A corpse turns up with strange marks on its neck, key people in the town are disappearing – and who are those pale, sharp-toothed strangers the townsfolk can’t seem to notice?
For Sheriff Clayton Harris, there can be only one conclusion. But how can one lone lawman take on the nest of bloodsuckers that has taken root in his town? With the help of an undead sidekick, of course. Come inside and meet Sheriff Harris and Sherwin Williams, the sheriff/vampire duo that joins efforts to save the imperiled town of Nosfort from its impending doom.
Hop on a thrill-ride with Sherwin and Harris in an entertaining combination of mystery, biting and fun. Enter the small East Coast town of Nosfort in The Clayton Chronicles!
NOSFORT, 1971. – SUMMER
Danny Tremain walked intently down Main Street, passing the corner of Chelsea and ignoring Reader Street altogether. He strolled past the candy shop and paid absolutely no heed to the display window in the ToyLand store at the corner of Ashwood Street.
This lack of a pause in front of his preferred loitering spot, where he could gaze for hours at the newly arrived toys and novelties, was pretty unusual. Normally, he would waste away the hours staring at all those toys he could never afford to buy on his own, until its owner, Mr. DeSalle, more often than not a very patient man, gently shooed him away with an impatient gesture of dismissal.
Danny Tremain, ten-years old, would later return to his favorite spot after he dealt with the important matter he had in mind. He was heading to the sheriff’s office to do the right thing. It was a good thing that other kids of his age weren’t with him at the time; they would call him a goody-two-shoes, do-gooder, et cetera, et cetera, and whatever silly names they could come up with for a person who knew his civic duty.
Daniel was glad that he hadn’t met any of his school buddies… yet. What he had to tell the sheriff was his personal secret and no one else’s. So he relished the temporary possession of this dark secret, until the time came to disclose it to someone in Authority.
He had been moseying around the industrial back lot in Elm Street, hoping to find something interesting to do near Hector’s Junkyard since it was mid-summer, Friday, five days past the Fourth of July and school was out. Bored out of his skull, he had peeked in the narrow greenbelt that bordered that crappy Latino scavenger’s lot. There was a small ditch and a drain pipe there, well concealed by the greenery, and Dan used to hang around that place to see what the small current may bring up. It was shady and cool, particularly during these off-school summer days, and he usually made small but interesting discoveries. On one occasion he found a five-dollar bill, which he happily—but wisely—spent on Marvel Comics, two of them each week. On another, a golden chain with a small heart-shaped locket that held the picture of three beautiful girls; he had intended to give this to his mom on her last birthday, but this particular item generally gave him the chills for unknown reasons, and he had briefly reconsidered this notion, saving it for the next Christmas. And in another instance he had found in that ditch a dead, bloated beaver. For Dan, since he had never seen one up-close except in school textbook drawings, it was a very interesting opportunity to thoroughly examine it as best as he could; of course, all this from the safe distance afforded by a long pointed stick he used to turn the dead rodent around.
Today, Dan went near Hector’s Junkyard, and when he entered the greenbelt, he suddenly got more than he had bargained for. He had found a…
Now Daniel stood in front of the sheriff’s office at the corner of Main and Sycamore. It was a red brick and mortar two-storied building, with two big windowpanes in front. Stenciled across each, in a graceful arc of letters, was the word ‘Sheriff’. Directly below were small letters that read, in a less ornate manner, ‘N.P.D.’ Daniel nodded approvingly at the sign and then climbed the three front steps, pulled the door open and entered the sheriff’s office.
* * *
Being inside the sheriff’s office was truly a major source of disappointment for young Daniel. It didn’t resemble any police station he had ever seen on TV. Three desks, each one complemented by a set of file cabinets, and a dozen wooden chairs pretty much summed up the furniture content of its first floor. There was a wrought iron spiral staircase climbing to the top floor of the building and next to it was a barred door that prevented access to a wooden staircase, leading to the lower darkness of a small detention block. Danny felt a certain curiosity about it and briefly considered asking Sheriff Clayton to let him have a look-see—after Dan had told him about what he had found, of course.
Danny quickly glanced at the nameplates on each desk and noticed that Sheriff Clayton’s spot was empty and so was Deputy Hugh Pritchett’s seat. Regrettably, Cliff Golan’s wasn’t. If there was a Sheriff Deputy that ever hated kids as much as Golan did, Danny would certainly like to meet that hypothetical law officer: he’d be worthy of an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Damn, Dan would even buy a ticket to see a guy like that.
