Lie Still the Dead by Matthew Heilman and Ryan Henry is a standalone sequel to Come Forth in Blood, and introduces a mysterious, unpredictable, and cruel vampire driven by spite and a madness that spans the centuries. Combining modern police procedurals, dark academia, and atmospheric gothic horror, this novel promises to leave readers shaken to their core.

Lie Still The Dead is now available in Hardcover, Paperback, and eBook formats from Stygian Press.

Did you miss the Chapter 1 preview? Catch up by reading it here!


Chapter 2

“Are there any spirits present?” Dr. Veronica Upham assessed the heavy silence. “We ask you to give us a sign that you are near.”

The middle-aged medium and her three associates were assembled around a large circular table. The chandelier above them was turned off. Ivory candles had been positioned around the well-furnished den.

“Give us a sign that you are near,” Veronica repeated. Her thin fingers were spread out beside a stack of paper and a row of sharpened pencils.

As she waited for a response, the professor reached up and adjusted the collar of her silk blouse. Her grandmother’s pearl necklace lay against her chest, reflecting the light of the candles.

Peter Tully sat to Veronica’s right. His dark eyes and thick hair made him look younger than fifty-four. At Veronica’s left was Peter’s wife Janice. Her delicate frame and bright eyes were inviting. Few would’ve guessed she spent her weekends dabbling in the occult. Eric Sandoval sat at the foot of the table facing their host. At twenty-six, he was the youngest of the group.

The iridescent light of the candles bathed the room in a luminous golden glow. Several tea lights flickered before each of the four participants and cast long shadows on their stern faces.

Within the smaller ring of glowing flames, an antique handbell had been placed alongside a pair of heavy brass candleholders. Two tapered candles were steadied within the narrow pedestals and towered above the rest. Beside these items, a hand-held digital voice recorder lay face up on the table’s polished surface. A tiny red light indicated the device was recording their session.

When Peter arrived earlier that Saturday evening, he had set up a tripod at the far end of the dining room. He adjusted the lens of the digital camera to focus on Veronica. In the event of any anomalies, Peter made sure the dining room and a small portion of the living room were also in frame.

“Are there any spirits who wish to speak to us?”

There was no response to Veronica’s query. With an encouraging nod, Peter motioned for her to continue.

The auburn-haired woman forced a quick smile in return and then stared straight ahead. She closed her hazel eyes and listened to the room as it began to settle.

Although the group held eventful circles in the past, their recent sittings had been intense and unpredictable. This was a direct result of Veronica’s deepening commitment to the spirit world. What began as an eccentric hobby born from her professional study of Victorian literature was now a serious focus and concern.

As well, a series of terrifying experiences with Edison Raymer—her former colleague and lover—had permanently altered Veronica’s perception of the world. She and Raymer witnessed incredible things, but there was still so much more she failed to comprehend. After discovering some of the answers, Veronica was driven to learn all that she could about the mysterious and arcane secrets of the world. And she was now free to do so withouthaving to endure the egotism and condescension of Edison Raymer.

After another moment of silence, the air became heavier. The candle flames burned steady and low, as if frozen on their wicks. The deceptive quiet felt as if it was on the verge of disruption.

“Give us a sign that you are near.” Veronica paused and let the stillness envelop her.

Peter Tully’s eyes narrowed behind the rims of his spectacles. Eric remained captivated by the candles at the center of the table.

Veronica felt a faint breeze flit across her knuckles. The pair of votive candles before her seemed to flicker. She closed her eyes and made a concerted effort to absorb the energy stirring throughout the room.

Something’s definitely happening.

The temperature began to drop. Eric leaned forward with his forearms braced against the table. The shadows seemed to draw closer around them. Janice raised her head and studied the expressions of her husband and the pale-faced medium beside her.

Veronica straightened her rigid posture as the small bell at the center of the table emitted a soft and resonant ting.

Janice gasped. Her eyes were riveted to the bell.

Veronica’s heart raced and she tilted her head upward to survey the air around them. She spoke with greater command and authority.

