Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty-Seven

Delilah had cobbled together outfits from her own closet and packed all but one in a duffel bag for me. I was grateful to have changes of clothes. She left the room so that I could get dressed.

“How nice,” I said aloud.

Plum’s skeptical voice sounded in my head, “Yes it is nice isn’t it? A little too nice if you ask me.”

“No one asked you, ” I thought angrily.

“Relax darling don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’m merely making an observation.”

“And what would that be,” I wondered.

“Isn’t it obvious? People are never nice for no reason at all.”

“Oh here we go again. You and your conspiracy theories.”

“They aren’t theories sweetheart, they are cold hard facts. If you removed those rose-tinted glasses of yours once in a while, you would see that people rarely ever do things for others unless there’s some sort of payoff.  Even if it just makes them feel good about themselves.”

“Leave me alone Plum, I don’t feel like arguing with you right now. It’s too early in the morning. I don’t really care why Delilah is being so nice.  The only thing that matters is that she’s helping me.”

“And that my dear is the reason you’re in this predicament.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean you never stop and ask yourself the tough questions. If anything makes you uncomfortable you avoid it, like the plague. Maybe, if you had asked yourself why I was being so nice, you wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“You know what Plum?  I’m getting a little tired of your smug sanctimonious attitude. It’s easy for you to sit back and judge me, as though you have the slightest idea who I am and what I’ve been through.”

Plum snickered unpleasantly, “Cue the violins.  You know darling, I was wondering how long it would take for you to play the victim card. My goodness.  That thing must be frayed at the edges by now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“What do you think it means? Don’t tell me you are unaware of how many times you retreat from an argument by pleading that you’re a victim and consequently not responsible for your actions or lack thereof. You seem to think you’ve cornered the market on hard times. Well I’ve got news for you sweetie, everyone has a hard luck story. Life hasn’t been all moonlight and roses for me either. The difference between me and you is that I don’t wallow in misery, or turn a blind eye to it. If something goes wrong, then I try to learn from the experience and make sure it never happens again.  I don’t make excuses.”

It was my turn to laugh.  “Now who thinks they have cornered the market? I learn from my mistakes too. Do you think I’m not paying attention?  It’s not like I stumble through life with my eyes closed you know.”

“I’m not so sure about that one.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Do me a favor Patricia and stop saying that. People have better things to do with their time than to spoon feed you answers. You’re always asking people what they mean by things. It’s very annoying. You’re a reasonably intelligent girl.  Use the brains that God gave you.  Stop being so lazy.”

“I’m not being lazy.”

“That’s exactly what you’re doing.  The amazing thing is that you fail to realize that what makes you vulnerable is the unwillingness to pay attention and figure things out on your own. It’s easier to go around with your eyes closed and depend upon other people to guide you.  The problem with that is most people will always tell you only what they want you to believe.”

Delilah bustled into the room and ended the argument. I felt Plum retreat into the recesses of my mind. Things moved quickly after that. I was hustled out to a waiting van with some of the dancers from the club. Delilah took me by the arm and led me to the back of the van. I didn’t know what to think, when I was greeted by the sight of an inflatable mattress. Delilah saw the look on my face and hastened to explain.

“I guess I should have explained before we got out here. You’re going to need to be unconscious for this trip. We can’t have Plum knowing anything about our numbers or plan of attack.”

“That’s fine, I’ll just go to sleep. To tell you the truth, I didn’t sleep that great last night.”

“You don’t understand Patricia. In order to keep Plum from listening in while you are sleeping, I’m going to have to shut down the whole works.”

I didn’t like the way she waved at me from head to toe. All at once, I became acutely aware that the dancers had silently moved in uncomfortably close behind me while Delilah and I talked. Plum’s voice in my head sounded alarmed.

“Do I need to tell you that something is very wrong here?”

Delilah was smiling apologetically. I glanced around at the others and they grinned back at me as though we were sharing some funny inside joke. For one fleeting moment, I relaxed and considered that perhaps my sense of alarm might have been an overreaction. Plum sounded annoyed.

“You’re doing it again Patricia.”

