Friday, July 27, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Thomas Tan thought his criminal past was finally behind him and his late wife’s soul put to rest by Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker, but now he hides from a group of hunters eager to return him to his former master – or failing that to end his life forever.

Part 10.

I am very good at eluding people. After I was flung from the automobile its fuel tank ruptured and caught fire. The fire covered my tracks, allowing me to crawl through the snow and rest here under the Raynham Road Bridge. The falling snow has also served to hide me.

My attackers most likely believed I was dead, trapped in the burning wreckage, but now that the fire has receded they have found no body and are most certainly hunting me once again. I have gained enough time to write this record, but I’m afraid that time is now slipping away, signaling the final act of this little drama.

My old master does not let go of things easily, it seems.

The pain is now excruciating. My heart is behaving strangely; perhaps it will give out before they find me...that would be a blessing.

I am at peace oh yes! With Miriam safe I can finally rest. No more running, no more hiding, no more looking over my shoulder. I’ll face those I’ve hurt in my life and make my apologies.

Hard to write.

My plan to place this record somewhere safe, somewhere beyond the reach of the hunters. I hope I can still achieve that – Janus at least will find it of some significance, I’m sure.

It has been a long journey, and strange one.

Ah, the pain! I must stop writing now can barely hold the pencil. Hear someone coming. Wait. There, over the field.


Miriam walking across the snow barefoot in summer dress I bought her…so long ago. She said it was too daring too breezy too much like someone else might wear.

She looked lovely in it. She looks lovely in it.

Her skin radiant. Her smile – oh Lord! Her smile. I had forgotten…

Someone behind her walking with her – Janus? No, gone now.

I am gone

Miriam sweet Miriam her smile kissing me taking paper from my hand


THE END of “The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan”

Sgt. Janus will return in “Dig Deep the Well”

All contents © Jim Beard 2012


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Spirit-Breaker Rises

In the early days of the shaping of SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER, I pitched a cover concept to editor Ron Fortier at Airship 27 that looked good in my head but didn't pass muster with the ol' Airship Chief.

My idea was to have artist Eric Johns illustrate a common scene for the period: a quaint family portrait, but with the Janus twist of a moldy old lady ghost instead of a a good lady wife standing next to her husband. The impetus behind my thinking was to show that to the sergeant the supernatural was almost the mundane and a ghost at his side wasn't cause for alarm. He took such things in stride. If done right, it should have made a very creepy tableau...

Cooler and more experienced heads prevailed and it was pointed out that a much more atmospheric and exciting cover was needed - enter Jeff Herndon and the spooky set-up that is already turning heads and helping to make the book a success.

So there you have it, Spirit-Breakers; another story behind the story. Stay spooky, stay spiritual!

All content (except images) (c) Jim Beard 2012 - Original cover sketch (c) Eric Johns 2012 and finished cover painting (c) Jeff Herndon 2012

Buy the book here at AMAZON.COM.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Sgt. Janus, the local “spirit-breaker,” has chased off gunman who sought to retrieve one of their wayward fellows, a man whose deceased wife remains lost in the strange and terrifying world of the afterlife.

Part 9.

As we raced through the darkened corridors back to the Room of Visitation, I asked Janus how it was that my former employer knew both myself and poor Miriam – as far as I could determine, he had never met my wife.

“He may have been manipulating events all along,” said the sergeant with a heavy sigh. “For years and years, in fact. He may have ‘arranged’ for you to meet Miriam, for some nefarious purposes of his own. I have a good friend in the constabulary who will look into it if I ask him to…he and the doctor have met before.

“Now, here we are at the Room once again. Miriam needs you, Thomas. An old link still exists between the doctor and her - you must stand between them and break that link. With your great love for her.”

I think, at that moment, that I began to understand a small portion of what it is that Sgt. Janus does. With his unswerving love for humanity, he breaks the ties between here and…the other place and sends souls onward to their true rest. But though I was filled with that revelation, my frustration over being manipulated for years remained hot in my blood.

“Why did Miriam not tell me?”

Janus looked upon me kindly. “She could not. Her madness, you see. It must have been hell on Earth for her. But, now, you have the opportunity to right that terrible wrong.”

He opened the door to the Room and we both stepped inside. It was exactly the same as I had left it. Moving across the Room I immediately took the chair that I had vacated only an hour before and looked up at Janus for direction. He seemed pleased that I needed no urging to proceed.

“Miriam will come to you once more,” he said, moving about the Room and touching several objects, seemingly making minute adjustments or the like. “You are the key to her imprisonment. You are the light she will follow to find her way back to the path.”

