A Spirit of Evil Excerpt


Insane Asylum, Bellevue Hospital
November 12, 1913

The stroke of midnight filtered through the darkened empty corridors like an evil spirit. Cold. Ominous. The shift changeover had gone unnoticed, as did Thorton, a burly, young orderly, who, like the patients, had been absorbed by the institution's walls as he casually pushed a large laundry bin filled with dirty sheets toward the exit doors.

12 Crimson Lane , Powells Cove

Fritz Kreisler's Liebesleid flowed ever so softly from the array of Victrolas in Doctor Lawrence Stedman's lavishly furnished parlor. A true aristocrat, he was known for his eccentric idiosyncrasies.

“You're sure this is going to work?” the man said, as he stood in the foyer ruffling through the inside pocket of his topcoat.

“Yes, you can collect her in two days,” Dr. Stedman said as his eyes fell upon the fair-haired young woman's pretty face. “Such beauty...it shall be inherent in your future children.”

“We shall see,” the man said, handing Stedman a sizable wad of money as he glanced over at his wife, who appeared to be entranced by the violin and piano music that filtered through the room as she sat on the sofa.

Stedman took the money and quickly ushered the man out the door. “You do understand, don't you?”

The man nodded as the door closed in his face.

Stedman put the money in his pants pocket and breathed a sigh of relief as he leaned against the door and fastened the lock. Tonight would be the night, he thought, as he turned and stepped in front of the looking glass.

He studied his appearance for a moment and realized he was quite dashing for an elderly chap. He smiled and tousled his long gray hair back on his shoulders. He had spent months to no avail, trying to perfect a procedure that would allow him to effectively transplant ovaries from a woman capable of bearing children to that of one who was not. Each attempt, however, had been thwarted by a toxic organism known as Septicemia, which invaded the blood, causing severe systemic bacterial infection.

The music began to slowly fade into silence as Stedman reentered the parlor. “You can come with me now, Abigail,” he said as he grasped her arm.

The young woman turned and rose to her feet, her delicate silhouette slightly visible through her dress.

Stedman took her hand and led her up the marble staircase to the fifth floor, where he carefully settled her into the bed of his lavishly furnished chamber. He was anxious to get started and was feeling extremely confident now that he knew taking meticulous sterilization measures would be the key to his success. He dimmed the lantern and left the door slightly ajar as he walked back out into the foyer. Abigail's state of mind was also quite crucial in necessitating a favorable outcome.

A faint knocking sounded in the distance and increased with intensity as Stedman descended the staircase. Stopping for a moment, he straightened up and checked his timepiece. Ah, right on schedule he thought, as he made his way down to the first floor vestibule.

Thorton stood in darkness on the other side of the door as it jerked open, a lump of some sort slung over his shoulder.

“Any problems?”

“No.” Thorton stepped forward into the light; dirty sheets dangling on either side of him as a pair of delicate, milky white feet flopped against his chest.

“Good,” Stedman said, quickly closing the door behind him. “Take her up to the third floor, room one.”

Thorton nodded and proceeded up the stairs as he had done so many times before.

Stedman followed on his heels, wondering if the specimen was what he'd requested. He had wanted someone with similar attributes. Blonde hair, blue eyes, white skin, well, that at least already seemed accounted for. Oh, he shouldn't be so picky, he thought. Snatching patients had not been that easy. He was on staff at Bellevue , if any of his colleagues had ever found out, he would surely be ostracized along with Thorton.

“Do you want me to stay?” Thorton said, as he reached the third-floor landing.

“No, it's not necessary,” Stedman said, stepping in front of him. “You can help me strap her in, and then you can go.”

Thorton nodded and followed him into Room 1. The largest of the three, it had a stairwell that led back down to the kitchen. When Stedman was a young boy, the room had belonged to Clara, the family cook. Now, it was like an armamentarium. Every square inch overflowed with medicine bottles, syringes, books, utensils, jars, bandages, instruments, and equipment. What he hadn't purchased over the years, he'd surely stolen. It was as if he had his own little hospital tucked away nicely on the third floor of his Victorian estate.

“Be careful!” Stedman suddenly shouted as Thorton clunked the woman's head against the glass while strapping her onto the iron table.

“I'm sorry, but I can't see, and this sheet is in the way.”

“Wait and I will help you,” Stedman said as he took the lantern off the wall and moved towards the operating table in the center of the room. “When did you sedate her?”

“An hour before I took her.”

