New Story: The Piercer of the Veils

What a delight to hear the delicate thunk of package on doormat, heralding the advent of the new Innsmouth Gold anthology When Shadows Creep.

Compiled and edited by Innsmouth Gold himself, the esteemed Rob Poyton, this brand new compendium features nine Lovecraftian tales based in London from a range of authors including B Harlan Crawford, Tim Mendees, Simon Bleaken, A.D.Radford, Lee Clark Zumpe, Robert Poyton, David Cartwright and Gavin Chappel.

These cover a huge range of settings and time periods within London starting with Rome, to its place as the heart of empire, through the terror of the Blitz and even the psychedelic swinging sixties.

My own tale, The Piercer of the Veils, is set in modern times and it’s a bit of a departure from my usual fare. Inspired by the likes of True Detective, I wanted to have a stab at some eldritch detective fiction in a contemporary setting and this seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

It features a new character, Marcus Darke, an eldritch investigator who is called in when a prominent banker is found dead and eyeless on the banks of the Thames. This leads him into a strange, bloody journey into the seedy occult underbelly of the ancient capital and an encounter with an influential cult and a creature from beyond.

This is my most overtly political work to date touching on the themes of nationalism, the corrupt politicians and elites we’ve saddled ourselves with and the abysmal state of current politics.

It’s pretty long too, at nearly 19k, which I wrote in an absolute marathon running up to easter but I really enjoyed exploring the detective-thriller form which is a lot more intricate and plot dense than usual. It’s kind of akin to assembling a blank jigsaw puzzle when you only have the outline of the pieces to go on.

I hope you have a chance to read it and some of the other great pieces in this august tome. I may even continue with another tale of Darke’s adventures if demand is sufficient, so let me know what you think in all the usual places.

Here’s the opening to whet your appetite…

Piercer of the Veils

Green-brown waves lapped against the shore beneath slate grey skies as Darke ducked beneath the cordon and onto the foreshore. A few early morning mudlarkers regarded him curiously, but he ignored them as the shingle crunched beneath his shoes. Behind him, the central span of Tower Bridge has risen to accommodate a passing tall ship and in the distance, the towers of the City were a blocky intrusion into the low hanging cloud. Old wharves stood here once, but now the metal and chrome of a wealthy apartment block rose above eternal Father Thames. Nevertheless, the exposed beach was a liminal space, hidden by the waters but uncovered now at low tide, a halfway point between the old and the new.

The shoreline reeked of bilge and centuries of accumulated filth, but there was something else too, a faint afterimage, an echoing remnant that made his sight twitch. Something macabre had happened here, he knew it instinctively, even without the cordoned tent which stirred in the stiff river breeze. There was a presence here, distinctive, old, malevolent…

‘Hey! Hey! You can’t be here. Get back behind the barrier.’ Darke narrowed his eyes, regarding the policeman, irritated by the interruption in his train of thought. He was just on the point of a withering reply, when a voice from behind him said.

‘It’s alright sergeant, he’s with me.’ A tall Asian woman in a long raincoat displayed an ID which silenced the sergeant’s objections.

‘Chanda. It’s good to see you.’


‘Ah, so we’re being formal, are we? Okay, DI Parris, what can I do for you?’

‘Don’t be such a prick, Marcus. Come on, he’s this way.’

Inside the tent, the hi vis skin lent everything a glaring fluorescence but shielded from the elements it had a residual warmth. Outside, a light drizzle had begun to soak the foreshore and the assembled police officers were huddled up beneath umbrellas, nursing hot teas and rubbing their hands to fend off the bleak January cold.

A body lay there, on its back, although lay was not quite the right word. It looked like it had been pressed into the mud and slime of the beach.

‘The doctor’s been, we’re just waiting to wrap him up and ship him off to the morgue,’ said Parris.

‘So why call me in?’

‘You specialise in this freaky shit.’

‘I do.’

‘Well, that makes you the closest thing I’ve got to an expert. So go ahead, do your thing. Then tell me what you discover.’

Darke slid on a pair of latex gloves with practised ease, bent down and began to examine the body. Even as he went through the routine, his mind was churning. This is what he had sensed, where that unusual energy had been focussed. The evil had concentrated itself here and imposed its will on this individual. He could feel Parris’ impatience, but didn’t rush.

When he finally stood up, Parris waited expectantly, but he took a moment to compose himself.

‘So?’ she said.

‘I presume you’ve covered all the basics so let’s focus on what stands out. First, no obvious marks or cause of death. The facial expression is unusual, unsettling, like someone caught between abject terror and an irresistible joke. The eyes, closed tightly, like he laughed himself to death while in the throes of some horrible fear spasm.’

‘Go on.’

‘Then there’s the posture, like he was pushing himself away from something, something so horrible, he was trying to burrow into the earth to escape it. No defensive wounds or anything of that nature, nothing unusual under the nails either, it seems like he didn’t fight back or try to fend it off.’

‘Not bad, but you missed something.’

‘Enlighten me.’

‘The eyes. They’re both missing. No wounds either, they’re just gone, as if they vanished clean out of their sockets.’

‘Shit,’ said Darke, ‘his eyelids are screwed up so tightly, I didn’t look.’

‘Good to know I can still surprise you.’

‘You can do a lot more than that if I recall?’

‘Yeah, well, let’s focus on the case… so?’

‘Fair enough. Well, without wanting to state the obvious it’s a bizarre way to go. No blood or signs of trauma around the eyes, so doubly weird.’

‘Well, that’s something you apparently know, but what else can I tell you? Time of death was between midnight and two in the morning. No witnesses, one of the mudlarkers discovered the body when it got light, but no reason to suspect anything there. What do you make of it?’

‘You were right to call me in. It’s something uncanny, nothing I could put a name to… yet. I’ll need time to think about this, Chanda. Leave it with me. The tattoo is probably significant though.’ 


‘Yeah, the one on the back of his neck, the black circle with the spiky radials coming off it. Hidden by that impressive head of hair, you caught that, right?’ A flicker of annoyance told him she had not.

‘Hm, okay, so the design is very particular, it rings a bell, but I’m not sure from where. I’ll need to do some research.’


‘Did he have any ID? Do we know who this guy is?’

‘We’re working on it.’

‘Okay, so let me know when you find out.’

‘Don’t take too long, Marcus. I need answers on this one. We can’t have someone running around scaring people to death and removing their eyeballs. It doesn’t look good on the clear up statistics.’

‘Nor on the front pages either, I imagine?’

‘Don’t even…  I don’t want the press getting hold of this, splashing lurid headlines.’

‘Why would they? He’s only just been discovered and I don’t see any of the usual hacks amongst the onlookers.’

‘Because this is the second one we’ve found in the last few days. Same MO, eyes removed, victim looks terrified. Best guess is heart failure, but heart failure doesn’t cause your eyes to just disappear. I don’t have to tell you, that’s no coincidence.’

‘No, it is rather singular. Alright then, so you want me on board?’

Parris sighed, ‘Not particularly, but we need your specialist knowledge, so I guess I’m stuck with you. Your fees will be buried in miscellaneous expenses.’

‘The usual rate then?’

‘The usual rate.’

‘Okay, count me in.’

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