With that he walked behind my chair and out of my view. I heard a door open, much as I had before in the Room, but again I wondered at that – there was no other door save the one that I could plainly see, the one through which we had come not minutes before.

Then, Miriam sat before me. This time not taking the chair opposite me, but kneeling at my feet, her head resting upon my knee and one hand stroking my leg. Oh, I nearly cried with anguish!

“Now, Thomas,” came the voice of Sgt. Janus, bodiless and ghost-like, “break the link.”

“But how?” I wailed, feeling the madness that crawled through Miriam, through her shade that sat in front of me. I wanted to reach out and touch her, but I remembered what she had said before: I could not physically embrace her.

“Part of you still works for him. Reject it. Reject him. Break the link.”

I looked down at my wife, my poor, lost Miriam. My feelings for her were clear, clear as cut crystal. My feelings toward my former master were clear – or so I thought. I believed that I had cut my ties with him ten years ago, but I saw then that all I had severed was what existed in the material world. My soul still rested in his hands.

Drawing on my still-heated love for Miriam, I cut the ties. I broke the link.

“Miriam! He cannot – will not – hurt you further! I will not allow it!”

Janus’ voice filled the room, strength in audible form.

“Go thee to thy rest, oh shade. Thou hast served well in life, now take thy reward…”

Unable to control myself anymore, I reached out to touch Miriam, but she was gone. And, I knew with a certainty, no longer lost.

I sat for a long time in that chair in the Room of Visitation, a part of me hoping that that shade would come back. Then, after many hours, I got up and rejoined Janus in his front parlor. When he saw me enter the area, he smiled and clapped me on the back, his sympathy evident despite his lack of words. I thanked him and told him I should be finding my way home, though I was unsure how I would achieve that goal, being without a motorcar or other transportation.

In the end, the sergeant insisted that I borrow his own auto. He made his apologies for not accompanying me, but he needed to stay at the house and continue to supervise its “cleaning.” He would send someone around later to pick up his car.

The car turned out to be a brand-new Hudson Phaeton. Driving it served to alleviate some of my depression.

As I rode along, down the long drive from Janus House and then onto Raynham Road proper, I looked out at the beautiful snow all around me and finally felt free. Free for the first time in decades. Since my childhood. I felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted off of me and that I could finally breathe.

It was over.

Or so I thought right up until the very second the other car appeared out of nowhere and crashed into me, sending the Phaeton tumbling over and over and down into a ditch…


All contents © Jim Beard 2012


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

D12 to Spirit-Break?

We interrupt our regularly scheduled – ha ha – serialized story for an important Sgt. Janus update.

Our favorite Spirit-Breaker has gone all role-play.

The intrepid and clever Barry Reese has transformed the good sergeant from fictional ghost hunter to role-playing hero, by creating stats for him to be used with the Marvel Heroic Role-Playing Game. To say I’m honored and thrilled would be an understatement.

Back in the halcyon days of my youth, there were two games that I played until the cows came home, AD&D and the first edition of the Marvel Super Heroes Role-Playing Game. I loved the Marvel system because it was quick and easy and breezy and replicated the slam-bang action and adventure of the actual comics. My friends and I played one helluva lot of sessions of that game…

Anyway, here’s Sgt. Janus in all his role-playing glory – if you or anyone you know actually uses him in a campaign, let me know!


All content, except for game box images, (c)Jim Beard 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Under fire from intruders in Janus House, Thomas Tan longs to put his departed wife’s spirit to rest, but must first deal with agents of his former criminal employer and the mysteries of the afterlife presented to him by Sgt. Janus.

Part 8.

Things happened at a rapid pace after that. Having recognized the men as former colleagues of mine, I attempted to parlay with them. That was a mistake. My edge in dealing with such matters had grown dull after ten years of hiding from my old master.

Still, the sight of me stepping out of the ante-room was enough to put an end to their shooting at the ghostly figure coming down the stairs. It disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Sgt. Janus then came down the stairs in its place, frowning at the men.

I asked them what they wanted. To my surprise, they wanted me and not Miriam.

“You have been away for far too long, Thomas,” said the one. “He requires your presence once more at his side. Ten years is long enough for you to have been reacquainted with the notion of freedom – but, as you well know, freedom is an illusion. We are here to bring you back to where you belong, to he who owns you, body and soul.”

Sgt. Janus said nothing, but I could feel both strength and a calming air emanate from him, helping me to face the intruders in his home. I stammered out Miriam’s name, asking what part she played in it all. The lead man laughed, a cruel sound to my ears.

“Your wife? Why, Thomas, no part at all. She has played her part long ago. He is quite done with her.”

“You mean her death?” I spat at him, the pain from her murder still a dull ache in my heart, even after all these years.