“She should be coming around by now,” Stedman said as he carefully removed the sheet. “I thought I told you to get a blonde.”

“I did.”

Stedman held up the lantern and leaned closer. “My God, you didn't!” he shouted.

“Yes...I did,” Thorton said as he moved about the room, lighting the other three wall lanterns.

“Are you out of your mind!”

Thorton stepped up beside him. “What are you talking about?”

“Rachel Dickinson.”

“What about her?”

“You idiot! She's my patient.”

“She was the only one that fit your description.”

“Why didn't you tell me?”

“How was I supposed to know; I don't know their names.”

Stedman shook his head as he dropped it in his hands. “If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, never take one of my patients; it draws attention.”

Thorton stood in silence, his eyes looking toward the floor as Stedman walked passed him and hung the lantern back on the wall. “Leave my sight.”

“Can I have my money?”

“If no one notices.”

Thorton looked up at him. “Pay me my money, or I'll make sure they notice.”

Stedman spun around in an instant, grabbed a glass jar off the counter, and smashed Thorton in the head with it. “Don't you even think about it!” he shouted. “Now go on, get out of here!”

Thorton bowed down to his wishes and left the room, grasping his head as traces of blood trickled down his face.

Stedman, enraged by Thorton's stupidity, kicked the broken shards of glass out of the way and walked back over to the operating table to finish what the orderly had started. Moving about with ease, he made sure Rachel's body was secured by the leather straps that were attached to the table. He then lifted her feet one at a time and placed them into the metal stirrups, opening her legs for easy access during surgery.

The excitement began to course through Stedman's veins as he prepared himself for what was yet to come. For if he truly achieved what he intended, man's understanding of conception would be radically altered—a feat that had secretly become his life's work. Visions of deity passed through his mind as women dropped at his feet. He would embody the qualities of a god, bringing forth life where it had not existed.

He stopped. The night was running on, and he needed to begin. He quickly turned back to his patient and injected her with a curare-based extract. It would paralyze the motor nerves and leave her body completely awake, a preference he felt necessary to ensure a witness in the event of his accomplishment.

Retrieving his black, full-length, sleeveless rubber gown from the chamber closet, he slipped it on and adjusted his stance to accommodate the extra weight he now carried. He then pulled his hair back and twisted it up into a black rubber cap as he placed it neatly on his head.

The sterilization process would be unlike before, and he questioned his thoughts on it as he began the arduous procedure. Disinfecting the rooms was one thing; disinfecting the patients was entirely another task in itself. He had decided to scrub the patients down with green surgical soap to cleanse their bodies of any impurities, but before he began, he quickly washed his hands and placed them inside a pair of black rubber gloves.

As he readied himself, he filled the enamel basin with the medicinal solution and placed it on the edge of the operating table beneath her feet. The glow of her supple skin radiated in the dim ray of the light, and he suddenly realized that Rachel bore a striking resemblance to Abigail. Thorton's error, in the end, might just prove to be quite noteworthy. Ah, he hoped he hadn't injured the dear boy too seriously. He'd make a mental note to pay him a bit extra when he apologized in the morning.

Pushing the basin to the side, he pulled on a surgical mask and lit two formaldehyde lamps and six sulfur candles. The disinfectant quickly spread throughout the room, releasing a suffocating odor as it sterilized everything in its path. He smiled and looked down upon her. She was awake, and her eyes emanated a sense of horror as she stared out from her frozen paralysis.

Stedman closed the door and made his way back up to the fifth floor to wake Abigail from her somber sleep. The earlier music, in a sense, had acted as a mild sedative, and she now needed assistance descending the stairs, so he carried her down.

Room 2 was the polar opposite of Room 1, uncluttered, organized, efficient, bright, warm, airy, and inviting. It had always been that way. Looking out over the East River —which flowed behind the property—it had served as his mother's sitting room until she died some twenty years earlier. Since then, he'd been using it to tend to the ailments of everyone who lived in and around Powells Cove.

Abigail had not stirred an inch since he had strapped her onto the table. He had given her the same injection as Rachel, but had been diligent in his effort to make her feel more comfortable, propping her head with a pillow and covering her with a blanket after he cleansed her body. She was angelic in every sense of the word.

Lighting the lamps and candles, he stepped out of the room, shutting the door behind him. Success...it was at his fingertips, and he cherished the moment as he prepared to begin.

