Crime Diary- Chapter Thirty-Five

The powerful herbs in Delilah’s tea made me lose consciousness quickly.  My mind’s eye opened.  I found myself staring at a dingy ceiling for several moments.  The water stain running across it looked familiar.    I shifted and an errant spring in the mattress upon which I lay dug into my side.  That settled it for me.  I knew then that I lay in the narrow bed in my apartment.  Looking at the shabby walls around me was reassuring.

I laughed out loud.  Maybe the whole nightmare with Plum had been a bad dream.  For the first time in my life, the prospect of getting up and going to work made me happy.  The idea of returning to my routine of sleep, work, sleep made me positively giddy.  Life before Plum may have been dull, but it was safe.  If I needed to get a second job to make ends meet, then that’s just what I’d do.  No more looking to make easy money.

My alarm clock went off and I went into autopilot, going to the kitchen and turning on the coffeemaker before going to the bathroom for a quick shower.  I switched on the light and a gleam caught my eye as I walked past the mirror.  Something about it was disquieting.  I didn’t want to look in the mirror.  Dread rose up in me so quickly that I held my breath.  I wanted to get in the shower, but something compelled me to turn towards the mirror.

My eyes went to the choker around my neck.  I leaned in, trying to figure out why it looked different.  It slowly dawned on me that the symbols on it were backwards.  I looked up and was stunned to see Plum’s face reflected back at me.  Shock made my mind go blank.  The next thing I knew, Plum was reaching through the mirror.  I looked down at the sharp fingernails with the deep purple manicure, reaching for me.  My mind told me to move, but I was transfixed by the unreality of it.

The memory of Delilah drugging me flooded back.  Having a bad dream wasn’t so bad.  At least, Plum couldn’t harm me in my dreams.  Her laughter was sinister.

“That’s where you’re wrong Patricia.  Didn’t anyone ever tell you, if you die in your dreams you die in real life?”

“What do you mean?”

“When I kill you, your soul will leave your body.”

The thought of being evicted from my body and Plum’s life force taking up residence in it, got me moving.  Plum was faster.  Her hands closed around my throat.  Their strength was shocking.  The fingers felt like bands of steel.  My breath was abruptly cut off.  I tried not to panic over the fact that my strength was ebbing away.  Clawing feebly at her hands did nothing to relieve the crushing pressure on my throat.  As my vision dimmed, I groped blindly for anything that could be used as a makeshift weapon.

My hands closed around thin air.  In desperation, I balled up my fists and hit her wherever I could.  Plum leaned back into the mirror so that only her arms protruded and my fists were battering the mirror.  I heard a loud crack and the mirror shattered.  All at once, the pressure on my neck was gone, I fell to the floor gasping, too weak to lift my arms and shield my face from the falling shards of glass.

My brain was shouting, “Get up!  Get up, before she attacks you again!”  Fighting back waves of nausea and light-headedness, I struggled to my feet and barely made it back over to my bed before my shaky legs gave out.  The apartment was so small that from where I sat, I saw that Plum was gone.  My fear slowly eased.  I let out a shaky breath and lay back on the bed with my eyes closed.

The suddenness and strength of her attack had rattled me.  I felt powerless.  The urge to hide out in my cramped apartment was overwhelming.  But then again, it wasn’t really my apartment.  I was dreaming.  My experience with dreams was that anything could happen at any given moment.  Some people claimed that they could control what happened in their dreams.  I never learned how that worked.

The thought of Plum attacking me in my weakened state frightened me.  I felt like a sitting duck.  Panic began welling up inside me again.  I had the presence of mind to realize that giving in to fear wasn’t going to do me any good.  What had Delilah said about dreams?  I had drifted off while she explained things to me. She had something about the imagination being just as strong as any spell Plum could cast.  According to Delilah, the key was to remain focused on what I desired and repeat my intentions.  Thoughts were generated by energy, just as magic was generated by energy.

Those ideas made me feel a little less helpless, but I still had no idea where to go or what to do next.  Until I learned how to translate the words into actions, I’d continue to be at Plum’s mercy.  She had just shown me, she was merciless.  So, why didn’t I put Delilah’s assertions to the test?  My eyes flew open and I sat bolt upright, feeling encouraged.  Figuring out how to manifest something then and there might give me a fighting chance at staying alive.  So, what would make me feel safe?  I opened my hand and closed my eyes, focusing on an image until I felt something solid in my palm.

A gun had materialized in my hand.  I sat staring at it in disbelief.  It had a solid, reassuring weight to it.  Was it loaded, or did I have to dream up bullets for it?  Only one way to find out.  I aimed the gun at a picture on the opposite wall and pulled the trigger.  There was a loud report and a small hole appeared in the middle of the picture, causing a web of cracks to appear in the glass around it.

I squinted at the picture.  Was that how a bullet impacted glass or should the glass have shattered completely?  My mind automatically conjured up an image of a bigger hole in the picture with the glass completely shattered out of the frame.  In the next moment, the picture in front of me suddenly had a bigger hole and the glass fell at my feet.  I realized that I didn’t even need the gun!

 

 

 

 

The Doorkeepers-Chapter-Thirty Five

Andrea found the nearest hotel and they checked into a room with two beds.  It was Marko’s idea that they should stay together for protection.  Andrea eyed him doubtfully. The strain of his health scare had taken a lot out of him.  He looked much too weak to be any sort of help, if anything were to go down.  Right now, he needed more looking after then they did.