“I’m addressing the entity who wishes to speak to us.” Veronica’s keen eyes searched the perimeter of the dining room. “Did you just ring our bell? Please. Knock on our table. Twice for yes, and once for no.”

The table was struck with two sharp raps. Janice flinched as the faint vibrations spread beneath her fingers. Mindful not to break the circle, Eric leaned back in his chair and ducked his head to peek under the table. He cast a suspicious glance in the direction of Peter Tully. The older man shook his head at Eric’s implication.

“Thank you.” Veronica obliged the unseen presence and took a sharpened pencil in her right hand. She crossed with her left and slid a blank sheet of paper in front of her.

“If I were to write on this paper, will you try to give us a message?”

After a short pause, a single knock erupted from Eric’s end of the table. His mouth opened in surprise. “That wasn’t me!” His eyes darted from the face of Peter to Janice and then back to Veronica.

“You will not write for us?”

A more violent knock rattled the surface of the table. Veronica glanced at her pencils to discover two of them had been broken in half.

Peter noticed the splintered yellow pencils in front of the professor. He swallowed hard and took a cleansing breath.

“Do you still wish to communicate with us?” Veronica asked in a shaky tone.

Another harsh rap broke the silence, causing each of the adepts to jump in their seats. They glanced at each other in terror and looked to the medium for direction.

Veronica was ill at ease by the immediacy of their results. In the past, it took a fair bit of pleading to receive even the slightest response. This time, it was as if the spirit had been lurking somewhere around them before the séance began.

Something isn’t right.

The anxious medium carefully studied the expressions of her colleagues. Each of them appeared to be as perplexed and unsettled as she.

Maybe it’s Eric?

He’s only been with us for a month or so.

But the reserved bookseller sat with his palms flat against the table. His jaw was taut behind his scruffy beard. When he felt Veronica’s inquisitive gaze, he raised his eyes with a pleading look.

“It wasn’t me,” he whispered. “I swear.”

“So what do we do now?” Janice turned to Veronica, then to her husband.

“I don’t know,” Peter replied. He glanced up and let his eyes sweep along the edges of the ceiling. “Do you think it’s still here?”

“You can’t feel that?” Eric was incredulous. “It’s definitely still here!”

“You’re right.” Janice nodded. “But what is still here?”

Veronica winced and began to tremble.

None of them were prepared for this.

They have no idea what’s really out there.

Just like I didn’t know. Until Edison showed me.

She cleared her throat and hoped to maintain her outward composure.

This world is haunted by cruel, malicious, and terrible things. Things that are calculated and hide their faces in the dark. Things that we’ll never understand.

“Ronnie?” Janice addressed the medium.

Things that can get inside our minds.

“Ronnie, are you listening?”

Things that can transform us into monsters.

Veronica was assailed by memories of a tall man with an angular close-cropped haircut. His face was contorted in rage. His eyes were black with hatred. Edison Raymer bent over him. He raised a heavy hammer above his head and swung it down. The silver stake plunged deep into the vampire’s chest.

Stop it, Veronica.

She remembered kneeling on the ground where she and Raymer buried the body of Fenton Luttrell, Jr. Her stomach churned when she recalled the cunning eyes of Laura McCoy.

Concentrate, goddamn it!

“Ronnie!” Janice called out again and finally captured her attention. “Try to channel it. Maybe this time it’ll work?”

Veronica shifted in her seat and steeled herself against her memories. “Put your hands back on the table. All of you,” she ordered. “Keep the circle unbroken.”

The medium nudged the writing utensils away and placed her palms against the table. She closed her eyes and exhaled. Her breast began to swell and recede, until she developed a slow and steady rhythm. The members of the circle watched her. In a matter of minutes, the lulling cadence of their deliberate breathing rose and fell in time with Veronica’s respirations.

The cold seeped from every corner of the room. The flames of the taper candles at the center of the table weakened and fluttered. Janice’s eyes widened as the color of the flames turned from bright orange to blue. “Something’s happening. Look! The candles!”