Sensing that I was about to shut her out, Plum softened her tone.

“Look Patricia, I know you are feeling a little cornered right now and you don’t want to believe that your friend means you any harm. It’s natural for you to avoid those feelings, but I implore you not to do it.  Look at the situation, as though these people were strangers. If you’re feeling pressured then speak up and stop worrying about seeming ungrateful.”

My first inclination was to argue, but her words had the ring of truth to them. Delilah was again taking my arm to guide me into the van. I felt hands at my back gently pushing me forward. Plum was fairly shouting at me to do something.

“Wait a minute, I’m still not sure what you mean when you say shut down the works,” I said hastily.

“Get in and I’ll show you what I mean,” urged Delilah.

“No, explain what you mean.  Then I’ll tell you if I am willing to do things your way.”

Frustration momentarily creased Delilah’s smooth features. She quickly masked her impatience with a smile. Her hand dropped from my arm. The hands at my back fell away. Mentally congratulating myself caused me to lose focus for a moment.  I failed to process the almost imperceptible way Delilah shifted, so that her right hand was momentarily out of my sight. Plum was trying to get my attention, but I thought I had everything under control and refused to listen. The next thing I knew, Plum had somehow taken over control of my body and spun me around in time to see one of the dancers with a syringe.  She was about inject me with something.

“What are you doing,” I blurted incredulously.

“Calm down Patricia, it’s just a little propofol,” explained Delilah placatingly.

“Isn’t that the stuff that killed that singer?”

“Don’t worry Patricia it’s harmless ,if you use it correctly.”

Two of the dancers grabbed me from behind and attempted to empty the contents of the syringe into my arm. Adrenaline fueled panic gave me almost superhuman strength. I shook them off and ran into oncoming traffic, narrowly missing being struck by a truck. One risked glance over my shoulder showed me that the group was caught completely off guard by my sudden departure. I made good use of those few moments, weaving through morning rush hour traffic to the other side of the street and doing my best to find some way to disappear.

After what felt like hours of panicked running, with them at my heels, I was breathless and my exhausted body forced me to stop. I darted in to a narrow passageway between two buildings. Bent over by the effort to catch my breath, I dimly became aware of Plum’s voice.

“Are you tired of running like a scared little rabbit yet?”

“If you’ve got a better idea, then I’m all ears.”

“Let me use a little magic.”

“I don’t know Plum. There are four of them and only one of you.  How are you going to defeat four witches?”

“What makes you think those fools are witches?”

 

The Doorkeepers-Chapter Thirty-Six

Dorian moved Ethan onto his back, forcing himself not to look at the blood trailing from his injured head.  His friend didn’t look good.  Ethan was ghostly pale and didn’t appear to be breathing.  Dorian nervously checked Ethan’s neck for a pulse.  He had to hold his breath and remain motionless for several moments, in order to feel the thready pulse.   Dorian kept his hand in place, afraid that he wouldn’t be able to find the faint heartbeat again. If Ethan died, then Dorian would be all alone with Enmerkar.

He whispered urgently to his friend, begging him not to leave him.  A moment later, Ethan’s pulse seemed to grow stronger.  Dorian let out a sigh of relief.  Maybe his friend was responding to the sound of his voice.  He kept talking and the vibrations in Ethan’s neck became more pronounced.  Dorian suddenly realized that Ethan’s entire body was vibrating.   Intensifying heat emanating from him made Dorian move back.  What was happening?  Dorian called out fearfully.

“Enmerkar, something’s happening to Ethan.”

“I just told you, he is sleeping,” came his bored response.

“No, something else is going on.  His body is vibrating and getting hot.”

Enmerkar was by Dorian’s side in a flash.  In the next moment, Ethan’s eyelids fluttered and snapped open.  Enmerkar jumped back and Dorian tumbled backwards from his knees to his bottom, pushing away with his legs at the sight of Ethan’s glowing eyes.  The ember-like glow also pulsed beneath his skin.  He levitated his feet and flew in their direction.  Dorian reflexively shielded his own face with an arm and drew his knees protectively up to his chest.