A subtle breeze kicked up from the hall window, making the wall lanterns flicker. The odor had subsided as he crossed back over into Room 1, and he began to move quickly. Using a pair of forceps, he removed his instruments from the heated metal container, laid them down onto a cotton cloth, and carried them over to the operating table where he placed them on a small pullout ledge.

Rachel's face bore the same gaze it had earlier. The drug was working perfectly he thought, as he suddenly found himself awash in an underlying sense of genuine sorrow. She had been with him from the beginning—a young child who had grown into a woman. He tried to push it from his mind. She was of no value to society; she suffered from a severe form of mental retardation that was medically untreatable.

He picked up the scalpel and moved toward her, spreading her legs wide open as he stood inside them. His feelings were torn. He'd done this procedure a dozen times, just never before on someone he knew. He sighed. Now was obviously not the time for moral instability.

Stedman quickly reined in his emotions and made an incision into the pelvic cavity. He cut deep down through various layers of muscle tissue as blood began to seep up over the wound like a crimson tide. Steady. Constant. Flowing out across her body and onto the floor. A red river, warm and sticky, with a pungent scent that imbued the room.

It was like an alarm went off in his head as he staggered in and out of consciousness for a split-second. What had he done? He could feel the scalpel slip from his fingers as he grabbed at a handful of white cotton cloths in a desperate attempt to stop it, but he could not.

He looked up at her face. The intensity of panic exploded from her eyes. He was losing her. He had to get to the ovaries before it was too late. Fumbling for the knife, he sliced frantically into her lower abdomen, cutting through the intestines until he exposed the body of the uterus. It was a perfectly formed organ, and he exhaled in relief as he prepared for its harvesting: the female gonads—pivotal in facilitating life's very existence.

He shook with envy. Wiping the sweat from his muddied eyes, he leaned over, and with one hand, delicately grasped the right ovary with a pair of forceps as he steadied the scalpel in his other hand and began detaching the series of ligaments that held it in place. It was a laborious undertaking, but he'd become quite proficient at it, for in his mind, Rachel had ceased to exist. The cadaver on the table was a mere victim, like so many of the others. Stedman placed the ovaries into a jar of aqueous solution and walked away from the bloody mess. Abigail was waiting.

As he crossed the hall back into Room 2, he realized the fate of Abigail's future children now lay in his hands. He was galvanized by the thought. He'd not had any children of his own, a decision he sometimes regretted. Maybe, if he had married, things would have been different. Time, it was always upon him. Placing the jar down on the counter, he quickly changed his gloves and cleaned up. The last thing he needed was to contaminate Abigail with Rachel's blood.

Turning back toward her, he walked up beside her and removed the blanket. Her body was flawless, and he intended to keep it that way. He would have to step up his technique; mutilation was not an option. The incisions would have to be precise. He took a minute and charted the abdominopelvic cavity, marking the right and left iliac regions with iodine in an attempt to pinpoint the exact location of the ovaries. When he was certain his estimation was correct, he began with a clean cut into the lower left quadrant. The blood was minimal, and he moved with caution as he shifted the intestines to expose the left ovary. The deformity was clearly visible, and he hoped it would not impede the transplantation process.

He immediately went to work focusing his attention as he began the painstaking task of grafting each individual ligament to the new ovary. Moving swiftly and skillfully, he severed and attached each band of white fibrous tissue until Rachel's left ovary was securely in place inside Abigail's body. It was a glorious sight to behold, and he reveled in amazement as the adhesion began to set in.

Sponging up the blood, he pressed on in a meticulous manner as he prepared to close. The surgery had given him time to think, and he had decided to take extra precautions to ensure a favorable outcome. Suturing the wound alone would not guarantee him the result he was looking for. A cauterization process followed by an antiseptic cleansing would be necessary if he was to attain his ultimate goal.

His attempts, once futile, now seemed to have widespread meaning as thoughts of his past failures suddenly inundated his mind. Abigail wasn't a mental patient; she was someone's wife, which changed everything.

Securing the bandage firmly in place, he moved on to the right quadrant and repeated the procedure. Abigail's right ovary appeared to be in a bit of distress, but functioning nonetheless. He removed it anyway. If she truly were to have a chance at conception, she would need both ovaries ovulating at their peak capacity.

Stedman's mind began to wander as images of future children flashed before his eyes. He smiled as his heart warmed to the idea. The pitter-patter of little feet followed by the echo of laughter would soon be abundantly present throughout his estate. His body filled with excitement, he would be father to all born under the realm of his surgical brilliance.

