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Indiana writer James Dorr’s The Tears of Isis was a 2014 Bram Stoker Award nominee for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection. Other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret and his all-poetry Vamps (A Retrospective). Dorr invites readers to visit his blog at jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com.
"There is only one solid truth in all that he has written, and for that I gave him the hint out of pure compassion for his absurdity." That was what Lo said, and so much for the notion I'd had that she and Valdemar might have been lovers. But I was interested, not so much in the fact that Ernest Valdemar had been considered a promising upcoming author by some whose tastes ran toward more outré subjects, but that I had known him years before when he had been a contributor to the Times-Picayune, the newspaper I work for as a reporter.
And then Lo herself--I had only met her once before, at some charity event in the French Quarter--but it was Valdemar who had made the introductions. He and she had been at least on speaking terms then, which she did not deny, and possibly more although, as she insisted, nothing of a romantic nature. Yet, as a recent young widow, I could see that she possessed considerable charm as she still does now. In fact I remarked on it, "I met you, I think nearly ten years ago, and yet you look as youthful and beautiful as you did then."
She smiled and, I thought, nearly blushed--but not quite. Ladies of her stature don't, I suppose. However young she still might seem to be she's a pillar of New Orleans society, tracing her family to 1728 and les filles à les caissettes of local legend who had arrived in that year from France. Instead she thanked me, batting her eyes. "You know why I'm called Lo?" she asked. "Many don't, but I was named for the Nabokov heroine, Lolita, because I have always looked so young. That is, I'm told my mother retained her young looks too, so I suppose my parents assumed...."
Her words trailed off as I asked her more about what she had known of Ernest, explaining that I had known him too, and, if she was willing, if she had any idea of what might have caused his disappearance.
"He has disappeared?" she asked.
"Yes," I said, "nearly six months ago, and while he wasn't all that famous outside of his circle, he's become something of a legend among local readers of horror fiction. That's why I wanted to ask you about him, that the police have found no clue as to what might have become of him, simply filing him now as another 'missing person' case, but given the things he wrote about, the supernatural, the unexplained, the monsters and ghosts--you know the things I mean--there have been rumors of some kind of 'out of this world' connection. And since, at least, you spoke to him sometimes, I wondered if he might have given some hint."
She laughed then. "You mean like he might have showed me an airline ticket for Transylvania, something like that?"
At that point I may have blushed myself--I could see how the whole thing might seem absurd. Indeed if he had truly disappeared, it most likely meant he might have had some debts, something like that, to possibly less than savory lenders--New Orleans is still a lawless enough city in those respects--and, if he wasn't hiding out somewhere on purpose, his mortal remains might best be searched for by dragging the Mississippi River. But it was at that point that Lo made the comment I mentioned above, of him having gotten at least some of his literary ideas from her. And I was curious.
I asked her about it.
"Well, you know," she said, "I was brought up in France, by relatives of my mother's, not returning to New Orleans until I'd received word that she was dead. I'd just been married and so I brought my new husband with me, who, well, whose health was never that good. After a few years, given the climate that he was unused to--but you know about that. The thing is, my husband had interests similar to Mr. Valdemar's, that being one thing that had attracted my husband to me as well, and so for a short time we orbited in similar literary circles.
"But then, a widow, and with obligations that I inherited from my mother, my father having also been long deceased, I moved on my own way, spending more of my time with others in whose milieu my mother had been a part. Only occasionally seeing your friend, and that less and less often."
"Yes?" I prompted.
"Well, I suppose that was that. Six months ago, I think you said, was the last time anyone saw him?"
I nodded. "Yes. But now I'm intrigued, though. By what you said. What was the 'one truth' you say you told him, or hinted at for him, that you suggested he later used in some of his writing?"
She laughed again, the sound soft and delicate. "Well," she said, "it wasn't even something directly about my family, not exactly, but about one of the other women my original ancestress came with, in the Eighteenth Century, from France. Having to do with vampires and how, at least in France, it was believed they really existed."
"And you say that's true?"
"That they believed it, at least," she said. "It's sort of a legend within my family--as well as the others in my mother's circle that share the same roots. I suppose in a way it's one of the things that keeps us together, as founders of sorts of the city the way it is."
I nodded again. "That was the basis of several of Valdemar's stories in fact, as I remember. Of the 'casket girls,' I think he calls them. So that much was from you?"
She smiled, showing a glint of her teeth as she did. "Yes," she said, "and at least among the superstitious, some of that may even be true. But as for the rest of what your friend wrote...."
"I understand," I said, starting to get up. "So you might have seen him six months ago, but only in a casual way. And you haven't seen him any time since, that you can remember?"
"No," she said, "about the only thing I recall at this point, is I might have had him over once around that time for drinks."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, April 21st, 2015


It was one of those exercises where you open a book at random, stick your finger down, and the sentence it lands on is what you use to start your story. In this case the book was The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe and the sentence from a relatively obscure story called “Bon-Bon.” So as a sort of tip of the hat I chose my off-stage character’s name from the better known “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” and, since Poe has been called the father of the detective story, I had Lo offer a couple of clues that may help readers discover what might have happened. Then one more thing, for a bit of background readers might enjoy checking a story I had in Daily Science Fiction on April 10 last year, called “Casket Girls.”

- James S. Dorr

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