When no attack came, Dorian cautiously lowered his arm.  Ethan had a grip on Nadya’s head.  For a moment, he appeared to be crushing it.  Dorian spent a terrified moment, wondering how he could intervene and manage to survive.  Then Ethan pulled what appeared to be a strand of light from the top of Nadya’s head.  The strip broadened until Dorian recognized the struggling form of a man.    Ethan strode to the bathroom and flung the figure into the mirror.

Dorian glanced over at Nadya and leapt to his feet, catching her as she began to faint.  Their abrupt contact seemed to rouse her.  Nadya looked up into Dorian’s face, her eyes momentarily clouded by confusion.  She slowly regained her senses.

“What just happened Dorian?”

“I thought you could see everything that Enmerkar saw.”

“That was before he started blocking me out.  I haven’t been able to see or hear anything for several days.”

“Oh well, I’m not sure what exactly happened just now.  I think Ethan just exorcised Enmerkar from your body.”

Nadya fell silent.  Dorian watched as her gaze turned inward.  She appeared to be taking a personal inventory.  Her eyes widened with surprise.

“Hey, you’re right.  I can’t sense him at all.  But how could Ethan…”

“Everything happened so fast, the only thing I can say for sure is that he somehow opened a portal in one of the rooms.  Enmerkar had to close the portal and blocked him inside of a pentagram with runes to keep anything from coming through Ethan.  He got so angry that he nearly killed Ethan.  The man was in a coma.  I kid you not, he barely had a pulse.  Then all of a sudden, there were these vibrations and Ethan was as hot as an oven and he just sort of yanked Enmerkar out of your body.  Do you think something is possessing Ethan?”

“Where did Enmerkar  cast the spell on Ethan?”

“In the bathroom over there.”

“Is there a mirror in that bathroom?”

“Yeah, it takes up most of one wall.”

“At any point, did you see something come through the mirror?”

“To tell you the truth, most of my attention was focused on them.  I guess I still would have noticed if some spirit or creature came through the mirror though.”

“Then, it doesn’t sound like anything took possession of Ethan.  More than likely, he has become some sort of conduit.”

“What does that mean?”

“He’s connected to some sort of entity who is using him as a channel into this plane of existence.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about Nadya.”

“I think there was more than one portal.  The second one was in the mirror.  Ethan is connected to some being in another realm who is acting upon this world through him.”

“Oh…that doesn’t sound good.”

“It depends on who is in control.  Where is Ethan now?”

“He’s still in the bathroom.  I can hear him talking.”

“Who is he talking to?  I thought you said he banished Enmerkar.”

“That’s a good question.  Hold on, I’ll go see.”

Dorian released his hold on Nadya and waited until he was sure that she was steady enough to stand without his support.  He made his way over to the bathroom and cautiously peered around the door jamb.  Ethan was gazing into the mirror and having what appeared to be a one-sided conversation with his reflection.   Dorian was relieved to see that the red glow was gone from his eyes.  Ethan’s skin color had returned to its previous pallor.  Dorian was studying his friend so intently, that he forgot to remain concealed.

Ethan stopped talking and leaned in, as though listening to someone.  He suddenly spied Dorian and turned to face him.

“Who were you talking to Ethan?”

“Huh?  Oh, you just caught me talking to myself.”

The explanation was plausible, but for some reason Dorian got the impression that Ethan was lying.   He had just watched him pausing and gazing intently into the mirror, as though listening to someone’s responses.  He looked guilty when he said he was talking to himself.  Would Ethan lie to him?  Why was he being secretive?  First, he snuck off and opened a portal without telling Dorian.  Now, it seemed as though he was up to something again, which he was also keeping from him.  In light of the fact that Dorian always seemed to suffer the repercussions of his friends actions, Ethan’s secretiveness was troubling.

“Why do I get the feeling that you’re not being honest with me Ethan?”

“Are you calling me a liar,” Ethan snapped.

“Calm down dude, I’m just saying that it seems like there’s something you’re not telling me.  After all we’ve been through together, it bothers me that you feel like you shouldn’t share things with me.  We have to work together, if we’re going’ to put an end to this whole fiasco.”