“Stay focused, Janice!” Eric warned.

Each of the ivory pillar candles around Professor Upham’s dining room were snuffed out one after the other. Peter shuddered, and Janice let out a low cry.

A soft wind swept across the face of the table and extinguished the remaining candles. The room was plunged into darkness.

“Keep calm.” Veronica’s dry voice wafted through the gloom. Peter slid his sweaty fingers forward and clasped the medium’s hand. She jumped at the unexpected pressure.

Before their eyes, two distinct blue flames arose from the votive candles in front of the medium.

Black dread crept over Veronica Upham as the room seemed to swarm with moving shadows. Her vision blurred and her face felt numb. She could no longer feel her fingers or the surface of the table.

Just give in to it. You’ve seen worse. You’ve faced worse.

They’re coming to you now, so you need to listen to them.

Isn’t this what you’ve always wanted?

Veronica bowed her head and surrendered to the energy gathering around her. She began to roll her head in a slow circular motion. Several minutes passed as she let herself drift deeper into the trance. The participants of the séance observed her with curiosity. They could feel an aura of anticipation and unrest in the air.

Within her mind, Veronica improvised a steady yet simple mantra. Come unto me, Come into me. Come unto me, Come into me. Come unto me…

Before long, she felt a presence looming close beside her. It yearned to approach her, but hesitated—as if frightened.

Come into me.

“Mommy?”

Janice gasped as Veronica spoke aloud in an unfamiliar tone. After a few seconds of stunned silence, Peter took the lead and addressed the presence.

“What is your name?” he asked.

Veronica refused to look at Peter. She shifted in her chair and shook her head from side to side. She stared straight ahead, her gaze passing through Eric Sandoval.

“Can you please tell us your name?”

Her response was fragmented and delayed.

“Not sup— not … supposed … strangers.”

The medium spoke with the unmistakable quaver of a young child.

“We’re friends.” Peter assured the spirit. “Don’t be afraid. You can tell us your name.”

“Tyler,” the voice said.

“And how old are you, Tyler?”

The voice faltered before revealing its age.

“Seven.”

“Was that you who rang our bell before?”

“No.”

“Did you knock on our table?”

“I don’t think so?”

“Did you see who did?”

“No.”

“Can you see us from where you are, Tyler?”

“Yes.”

“Where are you, son?”

“I don’t know. I want my mommy.”

“Is there anyone with you?”

The voice was silent.

“Besides us, what do you see?”

Veronica opened her eyes. She raised her eyebrows as an expression of confusion spread across her face. “I got lost,” the voice finally managed.

“Where did you get lost?”

“In—in—in the woods.”

“The woods?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you alone in the woods?”

The boy once again hesitated to reply.

“No.” Veronica’s face took on a ghastly and terrified expression. “The lady!”

“What lady?”

“In the woods!”Tears began to stream down Veronica’s cheeks. “There’s a lady in the woods!”

“What’s the lady doing?”

“Peter,” Janice begged. “Please stop.”

Eric glanced at the couple, and then back at Veronica. “Keep going.”

“What does the lady look like? What is she doing?”

“Damn it, Peter. That’s enough!” Janice dug her nails deep into her palms. “Stop it!”

But Peter was enthralled. He watched with wide eyes as Veronica’s body began to quake violently in the chair.

“What is the lady doing?” Peter demanded. He leaned forward in anticipation of a reply.

“She’s—she’s—” the voice trembled. “Mommy?”

“What is… what is your mother doing to you, Tyler?”

“She’s not my mommy!” the voice sobbed, drawing out each of the words in sorrow and fear.

“What does she look like, Tyler? Tell me what you see!”

Without warning, the medium let out a panicked scream. The shrill and woeful cries of the hyperventilating child rebounded against the walls until Veronica shrieked in her own anguished voice.