The trio trooped up to the room and Marko sat on the bed closest to the door, while the sisters were inspecting the bathroom.  They came out to find he had fallen into a deep, exhausted sleep.  Not wanting to wake him, they scribbled a quick note and left it by the phone on the nightstand, before venturing out in search of the nearest fast food joint. The hotel was in a sketchy part of town, but that couldn’t be helped.  They had to be frugal with their dwindling cash reserves.  Andrea was so intent on what she was saying to her sister that she had taken several steps before realizing that Janet was no longer beside her.

Andrea experienced a moment of panic, when she turned around on the busy sidewalk and didn’t see her sister.  Had someone or something snatched her?  Andrea retraced her steps, looking around wildly.  She called out and no answer came.  Normally, Andrea’s first reaction would be anger.  The shadow cat had depleted her stores of pent-up rage.  Instead, she felt anxiety prodding at her stomach.

People continued to walk around her, unconcerned about her frantic efforts to locate Janet.  Frustration only intensified the growing sense of anxiousness that Andrea felt.  In desperation, she began looking in storefront windows and was relieved to see her sister through the dusty window of a rundown palmistry shop.  Andrea rushed inside.

“What is wrong with you Janet?  One minute I was talking to you and the next thing I know, you’ve disappeared!  Why didn’t you say something?”

“Huh?  Oh, sorry Andrea.  I saw this place and I just had to come in.  I’m going to have my palm read.  Don’t look at me like that Andrea.  With all the craziness that we’ve been through recently, I just want a little reassurance.”

“You are not wasting any money on this nonsense.  We’re barely scraping by as it is.  Pretty soon, we’ll have to start doing odd jobs for cash.”

“Don’t worry, the first reading is free.  You should get your palm read too.”

“You’re joking right?  Janet, these phony baloney places just feed you a bunch of double talk so they can drain your pocketbook.  They probably tell everybody the same thing.  It’s like fortune cookies.  Come on, let’s get something to eat and go back to the hotel.”

“No Andrea, I’m getting my palm read.  I have a strong feeling about this place.  Go on and order the food without me.  By the time you get it, I will have gotten my palm read.”

Andrea fought the urge to continue arguing.  She could tell by the determined look on her sister’s face that it would be pointless.  Andrea let out a frustrated sigh and left, muttering under her breath.  Janet made a face at her sister’s retreating back.  Andrea always had a negative opinion about anything that wasn’t her idea.  Janet closed her eyes and took a deep breath.  They had grown up together.  She had no idea why Andrea’s lack of consideration for her feelings was still so upsetting.

Logically, Janet knew that some palm reader in a hole in the wall shop wasn’t going to predict her future.  In all likelihood, the reading would be completely bogus.  That wasn’t the point.  Janet felt unsettled and just wanted someone, anyone to tell her that nothing catastrophic was looming on the horizon.  It didn’t matter if it was true or not.  She just needed some reassurance.  Marko had enough on his plate keeping them alive without her heaping on her worries.  Andrea had never been good at talking about feelings.  She tended to just roll her eyes and tell Janet to get over herself.

Andrea had decided to leave home as a teenager and brought hardships on herself.  Yet, whenever Janet tried to discuss any personal problems, she got a lecture from her sister about choosing to be a victim.  Andrea loved to grind on about having to survive on the streets with no one but herself to rely on, neglecting to mention the string of men off of whom she sponged.  Just thinking about it made Janet angry.  So, there she was waiting to talk to a stranger about her fears.

The trick here was figuring out how to get things off of her chest without sounding like a fruitcake.  Then again, if you couldn’t talk about spirits and demons with a fortune-teller who could you discuss it with?   The good thing about talking to a stranger about off-the-wall things was that Janet never had to see her again.

She had just managed to calm her nerves when the proprietor of the palmistry shop came sweeping out from behind the beaded curtain.  Janet was surprised to see the woman was relatively young and quiet attractive with long black hair and smoldering, dark eyes.  Suddenly, she felt shy and self-conscious.  Maybe pouring her heart out to a stranger wasn’t such a good idea.

The woman appeared to sense Janet’s uneasiness.  Her red lips parted into a smile and she placed an arm around Janet’s shoulders, gently urging her past the beaded curtains.  The air back there was thick with the smell of incense.  Janet sat down at the table and the woman moved to sit across from her.

“Come and talk to Esmeralda.  Your sister has upset you yes?”

“I…yes, that’s right…”

“Because she does not believe in things like this.  She is not very supportive.”

“No, how did you…Andrea has never been on my side.  In the past, I had friends that I could turn to for support.  But since this business with the talisman…”

Janet knew the moment she said it that she had volunteered too much information.  Esmeralda’s eyes narrowed momentarily and then the solicitous expression returned.  Janet did not like the calculating way the woman had looked at the mention of her talisman.  Esmeralda smiled so engagingly that Janet began to think that she had imagined the appraising look.  Before long, they were chatting like good friends.

The bell over the front door tinkled and in walked Andrea.  How long had they been talking?  Esmeralda hadn’t gotten around to reading her palm.  Rather than keeping Andrea waiting, Esmeralda invited Janet to return alone for her free palm reading.  Andrea rolled her eyes and unceremoniously dropped one of the bags of food in Janet’s lap.

“Come on, let’s get back to the hotel before our food gets cold.”

Esmeralda gave Janet a sympathetic look as she took her leave of the palmistry shop.  Andrea had turned and left without waiting for her sister.  She was several yards away, before Janet got outside.  Being treated like a hardheaded child made her anger boil over.  Janet caught up to her sister and shouted her displeasure.

“Hey, don’t you walk away from me like that!  You embarrassed me back there!”

“And you’re embarrassing me now, shouting like a madwoman.  Lower your voice Janet.  People are staring at us.”