He pushed his instruments to the side and stepped back to examine his work. He was quite pleased with himself. The surgery had gone well, and Abigail was now resting peacefully beneath the blanket. The next twenty-four hours would be crucial in determining her survival rate. He would need to monitor her closely. If she staved off an infection, she would still have to contend with the possibility of organ rejection, a thought he dreaded to even consider.

Back in the doorway of Room 1, he felt a sudden sense of uneasiness as his thoughts fell back on his colleagues. Would they really understand what he was doing, he wondered. The sight of Rachel made him think, possibly not. But then again, he had been shaken by their doctor/patient relationship. None of the others had been nearly as brutal. Sighing, he shook his head. There was still so much to do. Rachel's body was in postmortem hypostasis and in need of disposal. He immediately grabbed at the bloodstained sheet beneath her and pulled. Her body hit the floor with a resounding thud. The stiffening had begun to set in, making her almost impossible to carry. He thought of Thorton, but quickly dismissed the idea associated with him. He would have to do it himself.

Tying the ends of the sheet together, he cupped his hand over the knot and inched forward with a slow, sliding gait, dragging the dead weight behind him. Lucky for him, the stairwell that led down to the kitchen was only a few feet away because Rachel's body was suddenly much heavier than he had anticipated and moving her took a great deal of his strength.

When Stedman finally did reach the foot of the landing, he stopped for a moment to catch his breath. He couldn't quite remember the others being this difficult. Ah, but then again, they must have been, he thought. With a renewed sense of energy, he gripped the rail, stepped forward, and sent the body barreling down the steps in front of him. A clonking sound reverberated throughout the stairwell as Rachel's head smacked each step before her body came to a crashing halt in the center of the room.

Stedman hurried down to the kitchen. The impact to the room was minimal, a spilled coffee kettle and some broken cups and plates that had been on top of the table before it tipped over. His aim was terribly off. He had meant to send her under the table, not into the table. He shook his head. He hated a messy house. Everything else had been neatly tucked away inside the wall-to-wall wooden cupboards. Well, it would have to wait, he thought. Grabbing the sheet, he pulled Rachel's body toward a door adjacent to the stairwell and opened it. A vaporous, musty cloud swept over him as he disappeared inside the darkness.

Within seconds, the silence was replaced by a rapid succession of sounds: Heavy breathing. A loud thud. Scraping metal. And then a flash of light, revealing a large stone chamber. Stedman appeared to be standing in the middle of it as Rachel's body lay slumped on the floor beside him. A lone wooden table covered in medical apparatus sat to his right. To his left, a steep, winding incline.

The tunnel had been a long, deep, dark secret of the family and stretched far beyond the length of the estate, concealing a subbasement that opened up over the East River . Back in the mid-eighteen hundreds, Stedman's grandfather had used it to smuggle slaves. Now, it served as the perfect resting place for his victims.

Stedman heaved Rachel's body onto the pile and stepped back to take in the sight. A twisted array of female corpses lay rotting at his feet in the cold, moist air. He felt nothing as he gazed down upon them, for he truly believed he must take life to create life.

Abigail ....

Chapter One

10 First Street , Powells Cove
May 1, 1991

Angela Roccanelli stood in front of her bedroom closet, her hips swaying to the beat of the music that poured from her stereo speakers as she tried to decide what to pack for her two-week trip to Boston . She kept going back and forth between the little black dress and the navy pantsuit. Of course she needed them both; there would be lectures, dinners, and meetings....

She told herself to breathe. She could do this. She could do this she thought. That's why Professor Mitchel had invited her to speak. The topic was abnormal behavior in the realm of psychopathology, parapsychology, and the paranormal. She'd been well versed in all three. Majoring in psychology, she'd graduated at the top of her class with a 4.0. Her thesis alone had managed to win her a great deal of notoriety, and Boston University had awarded her with a bachelor's degree last June.

Boston ...this would be her first trip back since graduating. She wondered what it would be like going back as a tourist versus a resident. She pushed her dirty brown hair out of her face and wondered if she had time to wash it when she saw the cordless phone vibrating off the top of her dresser from the corner of her eye. Gasping, she looked up at the clock and realized she'd lost total track of the time.

“Hello,” she shouted as she grabbed the phone off the floor. “Hold on....”

Lowering the music, she plopped down on her bed as the voice on the other end shouted back, “I'm pullin' into the driveway.”

Angela dropped the phone in sheer panic.