A cold rush of wind tore through the room and knocked one of the tall candles askew. Peter sank against his chair as his wife stared on in terror. Eric felt the frigid blast of stale air rush past him. He failed to see the flitting shadow sweep across the table, but the unwholesome feeling that accompanied the departing presence was impossible to ignore.

Veronica lay face down on the table. Her breathing was shallow and erratic. Janice moved to rouse the medium from her trance but thought twice about jarring her awake too soon. She had little time to think before she was overcome with nausea.

“Something… something smells damp. Or… or moldy?”

“Like dead leaves,” Eric confirmed. “You can smell it too?”

Peter sat motionless and stared at the corner of the dining room. His eyes had glazed over, and he spoke not a word.

“Peter?” his wife called out. “Are you alright?”

“Fine,” he responded. He turned his head toward Janice, but immediately glanced back at the corner behind Veronica.

“Peter, what is it? What did you see?”

“Nothing. Just… nothing. Forget about it.”

A discomfiting silence fell over the bewildered members of the circle. Within a few minutes, the negative energy throughout the room had subsided, and the atmosphere became calm. Veronica’s body slumped back into her chair. Her eyes slowly fluttered open. Still short of breath, she raised a trembling hand to swipe the damp strands of auburn hair from her face. The medium looked around the room with a confused and disoriented expression.

The wary participants slid their numb hands toward themselves and leaned back in silence. None of them, however, moved to stand.

“Veronica,” Eric spoke up. “You need to close the circle.”

At first, she didn’t respond. Her expression was blank, and her teeth appeared to be chattering.

“Ronnie, listen to me,” Eric commanded. “You cast the circle, so it’s best you close it.” He looked to Janice as she bit her lower lip. “Otherwise, you might be putting each of us at risk.”

Veronica lifted her right hand and placed her palm outward toward the east. She then swept her left hand through the air in a sharp cutting motion. She turned her bloodshot eyes in the direction of Peter. “What the hell just happened here?”

Peter rose from the table without answering her. He walked toward the video camera and switched off the device. He then slammed his palm against the wall and spun the plastic dial to its maximum setting. Veronica flinched as the bright light of the chandelier stung her eyes.

Janice staggered to her feet. Her chair scraped across the hardwood floor and she laid a gentle hand on Veronica’s shoulder. The medium was unsure if Janice hoped to comfort her or steady herself.

As if suspended in a dream, Veronica watched the others move around her. She felt drained and couldn’t find the will to rise from the chair. She watched Janice extinguish the rest of the candles with a brass snuffer. Her eyes then wandered to Eric, who stood beside Peter. The two were whispering to one another. Peter’s arms were crossed as he stole a glimpse in her direction.

Veronica closed her eyes. As she sat slumped in the chair, tuning out the noise created by the others, she could hear the mocking voice of Edison Raymer.

What exactly are you tapping into?

Ironically, a loud knock on the table startled Veronica from her daze. She glanced up at Janice and Peter, who stood crowded around her.

“You OK, Ronnie?” Janice withdrew her fist from the tabletop. “You’ve been out of it for a while now.”

“Should we check and see if she had a seizure or something?” Eric asked.

“Do I look like a doctor to you?” Peter replied. His arms were still crossed, and his face was deathly pale. Veronica noticed he was shaking.

“Well, we can’t just leave her like—”

“I’m fine.” Veronica used the edge of the table to push herself up from the chair. She glanced at each of them until her eyes stopped on Janice. “How long was I out?”

“I don’t know, maybe half an hour?”

“I can’t… I can barely remember anything,” Veronica admitted. “What happened after—”

“It’ll be on the video.” Peter nodded. “All of it.” He covered his mouth to stifle a sudden cough.

Janice gave her husband a strange look. Eric lowered his eyes and shoved his hands into the pockets of his hoodie.

“Well, I guess it’s pretty late,” Janice said. “Why don’t you give us a call tomorrow afternoon? Maybe we can come by sometime this week and go over the video with you?”

“Sure,” Veronica said. “That’d be great.”

They’re terrified.

