing at Taxil. “There is only one hoax—and that hoax is that Satan has no worshippers.”
Weaving through the stream of the infuriated leaving the auditorium, Michel moved swiftly as Taxil called out his answer, “Ah, monsieur, I acknowledge that he has his worshippers. But that does not mean he exists.”
Vipèrine swirled his cape, then flung up his hands. Fire burst from his fingertips. A flaming object winged like a bat sailed to the stage and exploded with spurts of flame and noxious spirals of black and yellow smoke. Screams of panic filled the hall—cries of “Bomb!” and “Fire!” Taxil ducked behind the podium. Gendarmes rushed to guard him. Still twenty feet away, Michel saw that no fire had actually ignited, though the smoke rose in sulphureous plumes.
Chaos reigned as the remaining audience rushed for the doors. Vipèrine raised his arms again, flames flashing from his fingers, and Michel guessed the next smoke cloud would cover his escape. Stepping into range, he aimed a hard lateral kick, driving his heel into Vipèrine’s thigh. Vipèrine reeled back with a snarl of surprise and pain. The chemical ball he held bounced across the floor, hissing loudly and leaking darkness.
“Police,” Michel said. “Surrender yourself.”
No novice to savate, Vipèrine aimed a savage kick at his ribs. Michel blocked and countered with a low undercut to the shins. Vipèrine lurched forward, grabbed a chair for balance, then swung it sideways at Michel’s head. Michel knocked it to the floor, but Vipèrine’s back leg sweep tumbled him. Michel rolled as he hit the floor and came up into a crouch. Vipèrine aimed another kick at his head. Michel dodged sideways, but Vipèrine’s foot grazed his face. A blaze of pain erupted on his cheek. The metallic tang of blood filled his nostrils. Vipèrine had razors set in his shoes. With cold fury, Michel rose and spun into a reverse kick that sent Vipèrine staggering. Another slammed him hard against the wall. Moving in, Michel twisted Vipèrine’s arm behind his back, pinning him in place as he drew his ligote and pulled it tight around Vipèrine’s wrist.
“You are under arrest for inciting a riot and assaulting an officer.” Blood spilled down from his cheek and onto his neck.
“Let me go now,” Vipèrine snarled, “and perhaps I will let you live.”
Disgusted with the melodrama, Michel dragged him up the aisle and into the lobby.
Yves Fey has MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing at twelve.
She’s been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, creator of ceramic beasties, writing teacher, illustrator, and has won prizes for her chocolate desserts. Her current obsession is creating perfumes inspired by her Parisian characters.
Yves lives in Albany with her mystery writer husband and their cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Bronte Sisters.
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