Cliff Golan was sitting at the front desk that served as a reception area, with his feet propped on the desktop while reading the Nosfort Gazette. Danny knew that if Sheriff Clayton once more caught Golan doing that, there would be hell to pay. Sheriff Clayton Harris was truly a professional cop and really didn’t like it when one of his subordinates acted in such an unprincipled manner.
As soon as the entrance door shut at his back, Danny noticed that Deputy Clifford Golan had cast an unconcerned glance over the edge of his Gazette and then had hurriedly sunk behind the pages of the open newspaper, acting as if Dan was the sort of trouble that would disappear from sight if you simply ignore it.
Danny approached Golan’s desk and made a guttural sound with his throat to call the guy’s attention. Golan practically shielded himself with the Gazette and Danny had to resort to this throaty sound, not just once but twice more, before the Deputy finally dropped his reading material with an exasperated gesture and deigned to ask him what he wanted.
“What do you want, kid?” Deputy Golan inquired, with such an emphasis on ‘kid’ it nearly implied that being underage was a crime deserving capital punishment.
“I want to talk with Sheriff Clayton, sir,” Danny replied as courtesy required, fighting the mercifully brief urge to provide to his own ‘sir’ all the creeping ooziness his actual mood was suggesting.
“Sheriff’s up at the second floor, in the archives, kid,” Golan said, pointing his thumb at the spiral staircase.
“Can I go up and talk with him? It’s important,” the kid asked, straightening his spine to show he was serious about it.
Golan eyed him suspiciously. “Nah—you can’t. It’s against regulations. You better take a seat and wait,” he said, thumbing a row of three wooden chairs set against the opposing wall. He cocked his thumb twice as if it was the deadliest weapon in the world and then he raised the Gazette to isolate himself from Danny’s sight. In Golan’s humble opinion, if there ever were a snottier kid than Danny Tremain, he’d gladly buy a ticket to see him.
* * *
Sheriff Clayton Harris loved his job and that was why he was in the archives upstairs. He wasn’t there trying to track down some relevant information amongst the dusty file cabinets, but making an important personal phone call. With all the insistence he placed on professionalism while lecturing his personnel, he didn’t dare to make this call on the main phone line while sitting at his desk—lest Hugh or Clifford overheard him—so he climbed upstairs, claiming that he was going to rummage through some old files.
Earlier that morning, as he walked from home like he did every day, he had passed in front of Sal’s Basement, the local collectible items store. Sal Schneider traded in antique baseball cards, odd plaster statues from the twenties and thirties, and old comic books.
Today, his storefront sported in the shopping window a rare Vault of Horror #26 that seemed to be in mint condition, nary a crease on the cover or a dog-ear in any of its corners. All day long, Clayton had tried to get hold of Sal on the phone to work some kind of deal over that particular issue.
Danny Tremain, who was sitting one level below, could have told him a thing or two about this obscure yearning, since this sort of compulsive and nearly obsessive behavior was more fitting to a pre-adolescent kid than a thirty-eight-year-old male, who was also the town’s sheriff. Many an eyebrow in town would rise and many town council brows would frown upon discovery of his secret little interest in EC horror comics.
Since it would look bad at the next fund appropriation meeting, up to the archives he went and used the phone extension that was there, being careful to bill the charges to his own home phone.
At last, Sal’s familiar voice answered after a long series of beeping tones. “Sal’s Basement. Sal speaking. How can I help you?”
“Hello, Sal, this is Sheriff Harris.”
“Hello, Clayton,” Sal said. “How are you doing?”
“Quite well, Sal, old chum. Say—did my eyes fool me or did you put a Vault #26 in your display window this morning?”
Sal’s tone of voice suddenly shifted to a more businesslike quality. Clayton Harris could mentally picture him, greedily rubbing one hand against the other.
“Yes—what about it?” Sal said.
“You know that my son Jonathan loves to collect that sort of stuff—he keeps pestering me about the missing issues of his growing collection and Vault #26 seems to be at the top of his major priorities lately,” Sheriff Harris said… and here he started to depart more and more from the truth. Yes, he had a seventeen-year-old son, but Jonathan couldn’t care less for EC comics. Sarah, Clayton’s wife, and Jonathan would shake their heads in disbelief over his vehement departure from the truth. After a short round of bargaining, Sal finally named a two-figure sum that Sheriff Harris found reasonable.
“Would you mind putting it away in your ‘reserved’ box until I drop by a bit later, Sal?” Clayton asked.
Sal agreed to do that and mentioned that it had been a pleasure to do business with him, just a couple of seconds before Harris set the phone receiver back in its cradle.