“If you want me to lower my voice, then stop walking away from me.  I’m trying to talk to you.”

“About what Janet?  Don’t tell me your feathers are still ruffled because I didn’t get all excited about you getting your palm read.  Get over yourself.”

“And there it is ladies and gentleman.”

“There what is?  Stop talking to these people.  They’re already staring at us.”

“Would you shut up about these morons?  They don’t know us and we don’t know them.  Who cares if some of them are being nosy?  Worry about me for a change.  I don’t understand why you won’t support me.”

“About getting your palm read?”

“This is not about that, I’m talking in general terms.  Whenever you don’t agree with the way I feel or something I want to do, you try to make me feel ridiculous.”

“That’s because I’m trying to get you to see how silly you’re being.”

“There it is again!”

“There what is?”

“You passing judgement on me.  How would you like it if I did that to you?  Lord knows, you’ve done more than your share of stupid things.”

“Like what Janet?”

“How about the lowlifes you associate with or the decisions you made that landed us in this mess?  Look, I’m not going to stand here and give you an itemized list.  The point is, I’m fed up with not being able to talk to you about things that are important to me.”

“Now, you’re being ridiculous again.  You are such a drama queen Janet!  I am always there for you.  Having your back doesn’t mean I have to let you wallow in self-pity.  As your older sister, it’s my job to…”

“I don’t believe this!  You were gone for most of my teenage years and I’ve been bailing you out of jams for all of my adult years.  Where do you get off trying to play the big sister card?”

Andrea shut down and they walked back to the hotel in stony silence.  The tension was palpable in the hotel room.  Marko sensed that something had gone down between the sisters and wisely decided to stay out of it.  He wolfed down his burger and fries before jumping into the shower.  The sisters each took their turn in the bathroom and then, it was lights out.

Marko immediately sank into a dreamless sleep.  When the scream sounded, it jarred him into a confused state of wakefulness. He sat up in bed and turned on the bedside lamp.  Andrea lay motionless in the other bed.  Marko sighed, thinking that it had been a dream, when his eyes fell on the empty space beside her.  He eased out of bed and staggered over to the bathroom.  It was empty.  Marko went and shook Andrea awake.

“Where is Janet?”

 

 

 

Valley of Shadows-Chapter Thirty-Four

Richard eased his car onto the shoulder of the highway and cut the engine.  Rachel watched him reach into the back seat and retrieve a pair of binoculars.  She waited, but no explanation was forthcoming.  He set about adjusting the binoculars.

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going,” she finally asked.

“This is where we were going.”

“I don’t get it.  You said we were doing some surveillance tonight.”

“That’s exactly what we’re about to do.  Here take a look down there.”

Richard handed his sister the binoculars and directed her attention to the street below them.  Rachel immediately recognized the warehouse that they had visited together.

“We’ve already checked that place out.  Why are we watching it again?”

“I’m testing out a little theory of mine.  My old partner Darryl was a little too interested in what I’ve been up to lately.  I’m not sure that I can trust him, so I decided to conduct a little test.  I told him that I would be breaking into that warehouse tonight and having a look around.”

“Oh, I get it.  You want to see if he’s going to show up.  But what is that going to prove?”

“Well, for one Darryl didn’t tell me he was coming.  If he shows up with his gun drawn…”

“He might just be trying to look out for you.  That warehouse isn’t exactly in the safest neighborhood.”

“You don’t know that man like I do.  If he shows up, it won’t be because he’s trying to watch my back.  He’ll be trying to stick a knife into it.  He hasn’t shown any concern for my well-being, since I left the force.”

“Did you tell him you wanted to keep in touch?  Give him your phone number?”

“Doesn’t matter, he knows where ma lives.  If he really wanted to get in touch with me, then he could have gotten my number from her.”

“Maybe he got the feeling that you didn’t want to keep in touch.”

“What is this?  You in love with the guy or something?”

“Of course not, I couldn’t stand the man.  He was always hitting on me.  I just don’t want you to jump to the wrong conclusions.  The last thing you want to do is to get on the wrong side of a cop.”

“Too late for that, Officer Foster already has it out for me.  Of course, that’s nothing new.  He couldn’t stand me, when I was on the force.”

“Why is that?”

“Other than the color of my skin, he seemed to think I was some sort of goody two shoes and it rankled him.”

“Oh…I could see that.”

“What does that mean?”

“Let’s face it Richard, you always have been a kind of Dudley-do-right.”

“All the trouble I got into growing up and you…”

“Are surprised that you grew into a boring adult.  Of course, I should have seen that coming.  Even when you hung out with the rougher crowd, you always stood up for weak kids whenever somebody started picking on them.  I lost track of how many pathetic wretches you rescued when we were growing up.  Hell, you’re still coming to Harriet’s rescue.”

“What have you got against her?  She had a rough childhood.”

“I know, I know, please don’t go into that old song and dance again.  We’re all adults now.  How long does she get pity for her past?  I’ve struggled too. Where’s my sympathy?”

“Nice try sis.  You created your own problems by constantly rushing headlong into trouble.  No matter how many times you get burned, you still enjoy playing with fire.”

“So, I get bored easily.  I guess to a stick-in-the mud like you, seeking out a little excitement would seem dangerous.  Hey, a police car just pulled up down there.  The door is opening, but the dome light didn’t come on.  I can’t tell how many people are in the car.”

“Give me the binoculars.”

Richard held them up to his eyes and leaned forward eagerly, zooming in on the vehicle.  One person got out.  Richard studied the silhouette.  It was clearly a man. He couldn’t make out anything else.

