Wednesday, May 5, 2010

One of those nights...

Sometimes when I get on a roll, I can't 'switch off.' I've gotten much better over the years, but every once in a while I have a night like last night...Wrote and brainstormed (brain tinkle?) for a few hours last night...fell into bed for a few fitful hours of sleep, then up after a lot of processing and subconscious musings with only the glow of the laptop and one of the cats for company.

Oh. And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

While I go put another pot on, here is the next chapter of the book. Sorry for the formatting...but at 3:16 AM, I'm not as concerned for some reason as I normally would be. ;-)


I thought it was interesting that Peter had sent away our two bodyguards with the police presence in front of St. Ignatius. It confirmed my suspicion that the bodyguards were around for more then conventional protection...which in turn meant they could probably take care of themselves in situations outside the norm. I’ll have to take a closer look at those two later. I wonder how Charles found them?

I followed Peter at a slight jog toward the church, spotting a cluster of three of Cambridge’s finest near the main entrance. As we got closer I could see that the large oak doors that lead directly into the sanctuary had been damaged, with one hanging at a strange angle off of one hinge and the other seemingly missing altogether. There was nothing easy about kicking in two fourteen-foot-high five hundred pound doors. Trust me. I tried to do that very thing many years ago. My foot still hurts every time it’s about to rain.

As we reached the steps, Peter said calmly, “Good evening officers,” to the uniformed men who were quietly conversing near the vandalized front entrance as he reached the main steps. “I’m Father Fine. What seems to be the problem?”

Oh I don’t know Peter, I thought really loudly. Something large and strong beat down the freakin’ front doors of the church. I must be getting mature in my old age as I didn’t actually say it out loud. Peter, on the other hand, had always been the consummate diplomat.

One of the cops, a guy with the sergeant stripes on his shoulder, muttered something to the other two and they chuckled softly. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled. What was so funny about a vandalized church, bub? Again, I kept my mouth shut. The officer that had made a comment to his compatriots came down the steps toward us. He was wearing one of those fake smiles that showed everything but mirth.

“Good evening Father,” he said with a silky, accusing voice that made me want to hit him. But I’m mature, so I just sent daggers toward him via a withering glare. “A few of the neighbor’s called in a disturbance.” He continued as he thumbed behind him at the entranceway. “We responded a few minutes ago and discovered the mess with the doors and were waiting for permission to enter from our commanding officer. He went in alone as no one from the church responded to our calls.” The cop paused. “Father.” As if adding the title made his sarcastic tone acceptable. The officer looked down his nose at Peter. The cop was a big guy, six feet or so, maybe fortyish. He had the graying temples and slight paunch of a man that used to work out, but has gone to seed as he approached middle age. He looked quizzically at Peter. “Mind telling me why no one seems to be here? And while you’re at it, mind telling me where you’ve been and who your companion is?” I could hear the camel howl in pain as the final straw broke his back.

Now I know I’m a bit disrespectful. And I haven’t been the best Catholic in a very long time. And Peter is particularly fun to take the piss out of, as they say in my current home city of Dublin. And, did I mention? I have a real issue with disrespectful, piss-taking authority figures?

So that’s when my brain heard my mouth say, “We’ve been at the Policeman’s charity ball. We’re raising money to buy you a pair.” I guess I’m not as mature as I thought.

The next thing my brain registered was pain as the middle-aged sergeant--who without missing a beat--spun me around, pinned my arms to my back and slammed my face down on the hood of one of the patrol cars. I guess I need to work on my delivery.

As I was playing astronomy by watching the stars dance across my vision, and tried to catch a bit of drool that was about to fall out of my mouth, Peter continued the conversation as if I hadn’t just been jacked onto the hood of a police cruiser.

“Well, Sergeant,” he said calmly. “I was coming back from the airport having picked up my guest whom you currently have…at a disadvantage. The Monsignor is inside, so I’m sure he could have…”

That’s when I heard another voice, one I hadn’t heard in a long time. One that made my head ache even more then it already did.

“That’s enough sergeant,” said a calm almost bored voice. I’ll take it from here. Please go round up the rest of the men and tell them to pack it in. I want reports on my desk by morning.”

“Yes sir!” said the officer behind me. He tightened his grip a bit more, causing a numbing feeling to spread from my shoulders to my fingertips.

“You can let Mr. Bryson up, sergeant.” That same maddening calm voice again. “I think I can handle him.”

I stood up, rubbing my jaw and nonchalantly wiping a bit of spittle from my lip. I was slightly surprised to see that my head hadn’t left a dent in the hood of the patrol car. My back creaked as I’d stood. I waited a moment, and realizing the man wasn’t going to just go away as I had hoped, I turned to stare at him.

He was tall, taller then I had remembered, and rail thin. Clean shaven with a short slightly spiked haircut the, detective I corrected myself as I saw the color of the badge... was dressed in a grey two-piece suit with the gold badge clipped to his jacket pocket. He shifted a pair of Benjamin Franklin styled specs up the bridge of his nose absent-mindedly. He’d been doing that since age seven. “Hey.” I said, meeting his steady gaze.

“Hey,” he replied. We stood in silence for a moment.

“Congrats on making detective,” I said looking him in the eyes. Aaron North, my best friend from childhood, my right hand man as a young adult and complete bastard-- and I meant that literally as well as figuratively-- stood with his hands on his hips looking me over with that prissy ‘I don’t approve’ look. Hated that. Broke his nose when we were thirteen for that same look.