Sheriff Harris headed toward the circular staircase, while he pulled out his wallet to check on its contents. He nodded appreciatively at the fact that he could cover what Sal asked for the magazine without any major trouble, save that he would be hard-pressed for cash for the next couple of days until payday finally came. Sarah would kill him for this out-of-schedule buy, but that was the price one had to pay for being a knowledgeable collector of memorabilia.
He started his descent of the stairs, clanking down each metal step and whistling a happy tune.
* * *
Harris’s high spirits, however, were short lived. When he reached the lower end of the twisting staircase, he noticed two things. Clifford Golan was shuffling stuff on top of his desk, which meant he had been putting his hoofs over it again. The second was that Danny Tremain was sitting, with that usual stiff and righteous stance of his, on one of those terribly uncomfortable wooden chairs set against the opposite wall. Although the kid was already big enough to set his feet on the ground while sitting, he had managed to find a position that allowed him to dangle and swing them slowly, while softly scuffing the floor with the tips of his sneakers. He looked like a kid two years younger bored by an unjustifiable wait.
Sheriff Clayton momentarily stood at the bottom of the stairs, unsure of how to proceed. Cliff looked particularly irked, most probably by the soft scraping sound that Danny’s feet made—and in this situation it would be bad form to address the kid first. Harris shrugged and asked his Deputy what was up.
“The Tremain kid wants to talk to you, Sheriff,” Golan reported succinctly. Knowing how much Clifford disliked young children, Harris limited himself to replying with a shrewd nod. He then shifted his attention to the young boy.
“Hello, Danny—what’s up?” he asked.
Danny stopped his feet from swinging and reasserted himself in that insufferably upright demeanor of his that seemed to irk everyone else. Oh, boy, Harris thought. This kid’s gonna be a major pain in the ass when he’s a grown-up.
“I have something important to tell you, Sheriff.”
“Well, go ahead Danny.”
Danny Tremain gave Deputy Clifford Golan quite a sour look. Harris sensed Golan stiffen considerably under that stare and sighed inwardly.
“Clifford—will you be a sport and go to Betsy’s Luncheon and bring me a coffee,” Harris said, pausing to eye young master Danny. “And an ice-cream soda for our young visitor here. What flavor, Dan? Chocolate?”
“Vanilla would be nice.”
Vanilla, oh, great. I should have that figured out, Harris thought.
Clifford harrumphed noticeably; his face was flushed by the subdued anger of being suddenly turned into an errand boy, especially when it turned out that he had to bring a treat for a ten-year-old kid. Nevertheless, he got off his chair and headed toward the exit door.
Harris smiled as he heard the door slam shut.
“Ok, that will get him out from our hair for awhile. Step into my office, Danny.”
The ‘Sheriff’s Office’ being the desk farther from the door and the one sided by more file cabinets than the other two, Danny sat in one of the chairs facing it. The kid curiously examined Harris’s nameplate for a second or two and then took the initiative.
“Sheriff, I was bumming around Hector’s Junkyard and found something that you must see.” The kid said this with such a serious and straight face that Harris had to briefly fight the urge to laugh. That certainly would look like bad form.
“Were you alone, Danny?”
The kid nodded wordlessly.
“You know that kids your age shouldn’t be hanging around that area alone, Danny,” Harris commented, matter-of-factly. “It’s one of the most lonesome spots in town and there’s no one at a shouting distance in case you get into trouble—so it’s best if you take a few friends along.”
Danny nodded again.
The sound of the door opening called the attention of both males, Sheriff and kid, toward it. Clifford had returned from Betsy’s Luncheon with the coffee and the ice-cream soda. Damn, he was fast!
“Thanks, Clifford,” Clayton said.
“Thanks, Deputy Golan,” muttered Danny.
Cliff scowled at them both. Then he returned to his desk and buried himself again beneath his copy of the Nosfort Gazette.
Sheriff Harris had pulled out a notepad and a pencil, and was readying himself to take notes, just in case Danny Tremain had stumbled onto something really important. Nosfort was a town caught in the middle of being a big town and a small city, and almost nothing that truly mattered happened there, but you never knew. “Will you tell me now what have you found, Danny? Please?” he asked.
Danny Tremain was noisily slurping the last remains of his vanilla ice-cream soda through the straw, making Harris wonder if the little holier-than-thou twerp had a penchant for the dramatic.
Sheriff Clayton Harris nearly dropped his pencil when Danny finally said what he had come to say: “I found a dead body among the bushes, sir.”