The figure stepped into the light cast by a street light and Richard was startled to discover that it was Officer Foster.  He cursed under his breath.  Rachel grabbed at the binoculars.  Richard moved back out of her reach.

“What is it Richard?  Is it your old partner?”

“No, it’s that Foster bastard!”

“What a coincidence.”

“It’s not a coincidence.  Don’t you see?  My old partner told him that I’d be there.”

“Oh come on Richard.  That’s a stretch.  Why would he do something like that?  Didn’t you just say Foster is racist?  Well there you go, I can’t Darryl telling Foster anything.”

Richard didn’t respond.  He watched Foster draw his gun and approach the warehouse, find the door locked, make his way along the side of the building, and disappear behind it.  Rachel was still talking but Richard didn’t hear her.  His mind was racing.

Foster walked back around to the front of the building and holstered his gun.  Richard watched him take out his cell phone and make a call.  A moment later, Richard’s cell phone rang.  He looked at the screen.  It was Darryl. Richard shot his sister a triumphant look and took the call, activating the speaker phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey man, it’s Darryl.”

“What’s up?”

“Nothing, just thought I’d see what you got going on tonight.”

“Is that right?”

“Yeah man, if you don’t have any plans…hey wait a minute. I just remembered that you said you were gonna check out that warehouse. You still doing that?”

Rachel interjected before Richard could respond, “You sleazy sonuvabitch! We know you set Richard up.”

Richard waved furiously for her to be quiet and disengaged the speakerphone. He pressed the phone to his ear and for a few moments, all he could hear was his own breathing. Darryl sounded surprised.

“You had me on speakerphone? What’s your sister talking about?”

“Cut the bullshit Darryl. You never were a convincing actor. I can’t believe you would do something like this to me!”

“You got a lot of nerve passing judgement on me. Did you ever stop and think about what happened to me when you left the force?”

“What do you mean? You were friends with half the guys on the force. I knew you’d be fine.”

“Wrong, we hung out but those dudes weren’t my friends. There’s a big difference.”

“You lost me.”

“Just ’cause I watched the game and drank a few beers with them doesn’t mean they could be trusted. Do you know what it’s like to be surrounded by backstabbers and liars?”

“As a matter-of-fact I do. Why do you think I left the force Darryl? It became impossible to tell the good guys apart from the bad guys.”

“That’s the way life is man. Ain’t nothing completely black and white. There’s always gonna be gray areas. But at least when we were partners, we watched each other’s back.”

“See that’s just it Darryl. I started feeling like I was on my own.”

“That’s cold man. How could you say something like that? I’ve always had your back, even when the others tried to talk me out of it.”

“Are you….okay, just for the sake of argument let’s say that’s true. Why stab me in the back tonight?”

“Remember what I said about gray areas? A lot has gone down since you left the force. I got in a jam and Foster helped me out. I owed him.”

“So you were willing to let him shoot me to pay down your debt?”

“What? That wasn’t the agreement. He was just going to confront you. Maybe scare you…”

“Throw me in jail, and make sure I have a record.”

“No man, he wouldn’t…”

“You can’t be that naive! Do you really think that asshole would let me off for breaking and entering with a slap on the wrist and a stern lecture? That’s just insulting!”

Richard abruptly ended the call, not wanting to hear anymore of Darryl’s excuses. He snatched up the binoculars and waited for Foster’s cellphone to ring. The call came and it felt good to see Foster’s consternation as Darryl broke the news. Richard laughed, despite his own irritation.

“What is it Richard?”

“Foster is pissed off. He’s just found out that I won’t be coming out to play tonight. But as enjoyable as it is to disappoint him, it’s a little disturbing that the man is so determined to bring me down.”

“That part makes no sense to me. If Foster hates you so much, why would he wait all these years to come after you?”

“Who knows why hate filled people do anything?”

“No, really Richard. Think about it. You didn’t start having problems with Foster until you started nosing around that warehouse.”

“You may have something there. Foster has always been a little crooked. Maybe someone is paying him to run me off.”

“Exactly…so what’s our next move?”

“Well, since all my troubles started with that warehouse, I say we track down the owner and look into the business that was operating out of that place.”

“How do we do that? You’re not a cop anymore.”

“No, but our brother is an investigative journalist.”
 

The Doorkeepers-Chapter Thirty-Four

Ethan could tell by the exaggerated way their mouths were moving, Dorian and Enmerkar were shouting at him.  However, he couldn’t hear a word they were saying.  Their voices were drowned out in his head by a hissing sound that grew in volume until it felt as though his head would split open.  He closed his eyes and the noise slowly resolved itself into countless whispers which he could not make out.  Dorian touched him on the shoulder.

Ethan opened his eyes in time to see Enmerkar grab a bar of soap from one of the shower stalls.  He used it to draw a circle around Ethan.  Enmerkar mouthed the words, “don’t move.”  He appeared to be chanting something, but each time Ethan tried to listen, the whispers grew louder.  Enmerkar completed the circle and then encircled it with symbols.  Before Ethan could ask him what he was doing, Ethan’s limbs began to tremor.  An all too familiar feeling of something rising up internally overtook him.

He looked into the mirror and saw his startled expression as a creature’s face was suddenly superimposed over his reflected visage.  The ghostly face quickly darkened and came into sharper focus as it began to solidify.  Ethan was filled to almost to bursting by the increasing presence of the demon. It felt as though his insides were being shredded by the creature’s attempts to pass through his body.  Ethan screamed in agony and attempted to help it along by focusing his dwindling strength on pushing it out.

