This is the prelude to the second Ghost Zero book ‘The Midnight Society’, due out this spring.
The ruined destroyer, USS Reuben James, cut her way through a blood sea full of corpses. The entire bow had been sheered away by a U-boat torpedo at the beginning of World War II, but her ghost still dwelt in the realm of shadow, doomed to repeat the day of her destruction.
Solomon Strange had changed that, however. He stood on the ragged, steel beams that jutted out from the smoking hull, precariously balanced over the dead sea, shrouded by white cloth. With his outstretched arms, and his covered head thrown back, he vibrated with the Words of God. His spider silk throat shimmered and bled white ectoplasm that curled in the corpse wind that always blew cold in the world of shadow, but he kept commanding the ship with words that were felt more than heard, commanding it on…to America.
Solomon Strange remembered.
He remembered being a boy, Paul Ecks, and learning the Words of Life from a dying rabbi, who had no son of his own to give them to. He remembered wearing an ebony tuxedo with a hood, calling himself after the Jewish King, and devoting his life to fighting crime. He assembled others of like mind, and they stalked the crime-festering streets as The Midnight Society. The underworld syndicates feared them.
Then came the second war with Germany, and the arguments within the team. Solomon wanted to go to Europe to fight Nazism, the Revenant and the Scarlet Specter insisting on fighting domestic crime, the Resurrectionist and Mary Midnight undecided.
So, he went alone. Full of plans and patriotism, he made his way to Italy covertly, only to die with a group of resistance fighters beneath the crushing explosions of a confused, allied shelling.
But, death was not the end for Solomon Strange. He awoke in the land of the dead, at first without purpose or understanding, but slowly his thoughts became clear.
He must return to America. He must unite the Midnight Society. Crime must be extinguished.
And so, he struggled across the haunted battlefields of Europe, passing ghostly soldiers from two wars locked in eternal battle, and fought his way to the sea.
It was at the sea that she met him. She was a stranger, but knew his heart, and promised to aid him in his quest to return to the land of the living. She told him of a place…a town named Limestone, where the veil between the living and the dead was pierced…where he could enter in.
It was in their talks together by the sea that he realized that the living were predisposed to crime…all of them…and even though they may be temporarily wiped clean of their sins, they would soon return. He realized that it was not crime itself that was the evil, but the living who made it eventual. The only way to truly end crime was to end the living.
When she saw his lament at the realization, she cried with him cobweb tears, and with her tenderness, she agreed to help. The old rabbi had given him some of the Words of Life, but she could give him more. She could give him the Words of Death, with which he could finally wipe the crime of humanity clean.
And so, filled with purpose again, the Words of Death twisting inside him like a shivering child, he commanded the haunted destroyer home. He opened his fevered eyes and saw, through the eternal mists, the dark and bloody coast of America rise before him.
The thought of saying a prayer of thanks came to him, but the knowledge of how to do so, like so many other things, was lost.
His purpose was all that remained.