“Longshanks,” A Robert Asher Story


by Adam Casalino

Robert Asher was sitting up in a tree.  It wasn’t his idea.  Nor was it his idea to handle the awkwardly designed crossbow that was nestled against his shoulder.  He wasn’t a very good shot with the bow; after all, he had only practiced using it for a few hours before he got into the tree.  When he had to use a weapon, he preferred a gun.  Given the circumstances, however, that wouldn’t have worked; bullets don’t come in silver.

Asher shifted his weight in the blind.  The whole tree shook.  For a moment he questioned the wisdom of putting a man of his size twenty feet up an oak.  The hunter who had hastily instructed him on the matter assured Asher it was fine.  At that moment the detective wasn’t so convinced.

He had no way of consulting the old hunter, though: he had been eaten a day ago.

Pulling back his glove, Asher checked his watch.  In the thin gleam of the moonlight he saw that it was two o’clock.  His breath curled away like smoke, fogging up the watch face.  He let the glove fall back over it and looked out at the woods around him.

He was somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains.  Asher wasn’t certain where exactly; he had been moving for days and was sure he crossed state lines more than once.  All he was confident of was that it was night and there was a rancid smell in the air.

It reminded him of blood and feces.  The stench had been growing for the last hour.  Asher was no outdoorsman; he wasn’t familiar with the scents of nature.  But this was not a natural smell.  It was ripe and thick.  He could taste it on his tongue.  It was a smell he knew all too well.

The creature appeared, slowly moving down the slope.  Asher narrowed his eyes as he watched it move.  The creature clung to the ground like a spider.  Its arms and legs were splayed out, making it almost flat.  Asher didn’t believe something that was once a man could bend like that.

Head forward, it slunk from tree to tree.  Asher held his breath and listened.  He heard a low, snuffling sound.  It was searching for his scent.  Asher wondered how the monster could smell anything over its own stench.  But he knew that its sense of smell was preternaturally keen.  It could have picked Asher out from a mile away.

The thing paused by a tree only yards away.  The detective watched as the creature studied the trunk.  The large arms reached out, clamping onto the tree with both hands.  Its breathing grew louder as the creature exerted its strength.  With a crack, the tree broke in half.  Asher watched chunks of truck slide down the mountainside.  The thing hunkered down beside the shattered stump, almost gloating.

Asher laughed to himself.  “Showing off, you son of a bitch?”

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“Blood of the Saint,” A Robert Asher Story

Blood of the Saint

March 7, 1936:

Robert Asher wasn’t feeling well.  His head was throbbing and his vision was blurred.  Every subtle noise would send stabs of pain through his skull.  A glass of Alka-Seltzer was foaming beside his hand.  He absentmindedly rubbed the welt on the side of his face as he glanced at the morning paper.  Last night did not go as planned.

The footsteps screamed at him.  Harsh steps echoed down the hall, doing little to alleviate his condition.  Two sets of patent leather shoes squeaked and snapped at the hardwood floors outside his office.  A third pair was a little more forgiving, stepping lightly behind.  The noise wasn’t helping Asher’s mood.  It got even worse when the feet stopped at his door.

They hesitated before knocking.  Despite the effort to whisper, Asher heard them plainly.

“I don’t know about this, Tom.”

“Don’t be a fool, Patrick.  We came all this way to talk to the man.”

“You can’t really believe what they say about him,” said Tom.  “About what he can do?”

“Of course not,” said Patrick, “but I’m not going back to Washington empty-handed.”

Asher sat up in his chair and focused his eyes on the door.  Washington?  This was getting interesting.  The men called Tom and Patrick continued to bicker, until the third man intervened.

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The Ghost Bride, A Rober Asher Story

The Ghost Bride, A Robert Asher Story

The Ghost Bride
by Adam Casalino

June 1, 1952

Jonathan Lewis paced back and forth in his room.  For the fifth time that morning, he checked himself in the mirror.  The flower in his lapel was crooked.  His hair wasn’t right.  The suit felt baggy, then too tight.  There wasn’t enough air in the room.  Jonathan ran to the window and flew it open.  It made him cold.  His agony was saved by a knock at the door.

“Yes, come in.”

Michael, the best man, poked his head in.  He smiled, stepped inside, and tried to reassure the groom.  Jonathan shrugged and slumped down in a chair.

“The day’s finally here,” Jonathan said.  “I don’t think I’m ready.”

“Of course you are,” Michael said.  “You are Angela are made for each other.”

“I thought that once before.”  Jonathan’s face grew dark.

Michael reached across and put a hand on his shoulder.  “Stop that.  The past is behind you.  You deserve a new life, with Angela.”