“You didn’t have my back when Enmerkar was here.  Why the hell should I trust you now?”

“What are you talking about?  I was always trying to warn you, when you were about to do something to incur his wrath.”

“You sucked up to him so bloody hard, I was beginning to think you had a thing for him.  Seemed like you would have snitched on me in a heartbeat, to stay in his good graces.”

“You wouldn’t even have that damn grimoire, if it weren’t for me.”

“Yeah, and I stopped you from turning into a zombie, so I figure we’re even.”

“Enmerkar did that, not you.”

“Who brought him to you Dorian?  I came back for you, even though I didn’t have to, because I have always had your back.”

“Just because I was…obedient to Enmerkar, didn’t mean that I don’t have yours.”

“That remains to be seen.”

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty-Two

I followed Delilah up from the basement and emerged into the hallway.  The throbbing base of the club music was like a jolt back into reality.  It was a relief to leave behind the eerie dimness of the building’s nether regions with its inky pools of darkness and long shadows. Down there, everything seemed a bit sinister.

Back upstairs, everything I had just experienced seemed like a harmless dream. Delilah led me to another door which opened onto a stairwell. We walked up two flights of stairs before opening a door and emerging onto a carpeted corridor. There were closed doors lining the hall which I soon discovered led to apartments, the largest of which belonged to Delilah.

She led me into the kitchen. I took a seat a the table and looked around appreciatively at the homey decor as she made us a couple of sandwiches. Delilah served mine with glass of water and sat across from me with her sandwich.

“You never answered my question Patricia.”

“What question?”

“What is the significance of the ectoplasm you just saw?”

The directness of her stare was a little disconcerting. It suddenly felt like I was back in high school and my math teacher had just called me up to the board to work some complex problem. I had no idea what Delilah was talking about. Her expression was unreadable. No hints there.  I bit into the sandwich and chewed slowly in order to buy myself some time. That wasn’t helpful.  I finally just shrugged my shoulders.

“I don’t know Delilah, I’ve only ever seen ectoplasm in the Ghostbusters movies.  But that doesn’t apply here.”

“Why not?”

“Because Plum is alive, so she can’t be a ghost.”

“How do you know she’s alive?”

“You’re joking right?  I know because I’ve talked to her, looked at her and touched her.”

“You spoke with her tonight in Flame’s body, which you can see and touch.  But Flame isn’t Plum.”

“No, but she was channeling Plum.”

“Mediums don’t channel the living.”

I sat staring at Delilah for a full minute, unable grasp her words.  She looked back at me patiently, waiting for her meaning to sink in.  My first reaction was to smile and start laughing.  She had to be joking.  When her expression didn’t change, I shook my head in disbelief.  If what Delilah said was true, then not only was nothing and no one what they seemed to be, my senses had even betrayed me.

“But I would have sensed something like that… wouldn’t I?”

“How do you know that you didn’t sense something without understanding what it was?”

“I guess I don’t know.  To tell the truth, I’m not sure about anything anymore.  I feel like I’ve been wearing blinders my whole life.”

Delilah gave me a consoling pat on the arm and rose, “I can see that you’re tired.  You’ve been through a lot tonight.  Finish eating while I get the bed in the guest bedroom ready.  We’ll talk more in the morning.”

I nodded gratefully, not trusting myself to speak.  Exhausted tears were damming up behind my eyes and although she could sense my despair, I didn’t want her to see me cry.  Delilah left the room and suddenly, I didn’t want to cry.  All my life, people had taken advantage of me and I would just retreat into some shadowy corner and cry.  What good had being a victim done me?  Even if Plum was a ghost, there must be some way to defeat her.  I was turning things over in my mind when the front door banged open.  The bartender suddenly appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking around wildly.  I jumped to my feet and asked what was wrong.

“It’s that woman…we were going to take her to the airport and she fainted.  Now, she’s unresponsive.  Where’s Delilah?”

“She’s in the guest bedroom.”