Once again Enmerkar grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him until he opened his eyes.  He mouthed the word stop.  Driven to the verge of madness by the pain, it took Ethan a few moments to comprehend that Enmerkar wanted him to stop trying to force the being out.  Enmerkar placed a hand on his forehead and his mouth moved rapidly.  Ethan supposed it was some sort of spell.  He stopped pushing and closed his eyes, forcing himself to relax and allow the pain to wash over him without reacting to it.  The sensation of fullness gradually subsided.

When the pressure in Ethan’s chest eased, he sighed.  The hissing sound in his mind faded and the voices grew quiet.  He went limp with relief and stumbled slightly.  Dorian pressed his hands against  Ethan’s back to keep him propped up inside the circle.  Enmerkar’s booming voice was jarring to Ethan’s quieted mind.

“Where in the building did you open the portal?”

Ethan’s head was foggy.  It didn’t register that Enmerkar was talking to him until he grabbed him by the throat.  Ethan’s eyes flew open.  Enmerkar’s hand was beginning to crush his throat, cutting off his oxygen.  Ethan’s vision swam.  In another moment, he would black out.  His peripheral vision was rapidly fading.

“The portal damn you!  Where did you open it?”

“I… up in room 211,” croaked Ethan.

Enmerkar dropped Ethan onto his knees inside the circle and disappeared, leaving him gasping and sputtering.  He bent forward with hands on knees as he fought to draw in ragged breaths.  Ethan struggled to his feet and swayed.  His legs felt weak and rubbery.  He needed to sit down, before he fell down.  Dorian stopped him before he could step outside of the circle.

“Stay in the circle Ethan.  Don’t move until Enmerkar gives you permission or else it will make him more angry.”

“I…need…to sit…down,” Ethan panted.

“Hang on, I’ll get you a chair.”

Ethan waited for what felt like an eternity before Dorian returned with the chair.  He felt strange.  When Enmerkar took possession of his body, it was equally painful.  Only that time, he had felt himself again the moment that the demon had separated from his body.  Something was different this time.  The fogginess in his head wasn’t lifting.  Ethan slowly realized that his third eye was closed so tightly that it felt sealed shut.  Enmerkar materialized in front of Ethan once more.  All at once, the memory of the demon’s hand on his forehead reminded him of a fleeting sensation that had overtaken him.

“What did you do to me Enmerkar,” ventured Ethan.

“Ah, I was wondering how long it would take you to realize that I took back your powers,” he chuckled.

“More like stole them from me!”

“It had to be done.  You are too irresponsible to wield that much power.  Which reminds me, hand over the grimoire.”

“What?  No, I’m not giving you…”

“I wasn’t asking you.  Hand it over!”

Ethan knew that the smart thing to do was to give Enmerkar the book.  Pride and anger wouldn’t allow him to bow down.  Not this time.  He had no right to steal Ethan’s powers.  Now, he was trying to take the only thing Ethan had left which gave him hope.  Without that book he was completely powerless.  It was his escape plan.  He just knew there was some nugget of knowledge, some rune, some spell that he could use to regain his freedom.

He couldn’t just hand it over.  Not even if it meant being tortured by Enmerkar.  To just hand it over would destroy what little self-respect he had left.  Ethan stood his ground, ignoring Dorian’s pleas and Enmerkar’s demands.  One angry swat from the demon and Ethan was knocked out of the circle and into the brick wall across the hallway with such force that he felt the back of his skull split and he winked out like a blown out candle.

Dorian let out an involuntary shout as Ethan crashed into the wall and collapsed in a heap onto the floor.  Enmerkar dispassionately flipped Ethan’s body over and retrieved the grimoire from his waistband.  He turned on his heels and left Ethan flopped over like a broken doll.  Dorian rushed over and checked for a pulse.

“He’s dead Enmerkar.  You killed him!  Aren’t you going to bring him back?”

“No need, he is not dead.”

“But he’s not breathing.”

“Wrong Dorian, he is barely breathing.”

“Then why isn’t Ethan moving?”

“Because he is in a…deep sleep.”

“You cracked his head open like an egg!  What do you mean he’s in a deep sleep?  Are you saying he’s in a coma?”

“Ah yes, I could not think of the right word.”

“Aren’t you going to fix him?”

“I have not yet made a decision as to what I intend to do with him.  Perhaps I will leave him in that state for a while.  At least then, I will know he is not starting any more fires for me to put out.”

“That’s not fair!  You brought me right back.”

“You are not a troublemaker.  You are impulsive and dimwitted but docile.  I don’t have to worry about you intentionally causing problems do I?”

Something in the feral way Enmerkar stared at Dorian deflated any defiance that had begun to rise up in him.  Rather than argue, he averted his eyes and meekly shook his head in silent agreement that he knew his place.  The memory of a crushed brainpan was still painfully fresh in Dorian’s mind.  He contented himself with glowering at Enmerkar’s retreating back.

 

 

 

Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty-Four

I knew that Plum was right about my misgivings, but I also knew that getting me to mistrust Delilah would benefit Plum.  I was still very angry about Plum invading my body and attempting to imprison me.   Just thinking about it filled me with impotent rage.  With her inside of me, I couldn’t punish her without hurting myself.  Her voice droned on and on inside my head.  She was seemingly oblivious to my growing hatred.  Plum’s voice intruded on my murderous thoughts.

I’m well aware of how angry you are Patricia.  What do you want me to say?  I would do the same thing all over again.  I was not going to let your little friend attack me without exacting a little payback!”

“Which is why I’m not helping you.”