The groom smiled weakly.  “You’re right.”  He stood up and straightened his jacket.  “How do I look?”

“Like a champ.”

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Oblivion, a Robert Asher Story

Oblivion a Robert Asher Story

by Adam Casalino

October 2, 1965

Robert Asher was on hold.  Easy listening music, meant to sooth the caller, was playing on the other end.  The rumba sounded like it was coming through a crushed cigarette box.  Asher was not one for rumba music, or dancing for that matter.  He didn’t like waiting on the phone either.  Leaning out of the phone booth, he looked up and down the train platform.  He checked his watch.  Almost out of time.  The rumba music played on.

Finally a voice spoke through the phone.

“This is Mr. Hargrave’s office, may I asked who’s calling?”

“My name is Robert Asher,” he said.  “I need to talk to Hargrave immediately.”

“What is this in regards to?” the woman asked.

“I’m working for him,” Asher said.  “Is he around?  It’s urgent.”

“Mr. Hargrave is in a meeting right now, can I take a message?”

“No, not really.”

A ball of fire bloomed out of the wall several yards away.  The train station shook with the force of the explosion.  Asher picked himself up, hung up the phone, and started walking.  Panicked voices came from everywhere.  Smoke rapidly filled the station.  Asher covered his nose and mouth and searched for a way out.  A crowd formed around him, the same idea on their minds.

People pushed each other to get to the exit doors.  Grown men laid waste to anyone who got in their way.  Nobody touched Asher.  A sandy-haired man brushed passed him, knocking down a woman in from of him.  Asher stopped to help her up.

“What’s the big idea, jerk!” she yelled at the man.  Her eyes met Asher’s and she smiled apologetically.  “Thanks.”

“Don’t worry about–”

The ground shuddered.  There was a sound like girders being twisted into pretzels.  Fire burst from the tracks behind them, tossing a train car into the air.  It slid across the platform, plowing through pedestrians.  Asher picked up the woman and ran for the doors.  He didn’t stop to open them.

Pointing his shoulders forward, he jumped through the glass.  He cleared the steps of the station and landed on the sidewalk.  Carefully, he let go of the woman, setting her on her feet.  They both looked back at what was left of the train station.  Fire lapped at the mangled doors; bodies hung from the train car like Christmas lights.

“What the hell is going on?” the woman said.

“You don’t wanna know.”

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Fire Caller, a Robert Asher Story

Fire Caller
by Adam Casalino

Fire Caller, by Adam CasalinoRobert Asher was thrown off the back of the truck. They didn’t even have the decency to stop. He sat in the snow as the vehicle rumbled away at top speed. It took the corner down the mountain a bit too hard and nearly flipped. The driver didn’t care. He just wanted to get away as quickly as possible.

Slowly, Asher stood to his feet. He knew going back down the mountain was useless. They’d find him eventually and bring him back. Of all his clients, they were by far the worse. Pushy. Uncooperative. Plus, they refused to pay. But Asher had little say in the matter; he had been kidnapped after all.

Asher pushed through the snowdrifts toward a shape in the distance. The snow had piled up on either side of the road, trees casting shadows like long fingers. The sun, which had been hidden by clouds all day, was now giving up and setting. Only until he was a stone’s throw away could he see what was waiting for him at the end of the road.

His clients did a poor job of describing it. It looked like someone had taken several houses and stitched them together. Lopsided and asymmetrical, the building was a contradiction of physics. Spires poked through the roof; medieval battlements clung to the eaves. Asher wondered at the kind of mind that could conceive of such a monstrosity. It wasn’t sane, that was certain.

Asher mounted the steps, instantly feeling small and powerless before the mansion. The front door had iron rings for handles. He lifted one and let it drop like a knocker, vaguely hoping someone would answer. The noise reverberated through the air until it faded harmlessly into the wind. Gripping one of the rings with both hands, Asher pulled. Inch by inch, the door opened.

Snow blew in after him as he entered. Asher left the door ajar. In the crack of light he searched his pack. His clients declined to offer him supplies, but were considerate enough to leave him the ones he brought. Asher took out his electric lantern and turned it on. Thankfully, it survived the trip and a small glow illuminated a portion of the room.

Asher took in the entry hall. A stone floor, covered in threadbare carpet, stretched on for a hundred yards. Paintings lined the walls, shrouded in darkness. He looked at one. It was a landscape, perhaps of the surrounding region. European mountains loomed over a valley town.

Picking his way through the shattered remains of a chandelier, he reached the end of the room. There was a staircase leading to the upper floors. A door nearby was ajar, leading to the rest of the ground floor. Looking them over, he considered his options. He decided to start in the basement.

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