“No,” he replied, “her life.”

“I think I begin to see it,” said Sgt. Janus, stepping up beside me, placing a hand on my shoulder. “Your master is responsible for the spirits that drove her to the edge of madness.”

The man nodded, looking at us as if we were children who had stumbled upon a fact that everyone else already knew.

“A portal,” continued Janus. “A gate. A spirit-gate. She told me as much, but I did not understand at the time. Your master used her natural talents as a spirit-gate when she was a child to converse with the dead. And for the rest of her life she paid the toll for his…his bloody crime.

How dare he!"

Suddenly Janus’ voice was as loud as a hundred voices, all shouting at once. It rocked me backwards, almost off my feet. My former colleagues did not fare as well; they were sent sprawling, bowled end over end. The walls shook, the ceiling swayed, plaster fell, a window somewhere broke and shattered. The reverberations from the shout lasted for minutes – my ears ached for hours afterwards.

Janus came rushing upon them like a banshee where they lay. Looming over the three men, it seemed as if he was sucking all the light out of the air and into himself. I could not see his face for he was facing them and away from me, but it must have been horrible indeed for their own faces were twisted into masks of fear and loathing.

I have a message for your doctor,” Janus bellowed, deep and sonorous. “Oh yes, I know who he is, as I have been watching the devil from the corners of my eyes for many years. From this moment on I shall have all of my eyes upon him and all that he does.

Tell him this is finished. Tell him that Thomas Tan and his wife are under my care."

The men’s faces blanched. They scrambled to their feet and backed away from Janus, visibly shaking. Finally, they were through the door and gone from our sight. Janus issued one last message, this time as a whisper:

“And tell your doctor that he shall pay one day for his heinous crime…”

I sat there for what seemed an eternity. The sun set and still I sat. Much later, Sgt. Janus appeared at my side once more and crouched down to look me in the eye.

“Come, Thomas,” he said kindly. “Miriam awaits you. You must free her.”


All contents © Jim Beard 2012


Sunday, July 8, 2012

"The Lost Wife of Thomas Tan" - From the Case Files of Sgt. Janus

Thomas Tan, a former criminal, has seen and spoken with what he believes to be his deceased wife at the home of Sgt. Janus, a man who deals in spirits and whose domain is being invaded by parties unknown.

Part 7.

My poor wife’s desperate plea shocked me. I didn’t know what to do, helpless as I was to affect the spirit world, but before I could speak and somehow assuage her anxiety, the door to the room was suddenly flung open. There in the doorway stood Sgt. Janus.

“Thomas,” he said tersely, “I seem to have uninvited guests. Please come with me.”

My only thought was for Miriam, but when I looked from the sergeant back to her, she was gone. Completely gone. My heart instantly ached for her, to see her face again.

Shaking it off, I rose from my chair and followed Janus out of the room and down the darkened hallway beyond. I asked him what was the matter, who he spoke of. He urged me to stay quiet and soon we approached the foyer to his home, where I had come in seemingly hours before. We came upon the area through a door that opened up beside his grand staircase and immediately I heard loud banging at his front door. Janus motioned for me to stop with a quick snap of his hand. The pounding increased and then we heard the loud bellows of a man, demanding to be let in.

“You have something that belongs to our employer,” the man outside growled. The voice was familiar to me.

The sergeant pointed off to the right; a clear sign that he wanted me in a side room. Something in his silent command led me to obey and I slipped though the doorway he indicated and hid myself behind some drapery at the entrance. Looking over to the man, I found that he had vanished, but his departing words hung in the air around me.

“Wait – and watch.”

Then, the front door burst open. The glass in it shattered and splinters of wood flew across the foyer from the door to impact the wall next to it. Loathsome figures occupied the open doorway, silhouetted in the remaining sunlight of the day. They entered Janus House, their shoes crunching bits of glass as they did. The first man abruptly stopped, then pointed.

I followed his finger to the staircase and was amazed at what I saw there.

A large transparent form came down the stairs, silent and unearthly. As it neared the mid-point of the staircase, I thought it took on a more…human designation; fantastic, but chilling. Beyond that I cannot say more other than noting a soft wailing that issued from it.

I tore my eyes from the ghastly thing and looked over at the intruders; they had paused, Oriental eyes wide, mouths hanging open in yellow-tinged faces. Surely they would bolt, I thought; I myself was fighting the urge to rabbit away from the scene. But, they held their ground and then the lead man slipped a pistol from his jacket, pointed it at the apparition and pulled the trigger.

The others with him followed suit.

They were hardened men. Precious little in Heaven and on Earth could cause fear in them. I knew this because I knew them.


All contents © Jim Beard 2012