Aw, you’re so cute.  Trying to protect your little buddy.  Five minutes after meeting some common whore in a rundown bordello, you think you’ve made a friend for life.  Open your eyes darling.  People like her don’t have real friends.   She’s using you to get to me.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.  She knew nothing about you…”

“Until two minutes after you met her.  No doubt you told her your whole life story.  I don’t even have to read your thoughts to know that darling.  You are so very predictable, I always knew what you were feeling before you were even aware of it.  Walking around with your heart on your sleeve is going to get you killed.   No, I’m not saying your precious little friend is trying to kill you.  I wouldn’t put anything else past her though, once she gets what she wants from you.”

Plum had struck a nerve with such precision that my reaction was more reflexive than intentional.  A sudden overwhelming urge to block out the sound of her voice, before she said another word, evoked the image in my mind’s eye of a brick wall.  All at once, my mind was silent.

I sat up in bed breathing heavily.  The idea of being betrayed and abandoned again had dredged up long buried pain.  Had Plum been rooting around in my memories?  The impotent rage returned with an intensity that left me trembling.  She had no right!  There were things in my past that I didn’t even allow my mind’s eye to see.  Lost in thought, I didn’t notice that Delilah had opened the door and stuck her head in until she spoke.

“What’s wrong Patricia?”

“Huh?  I….nothing, I guess I’m just a little freaked out over having someone else inside my head.”

“I know and I’m sorry you have to go through this.  I promise we’re gonna get the situation taken care of post-haste.  We’ll hit the road first thing in the morning.”

“You mean we’re driving back to Philadelphia?”

“We’re going to have to, there’s too many of us going to get that many plane tickets at this short of a notice.”

“How many people are going?”

“I don’t have an exact number yet.  I’m still making calls.”

“Are we talking more than five?”

“Oh, hell yeah!”

“What?  Why so many?”

“Think about it Patricia.  You and I couldn’t face down an entire coven on our own.  We need backup, for even a snowball’s chance in hell of getting in and out of her place alive.”

“You make it sound like we’re heading into some sort of battle.”

“I don’t know about all that Patricia.  What I do know, is that they will probably need a little…convincing before they cooperate.  We don’t need to worry about that tonight though.  Why don’t you lie down and get some sleep?”

“I’m not tired.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sleep again.”

“You need to get some shuteye.  I know, I’ll make you some chamomile tea.  That always relaxes me.”

I nodded grudgingly, just to get her to leave the room.  I needed to process what she had just said, and Plum’s attempts at invading my thoughts was distracting me.  Mental exhaustion was weakening my resolve and I could feel the barrier between us beginning to buckle.

Thinking that splashing cold water on my face would revive me, I went across the hall to the bathroom and flipped the switch to the left of the door.  The light hit the collar around my neck and the gleam made me stop and stare.  I leaned in close to the mirror, trying to see past the shine and make out the shapes etched into its polished surface.  Delilah walked past the open door with a mug in her hand.  Seeing the guest bedroom empty she turned and saw me in the bathroom.

“What the hell are you doing Patricia!”

“You’re kidding right?  What does it look like I’m doing?”

“Get away from that mirror!”

“Ouch, let go of me Delilah!”

“Ok, look I’m sorry.  Just stay away from mirrors.  I don’t want you looking at that collar.”

“Then maybe you shouldn’t have put it around my neck.”

“I know you think I’m being ridiculous, but we can’t let Plum get a good look at the runes on that collar.”

“You can relax, I’ve blocked her out.”

“Maybe you blocked her out from seeing what you see at this moment, but she can still access your recall of what you’ve seen.”

“Don’t remind me.  I think she already rooted around in my memories.  Who knows how much ammunition she has on me now?  If you would have just forced her out when she first invaded my body, that never would have happened!”

“Oh are we assigning blame?  Don’t forget that your interference got you into this mess.  Nobody told you to go down to the room alone with Flame.”

“How was I supposed to know that Plum had returned?  I was just trying to be nice…”

“Well, you see where that got you.  Look, let’s not fight Patricia.  I can see that you are exhausted.  Come on back in the bedroom.  Your tea is getting cold.  I’ll reheat it for you.”

“That’s okay, it’s probably still warm.”

I sat on the bed and bolted down the tea, in the hopes that Delilah would go away.  Mental exhaustion had my nerves on edge.  Delilah held her hand out for the empty mug.  In passing it to her, I noticed what looked like traces of a gritty substance in the bottom of the mug.  Drowsiness suddenly began leaching away my strength.

“What is this in my mug Delilah?  Did you drug me?”

“It’s just a little something to help you sleep.  Lay down Patricia.”

“I don’t want to go to sleep!  The minute I’m unconscious, Plum will try to take over.”

“Not if you put her in her place.”

“And how am I supposed to do that while I’m unconscious?  She’s a witch.”

“In the natural world, she is a skilled sorceress.  But anyone can be a sorceress in their dreams Patricia.  You’re only limited by your imagination.”

“What does that mean?”

“A minute ago, you said that you had blocked her out of your thoughts.  How did you do that?”

“I don’t know.  I just sort of envisioned a brick wall between us.”

“Well there you go.  In your dreams, all you have to do is concentrate on what you want and it will manifest.  You just have to believe.  You’re a lot stronger than you think you are Patricia.”

 

The Doorkeepers-Chapter Thirty-Three

Ethan wondered how long Enmerkar would keep him and Dorian holed up in the old school. The demon had proven to be secretive and suspicious of them.  Enmerkar kept Ethan and Dorian on a short leash, even when they ventured out for something to eat. Ethan was beginning to feel like a hostage.  He spent as much time alone, prowling through the building, as Enmerkar allowed.