Nicole Caruso climbed out of her black Corvette with a puss on her face a mile long. What was she thinking! As if Angela would—for once in her life—be ready on time. She should've known better and stayed at the pizza shop to finish the dough. Aw, what was the use? She pulled off her apron and wiped the flour off her face. Angela was Angela.

Dropping the apron on the front seat of her car, she walked up the driveway past her old red Trans Am. She'd given it to Angela last year when she bought the Corvette: kind of a combined welcome home/graduation present. She'd had some good times in that car she thought as she walked into her grandparents’ house where she and Angela had been raised. “Angela, hurry up; you're gonna miss your flight!”

Angela came running down the stairs in sweatpants and sneakers, trying to tie her hair up into a ponytail as her clothes toppled out of the open duffel bags that were slung over her shoulders.

“I thought you were excited to go,” Nicole said, as she tried to conceal her laughter.

“Terrified would be more like it,” Angela said as she stopped to retrieve her belongings. “And stop laughing; it's not funny.”

“I'm sorry,” she said, unable to contain herself as Angela suddenly tripped over her own feet. “Let me help you.” But she couldn't. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she held her stomach.

“Nic, cut it out. I gotta go.”

“Oh...now you gotta go!”

“You know I don't laugh at you when you do stupid stuff.”

“That's because I don't do stupid stuff.”

Angela scooped her clothes back into the two bags and stormed out the door.

“Hey!” Nicole shouted as she ran out after her. “What are you gettin' so mad about? I was only playin' with you.”

Angela dropped her bags at the foot of Nicole's car. “I'm scared, all right!”

“Why?” Nicole asked as she walked up next to her.

“It's been almost a year, and...I don't know,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “I guess—I don't know what to expect.”

Nicole wrapped her arms around Angela and held her tight. “There's nothin' to be afraid of. You know this stuff, and you'll be fine.”

“Ya think?”

“Yeah,” Nicole said, stepping back. “Now let's get the hell out of here before you really miss your flight.”

Angela threw her bags into the trunk and got in as Nicole started the car. “Thanks ­Nic.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Nicole smiled as she backed out of the driveway. “So, where'd Professor Mitchel put you up?”

“In an executive suite at the Howard Johnson Kenmore.”

“On the campus? Nice,” Nicole said, nodding her head. “That'll be quite an upgrade from the tiny dorm room you spent the last four years in.”

“I know.”

“Hey, if you see Mr. Kunis, my old photojournalism professor, tell him I said hello.”

“I'm sorry you never got to finish.”

“Shit happens,” Nicole said as she turned up the radio.

Angela suddenly felt bad and wished she hadn't brought it up. Nicole didn't finish so that she could. And, as much as Nicole tried to play it off like it didn't matter anymore, Angela knew it did.

The pizza shop had belonged to their grandfather, and, when he died, Nicole had not been given a choice. The mortgage on the house had been paid off years before, but there were the everyday expenses and upkeep, the two tuitions at Boston University , car insurance, pocket money, and living expenses. It seemed to go on and on. The life insurance just didn't cut it. And the money they received after both their own parents’ deaths was long gone. Nicole had done what any responsible person would do. And Angela loved her even more for it.

“What airline are you flying out on?”


Nicole turned down the music as they approached the airport. “What airline is it?”

“Oh, um...” Angela said fumbling in her bag, “US Air.” She pulled out the ticket and held it in her hand.

“Look,” Nicole started, her mood somewhat somber, “I just want you to know that I don't have regrets about having to drop out of school. I did what needed to be done. And besides, you can't really teach someone how to take a good picture. You either got it or you don't.”

“I'm so sorry I brought it up, I didn't mean to,” Angela said, turning toward her.

“Yeah, but that's the problem; I don't want you to feel like that.”

“Like what?”

“Guilty, like you do now.”

“I can't help it.”

Nicole stopped the car in front of the US Air Shuttle Terminal. “But I haven't given it up. I have my darkroom in the basement, and I'm doin' what I wanna do. So, stop with this and go knock'em dead.”

Angela's face lit up. “You're right and I will!”

Nicole popped the trunk, got out of the car, and handed Angela her bags just as a cop was walking by to push her along. “One minute pleassse,” she said, flashing her pearly whites.

Angela gave her a hug, picked up her bags, and turned to go. “I'll call you.”

“I'll be fine; don't worry about it.”

“Bye,” Angela said as she walked away.

“Just have a good time and take lots of pictures,” Nicole shouted as she watched Angela disappear into the crowded terminal.


A Spirit of Evil

A Deadly Heritage