He turned and went where I directed.  Before long, the two of them were rushing out of the apartment.  After a moment’s hesitation, I followed them back down to the basement.  They had Flame laid out in one of the small pleasure rooms.  She looked pale against the black sheets.  Delilah pushed past the dancers standing around helplessly and checked for a pulse.  She swatted Flame’s cheeks.  A few seconds later, Flame stirred and opened her eye but her pulse remained weak.  Delilah felt that it was due to a combination of dehydration and exhaustion.  They put their heads together in the hallway and decided to let her rest overnight.

I went up and got three bottles of water from behind the bar.  When I returned, everyone had left and the door to her room was locked.  I slid back the bolt lock and let myself in.  Flame lay facing the wall.  She didn’t stir.  I quietly set the water bottles down on the nightstand where Flame could easily reach them and turned to leave.  Flame began coughing.  I got one of the water bottles and moved to help her sit up.  She turned towards me without opening her eyes and whispered.

“Patricia is that you?”

“Yes, Flame it’s me.”

“I knew you’d come.”

A sudden chill raced along my spine at the sound of Plum’s voice. I tried to move back but Flame grabbed my wrist and I was stunned motionless by a jolt of energy.  A current seemed to flow up my arm from Flame’s finger tips.  I felt the hair on my arm standing at attention.  Shock temporarily immobilized me as the energy passed my shoulder and invaded my neck. My head jerked involuntarily and my scalp tingled.

I remember a growing fullness inside my head and Plum’s voice was suddenly in my mind.  The full force of her essence was filling me up.  I was helpless.  Her thoughts became my thoughts and mine became hers.  Plum’s rage was so overwhelming that she was able to start sifting through my memories before I could block her out.

What happened next is a blur of half-formed memories.  I must have shouted at some point because someone came in and separated me from Flame.  Plum had rooted herself so deeply inside of me that I no longer had control over my own body. I realized with dawning horror that Plum intended to use me to go after Delilah and I wouldn’t even be able to warn her.

 

Crime Diary- Chapter Thirty-One

Delilah briefly looked away just as Plum cast a spell in her direction.  My legs were moving before the thought of possible danger to me even registered.  I tackled Delilah, bringing her to the ground, seconds before the full force of Plum’s attack reached us.  It caved in the spot on the wall previously occupied by Delilah’s head.  We looked up at the crater in the wall and then at each other in amazement, as plaster rained down on us.

“That bitch!  Alright, I’ve seen enough,” yelled Delilah.

She waved an open hand towards the far side of the pentagram.  The blaze suddenly flared brightly, drawing Plum’s attention and temporarily blinding her.  Delilah took a stun gun from her pocket and shot the electrified wires into Flame’s side.  Another set of stun gun prongs went arching into her back, launched by one of the dancers.

I was relieved to see Plum’s essence fade as Flame’s body went rigid and then crumpled to the dirt floor spasming uncontrollably.  We all waited to see if she would get back up.  When Flame lay still, Delilah stood and killed the flames with a loud clap of her hands.  She let out a whoop and high-fived the dancers who came running over to her.  They laughed uproariously and talked all at once, barely able to contain their excitement.  Delilah seemed positively giddy.  I took it all in with growing irritation.

“Did y’all see her try to cave my head in?  Now that’s what I’m talking ’bout!  We finally found a challenge,” crowed Delilah.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  The woman had almost just died, yet she was dancing around like she had just won the lottery.  I couldn’t take anymore jubilation.

“Did I miss something?  Plum almost ended us!”

“Exactly, that’s what made it so thrilling.  Nothing like a near death experience to get your adrenaline pumping.  Besides, that was good exercise.  We can’t have our powers getting rusty now can we?”

Delilah dismissed the others, reminding them to be prepared for the next onslaught.  As the dancers took their leave, she called one over and requested a bottle of water.  The meaningful look they exchange was lost on me.  The bartender strode in and attached a chain to a loop on the steel column in the middle of the pentagram.  On the other end was a cuff which he locked around Flame’s left ankle.  He moved outside the pentagram and stood watching her.