Ethan found within the pages of the grimoire he carried everywhere, a spell which promised to bestow the power of second sight.  It was the only spell he could find that did not require obscure ingredients. Ethan was careful to practice the spell away from prying ears and eyes.  If Enmerkar got wind of what he was up to, then Enmerkar would destroy the grimoire and punish him in some horrific way. The memory of the Dorian’s crushed skull was still fresh in Ethan’s mind.

He poured the strength of his mounting fears and frustrations over his seeming powerlessness into working the spell. The first few times that he recited the incantation, nothing happened.  Ethan kept at it. He had nothing but time on his hands.  One evening, he spent hours, in an empty classroom, trying and retrying to cast the spell.  Night fell and a full moon rose high in the sky. It streamed through the dusty windows behind him.  Ethan lay in the middle of the floor to rest his back and closed his eyes against the moonlight. He had just eaten.  A pleasant sensation of fullness was relaxing him.

After a few moments, Ethan began drifting between sleep and wakefulness. He rested the back of his head in the crook of his right arm, took a deep breath and slowly recited the spell. Ethan had worked the spell so often that the words were etched into his memory.  Practice had resolved his previous hesitation in pronouncing the cumbersome words.  He had even managed to wheedle out of Enmerkar the meaning of the terms he couldn’t figure out. Ethan’s recitation had become smooth and assured. He chanted the incantation with conviction and focus on the meaning of each word.

Again Ethan uttered the last word.  He felt a sudden hard tug in the center of his forehead and the moonlight was suddenly dazzling.  Reflexively, he blinked his eyes and the light grew more intense.  He realized that they had actually been closed.  Ethan cautiously closed his eyes again and clearly saw the ceiling above him.  Realization came to him in a rush of elation.  The spell had finally worked! His third eye had opened.

He got up and roamed around the building with his eyes closed, marveling at the clarity of vision through his third eye. Things were clear, even in darkness and at a distance.  Ethan made his way into the boys bathroom on the first floor and peered into the dusty mirror.

By degrees, he became aware of a change in his appearance.  Something was different, but Ethan couldn’t quite put his finger on it.  Habit made him open his eyes for a closer inspection.  With average vision, he looked normal.  Ethan chuckled, shrugging off his initial impression.  Maybe the changes he saw were just a trick of the dim light.

He was about to turn away from the mirror when curiosity made him pause.  The urge to take a second look with his third eye was strong, but a sudden sense of foreboding made him hesitant.  Ethan wasn’t sure what he thought he might see.   Instinctively, he eased open his third eye by imagining a heavy eyelid lifting.  Ethan kept his eyes open and looked full on at himself, mentally focused on seeking out the changes within him.

The whites of his eyes glowed in the gloom of the bathroom, turning his brown pupils into black holes.  Something moved ceaselessly beneath the surface of Ethan’s skin.  He was transfixed by his reflection, unaware that the scream bouncing around the tiled walls of the bathroom was coming from him.

Enmerkar materialized behind Ethan in a defensive stance.  Footsteps sounded in the hallway and Dorian came bursting into the bathroom gazing around wildly, makeshift weapon raised overhead.  Realizing that the three of them were alone, he dropped the wooden table leg, grabbed Ethan by the shoulders and shook some sense back into him. The scream died away and Ethan’s horrified stare was replaced by surprise.

“What are you two doing in here?”

“You were screaming your head off just now.  We thought someone was attacking.  What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Sorry mate, didn’t realize I was screaming.  You’d scream too if you looked like this!”

“Looked like what?”

“Are you blind?  Look at my eyes and my skin!”

“Your eyes look the same way they always looked.  They’re a little bloodshot, but that’s because you haven’t been sleeping.  Your face is just breaking out from all the greasy food we’ve been eating.”

“You gotta be joking me.  My eyes are glowing like…”

“Save your breath Ethan.  He cannot see it,” Enmerkar interjected.

“What do you mean he can’t see it?  My eyes are bright as headlights.  How can he not see?”

“I’m guessing you cast some sort of spell.”

“I…yes, it’s called the all seeing eye.”

“So, you beseeched Ash Shaitan for the vision of a god?”

“What?  No, I didn’t beseech the devil.  It was a spell for opening the third eye,” blurted Ethan.

“Spell casting is just a prayer directed away from the heavens.  What did you offer in exchange for your new powers?”

“I didn’t offer anything.”

“There is always an offering.  Why else do you think your request was granted? You have entered into a contract,” Enmerkar yawned and turned to leave.

“What?  Where are you going?  How do I figure out what sort of contract it is?”

“Not my problem.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re pissed that I have powers now. Feeling a little threatened?”

“What you have are abilities. They only become powers if you know what they are and how to use them.”

“What does that mean?”

“Figure it out worm. It is not my responsibility to spoon feed answers to you. Humans are so lazy.”

“Yeah, well it takes one to know one. Weren’t you human once?”

“Was I?  How would that obligate me to tell you anything?”

“What’s the big bloody deal in sharing a bit of information?   Why do you always have to speak in riddles?  We’re supposed to be a team…”

“You speak of teams.  Yet you snuck off, cast a self-serving spell, and put us all at risk.”

“How did I put you and Dorian at risk?  The spell went off without a hitch.  If anything, I put myself on the line to make the team stronger.”

“Spare me the phony altruism worm.  Your pathetic, little grab for power may have put is in danger, all because you fail to grasp the most basic tenets of spell casting!”

“Now I know you’re full of it! If I’m such a bloody wanker, then I wouldn’t have been able to make the spell work would I?”