What the fuck is going on? They’ll barely even look at me.

Peter gave a curt nod to Veronica and led his wife through the living room to gather their coats. The couple departed without another word.

Eric slid on his leather jacket and adjusted the black hoodie underneath. Although clearly rattled, he seemed more concerned with Veronica than himself and continued to linger.

“You sure you’re gonna be OK tonight?” he asked. “You, uh, you want me to stay?”

“No, Eric. That’s quite alright.”

Christ, I’m more than twenty years older than him.

“I’m sorry. I just thought… I mean I wasn’t trying—”

“It’s OK. There’s no need to explain yourself.” Veronica hoped to spare the feelings of the shy bachelor without revealing her own loneliness. “I just think I need to, uh, to figure out what the hell happened here.”

“You channeled,” he confirmed. “But it wasn’t anything like the last time. This was much stronger. The knockings were extremely precise, and everything was more coherent.”

“I don’t remember any of it.”

“Peter had a full conversation with it,” he said.

“What? But I—”

“Yeah.” Eric nodded. “And it was one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever seen or heard.”

“Christ,” Veronica muttered. “The last thing I remember are the rappings.” Her throat was parched, and her voice sounded hoarse. “But yeah, you’re right. The rappings never happened so quickly, and the responses are usually delayed.”

“There were at least five this time,” Eric said. “And I looked under the table. It wasn’t Peter or Janice. And it sure as hell wasn’t me.”

“No…” Veronica drifted off. “Me either.”

“But what happened after that is what concerns me,” Eric warned. He cleared his throat and rallied his confidence. “When I offered to stay, I wasn’t trying to be weird. It’s just… you need to be careful tonight. I know you’re tired, but if I were you, I’d do a cleansing right away. You may be vulnerable to another attack. Or possibly some kind of… invasion.”

That ain’t the half of it, kid. I’ve been waiting for Laura McCoy to come crashing in here for two years. But the vampire we spared hasn’t darkened my doorstep yet. Nothing I channeled could be worse than what’s already out there waiting for me.

“I’ll be fine, Eric. Really. Thanks for looking out for me.” Her thoughts returned to Janice and Peter’s abrupt departure. “But I don’t know what got into them. I’ve known Peter and Janice for years. We’ve held sittings for as long as I can remember, and they never acted like this.”

“I don’t think they were expecting something this intense,” Eric said. “You’ll see what I mean when you review the footage.”

“Right…” Veronica trailed off again, her eyes tracing the patterns of a large area rug under her coffee table.

“Listen, don’t look at those files tonight. Wait ’til morning,” he cautioned. “If things get weird, call me. I can be back in less than an hour.”

“OK, thank you.” Veronica forced a smile. “Hey, before you go, do you happen to have any cigarettes on you?”

“I didn’t know you smoked.”

“I don’t… usually.”

“No, sorry,” he chuckled. “I don’t either. But I could go pick some up for you if you want? That corner store over on—”

“No, I don’t wanna be a bother. It’s fine. I’m just gonna turn in.”

“OK.” The young man gave the professor a reluctant nod and wandered toward the foyer. “But don’t forget to bless the house before you go to bed. I’m serious.”

“I know. I will. Goodnight, Eric.”

“Goodnight,” he replied and closed the front door.

When she heard his car backing out of the driveway, she returned to the dining room and switched off the glaring chandelier. Veronica stumbled back into the living room to retrieve a tumbler and a bottle of whiskey from her bar cart. She took a book of matches from the end table, relit a handful of candles, made her way to the couch, and then plopped down with the bottle and glass in hand. Veronica reached for the television remote to fill the deafening silence. She scanned the menu to find the high-definition radio stations and settled on one that played chamber music.

You really don’t need to drink.

She frowned at the thought.

Right. I need drinks. Plural.

By the light of a few flickering candles, Veronica poured herself the first of several glasses of Scotch. Within the hour, she passed out as Albinoni’s lugubrious Adagio in G Minor echoed throughout her house.



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