“Symon. I didn’t think you’d actually come. I heard you were doing major good works in Dublin, tending bar and running minor cons. How the mighty have fallen.” He said matter-of-factly. Prick.

“I see you are still playing Cops ‘n Robbers,” I said as I turned toward him. “But now you have the cheap suit to go with it.” I pride myself on my witty repartee.

Peter, probably sensing that things might be heading rapidly down a rabbit hole, leaned into me and whispered loud enough for Aaron to hear, “Symon, you’ve been here for less then an hour. Please don’t get yourself arrested your first night in town. That would be a record, even for you.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help myself. Peter had the exact same look on his face now as when he’d caught Aaron and I trying to sneak back into our dormitory at four in the morning having spent an evening with Harvard co-eds. We’d been fourteen at the time.

Aaron laughed too and I could see the tension leaving his face. It didn’t mean we were all right, mind you. It just meant we weren’t going to beat the Hell out of each other. For now.

“Aaron, what’s happening here? I’ve only been gone for a couple of hours to bring Symon back from the airport. And where is the Monsignor?” Peter asked.

“Father,” Aaron said, shifting back to a more formal tone, “We received a call that St. Ignatius was being vandalized. But by the time we got here, the person or persons responsible were gone. We found the main doors to the sanctuary knocked almost completely off their hinges and I found some minor damage inside. We haven’t seen the Monsignor. In fact, we haven’t seen anyone associated with the church until you walked up. Come, let me show you.”

We headed up the stairs, Aaron, now all business. Our moment of shared jocularity gone. And I was Ok with that. We walked together through the ruined threshold of the Sanctuary and stopped dead. Peter was looking around with a curious expression on his face, but Aaron was now looking at me. I shivered as a chill had gone up and down my spine as soon as we had entered.

“You felt it too then,” he said simply. There was something dirty surrounding us, something old. There was a stagnant, musty feel to the air and the stench of sulfur and decay. I may have been out of the game for a while, but once trained in the arts, you can miss signs of magic. Whatever had desecrated the church was still here.

“Aaron,” I said, still looking around. The choir loft, maybe? “Aaron, make sure your people are out of the area. Now.”

As calm as could be, Aaron popped on his little radio. “This is Detective North. All units head back to the precinct. I’ll meet you there shortly.” Acknowledgements could be heard from the little speaker of the radio. I could hear the sound of cars pulling away through the gaping hole left when the doors had been ripped off. The three of us didn’t move.

Peter, Aaron and I continued to search the church with our senses, barely breathing as if any movement would draw attention to ourselves. Low-level evening lighting and the flickering glow of candles made the shadows dance and move in a foreboding way.

“I have him.” A scratchy inhuman voice said simply. All three of us jumped back, me crashing into Aaron. Mirthless laughter rang throughout the sanctuary. Whatever it was had sounded like it was standing next to me, whispering in my ear like some sort of demented lover. “He left himself open to me and he is mine.” There was a sound like the flapping of large, leathery wings and then nothing. The smell began to dissipate.

“Jesus Christ!” Aaron exclaimed. “What the Hell was that?”

It was all happening too fast. I’d given up this life a decade ago, yet less then two hours after getting off a plane I was knee-deep in ghoulies, ghosties and all manner of beasties.

Thinking furiously, I tried to put the pieces together in my head. Charles had been in trouble. So much so, that he’d had Peter contact the only people he could trust that would help him despite the years of estrangement. Something evil had entered a church, which, knowing the rules of the demon shadow-world I’d been involved in most of my adolescence and early adulthood, should have been impossible.

There was an audible series of echoing clicks and the church lit up in all its glory. Peter had thankfully found the lights and flipped on. Aaron hadn’t left my side and I just noticed he’d drawn his automatic. I blinked in the sudden light and began to survey the church in detail. With the evil sensation gone, I could focus on our surroundings. Other then the front doors, nothing in the main hall looked out of place or disturbed. I noticed much of the interior hadn’t changed since I’d last stepped inside. But something was bugging me. It took me a jet-lagged moment, then it hit me. I’d never seen the place quite so empty before. Usually at anytime of the day or night, there were both parishioners and church staff of varying degrees and numbers inside.

Aaron turned to me and said, “Stay here Symon. I’m going to take a look around.”

“Like Hell,” I responded. No way he was going anywhere by himself, gun or no gun. We made our way toward the alter down the center isle. As Aaron respectfully genuflected and made the sign of the cross, I glanced around to see where Peter had gotten to. For the moment he was out of sight and that worried me a bit.

I looked over to Aaron about to ask him if he’d seen our priest friend, when Peter’s voice, a half an octave higher then normal, rang out.

“Boys! Come back here. There is something you need to see.”

His voice came off from our right and Aaron and I went behind the alter through the door that lead to the choir room and the church offices.

We hurried down the corridor and saw that the door at the end of the hall was open. Charles’ sanctum sanctorum. We both got to the doorway at the same time and I slowed down long enough to let Aaron go through first. What? He’s the one with the gun!

Entering Charles’ study I came to a complete stop. Peter was there, standing speechless and I could immediately see why. The room had been torn apart. Not a single piece of furniture was left intact. And inscribed in what looked like blood on the walls, ceiling and floor were symbols that were unintelligible to me. But instinct told me that whatever had taunted us in the church had written the cryptic letters and symbols. There were a lot of them. And a lot of blood (if that’s indeed what it was) had been used.

Quietly, Peter said, “What, in all that is holy does it mean?”

I looked again at all the foul writing and said just as quietly, “Well I’m no expert, Peter. But I’m guessing it means Charles has been taken. The Monsignor’s gone.”


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