“Tell me something  worm.  Before you began weaving the spell,  did you mark out a sacred space?”

“A what?”

Dorian’s voice sounded concerned, “He’s asking if you cast a magic circle or pentagram to contain the energy generated by the spell.”

“I…no, to tell the truth…I didn’t think the spell would actually work…”

“Did you at least close the gateway,” interrupted Enmerkar.

“What?”

Dorian’s voice conveyed his rising alarm, “The portal Ethan! Did you close the portal you opened by uttering that spell?”

Ethan suddenly felt sick. He opened his mouth but no words would come. All he could do was shake his head no.

 

Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty-Three

When Plum’s essence flowed into me, my senses were thrown into such a state of flux, that I went into shock. She quickly overpowered me. In my confused state, I initially offered no resistance.  There are always those first few seconds, after something inexplicable happens, when you can’t quite believe it’s real. I had no frame of reference for what was happening to me.

As Plum completed her hostile takeover of my body.  I just kept asking myself, “What is happening?” She took root inside of me and my mind was suddenly flooded with images from her. It was like being hit by a tidal wave.  As quickly as the flood began, it receded.

I gradually came to the realization that Plum had erected some sort of barrier between us. At first, it was a relief to be free of her caustic thoughts. Then I realized that she had imprisoned me; relegating me to some disused part of my mind. Being disconnected from my senses really freaked me out. In an instant, I was blind and deaf. Fear shook me out of my daze.

Fighting back was the only option. No one was going to rescue me. They didn’t even know that I was possessed. It was up to me to free myself. Of course, I had no idea how to do that. The thought of being trapped in the darkness forever sent me into a tailspin of panic. A growing sense of hopelessness pushed me to the edge of sanity.

In Plum’s rush of images, I had seen what she had intended to do to Delilah.  Plum had to be stopped.  That was easier said than done, with nothing but the force of my will. I used it like a battering ram, to breech Plum’s wall and free myself.  Coming out of the darkness made me feel like a resurfacing deep sea diver. The return of my senses was almost overwhelming after the void. Plum was still in the driver’s seat, but at least now I could see where we were going.

She knocked on Delilah’s door and I felt frantic again. Plum was about to kill the only person who had actually tried to help me. When no response came from the other side of the door, I was relieved. Maybe Plum would leave. She tried the knob, the door opened and we were inside Delilah’s apartment before my dismay could register.

Plum and I realized that someone was behind the door right before the cold band of steel locked around my neck.  I suddenly felt like a fuse blew inside my head.  Everything went black.  When my eyes opened again, I was lying on a bed in Delilah’s apartment.  The steel cuff was chafing my neck.  One of the female dancers was sitting beside the bed and called out for Delilah, as soon as she realized that I was awake.  A moment later, both of them were standing over me.  I remember thinking how much younger they both looked without the heavy makeup of the night before.

“What happened,” I asked groggily.

“Crystal here saw Flame latched onto you downstairs and sprinted up here to tell me.  I knew there was a chance that Plum had taken possession of your body.  That’s why I was ready with the collar.”

“Speaking of the collar, can you take it off now?”

“I can see it’s uncomfortable.  Sorry, but you’re going to have to keep it on for now.  It’s the only think keeping Plum in check.”

“You mean, she’s still inside of me?  That explains why my head feels so weird.”

“What do you mean?”

“It feels like ants are crawling all over my brain.”

“Guess it’s all the extra electrical activity.”

“Well, I don’t like it.  When are you going to get rid of her?”

“As soon as we get you back to her place.  It’s too dangerous to try doing anything with her here again.  We’ll escort you back and secure her there.”

Plum’s voice suddenly echoed through my mind, “She’s lying!”

My hands involuntarily flew up to my ears, as if they could somehow block out the reverberations bouncing around inside my head.  Delilah asked what was wrong and I told her what had just happened.  She gazed at me steadily with an unreadable expression.

“Do you think I’m lying?”

“Of course not, I don’t believe anything she says…not anymore.”

“Glad to hear it.  We’re all going to have to stick together in this thing.  If you allow her to drive a wedge between us, it weakens our defenses.  Just ignore her.”

“That’s easier said than done.  How do you ignore a voice inside your head?”

“Block her out.  Focus your thoughts on something pleasant: a happy memory or future plans.  If your imagination is strong enough, then you can visualize a barrier like a brick wall or steel vault and use it to protect your thoughts but those are hard to maintain.”

Delilah could see my eyelids growing heavy.  She left the room, so that I could get some rest.  Crystal wanted to stay and keep an eye on me, but I protested and Delilah shooed her out.  The thought of trying to sleep with a stranger looking on made me feel more agitated.  Plum spoke up again, “Is that really why you didn’t want here in here?  I think you’re beginning to have doubts about your new friends.  What do you really know about them Patricia?”

“I know all I need to, they’re nice.  You have to admit that Delilah has helped me a lot,” I inexplicably said out loud.

You used to think that I was nice and helpful too.  That doesn’t make it true.  Stop allowing fear and insecurity make you turn a blind eye to the red flags right in front of you.  When Delilah said that she couldn’t safely turn me loose, you felt a twinge of doubt.  They seemed to have no problem corralling me in that enchanted circle earlier.  No point in trying to lie darling.  I can hear your thoughts just as clearly as you hear mine.  You felt another twinge, when Delilah said she was taking us back to my place, in order to turn me loose.  Both times, she broke eye contact and exchanged secretive looks with Crystal.  What was that about?  Don’t you think it’s in your best interest to find out what’s really going on here?”