Flame lay still for so long that I feared she was dead.  We watched her regain consciousness by degrees.  The bartender stepped over to Flame and pulled a chain around his neck from underneath his shirt.  On the end of it was a cross which he pressed into her forehead for a moment, reciting the Lord’s prayer.  When she didn’t react, he pulled a small bottle from his pocket and sprinkled the contents onto her.  Flame’s only reaction was to blink when the water ran into her eyes.  The bartender nodded to himself and strode from the room.

“What was that all about,” I asked.

“Just making sure no demons or other uninvited guests slipped through when she channeled your friend.”

“What was in that bottle?”

“A little holy water.”

Flame tried to sit up.  She got as far as propping herself up on her elbows, but was too weak to sit up under her own power.  A few moments later, the dancer returned and handed Delilah the bottle of water.  She took it and strode over to Flame’s prone form.

“Thirsty?”

Flame nodded and Delilah helped her sit up.  She handed over the bottle of water before returning to her seat.  Flame unscrewed the lid with trembling fingers.  She nearly dropped the bottle when a wave of nausea had her to abruptly leaning sideways. She vomited out a white frothy substance, spat and used a mouthful of the water to rinse her mouth before greedily sucking down more.  The bottle was almost empty before her thirst was slaked.  Her voice sounded hoarse.

“So what happens next?”

“I’ll have someone take you to the airport and make sure you take a flight back home.”

“Wait a minute.  You mean you’re just going to let me go home?”

“Yep, I’m just gonna let you go home.  We’re done here.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means, I wanted to meet Plum and now I have.”

Delilah stood and beckoned for me to follow with a quick tilt of her head.  We walked out and back upstairs to her office.  She kept her word and sent two dancers to free Flame and help out to a car for the trip back to the airport.  I watched it all with growing apprehension.

“I can’t believe you’re actually going to let her go.  I thought you were just saying that so she wouldn’t bring Plum back.”

“Relax, she couldn’t channel Plum again tonight even if she wanted to.  Didn’t you see how weak she is?  Plum wouldn’t put herself at risk by entering a depleted body.  Casting powerful spells requires reserves of strength.  It’s very draining.”

“How do we know she won’t turn around and come right back?”

“Didn’t you hear me say someone will make sure she gets onto her flight?  She’ll be on a commercial flight.  Do you think they’re going to turn the plane around in midair for her?”

“All she has to do is return on the next flight with backup.”

“That’ll be kind of hard for her, since she won’t remember where we are.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean she just drank a little amnesia potion.”

“How….oh, was it in the water?”

“Yep.  In a few minutes, she won’t recall even coming to New York let alone where she went was she was here.”

“I don’t know why I ever doubted you Delilah. You’re always two steps ahead of me. By the way, what was with all that white stuff Flame vomited?”

“You’ve never seen ectoplasm before?”

“No, but I’ve heard of it.  I thought that was slime left behind by ghosts.”

“Ectoplasm can appear in many different forms.”

“But it has something to do with ghosts right?  So, what does that have to do with Plum?”

“What do you think it means Patricia?”

 

Crime Diary-Chapter Thirty

Delilah cracked her knuckles and leaned forward, placing elbows onto knees.  Flame watched her impassively.  I sensed her bracing herself.

“First things first Flame.  Does Plum know where Patricia is yet?”

“Not exactly,” Flame murmured.

“I see, so she knows Patricia is in New York but not exactly where she is.  Interesting.  Patricia, you described Flame as a lap dog. Why is that?”

I felt myself blush involuntarily.  My strict Catholic upbringing made me feel shame over the snarky choice of words.  I wondered where Delilah was going with that question.  Embarrassment made me a little slow on the uptake.  Misunderstanding the question, I began stammering.

“W-Well, I was upset…”

“This isn’t a confessional Patricia.  I’m assuming you called her a lap dog because she does Plum’s bidding right?”

“I…well, yes that’s true.”

“How tightly does she grip the leash?”

“Huh?”

“Does she constantly have to report back or is she more like Plum’s right hand?”

I gave it a few moments of thought.  Not for the first time, I wished that I had paid more attention to the people around me in that house.  My obsession with Plum had overshadowed everything else.  I couldn’t remember much about anyone else around us.  When in doubt, always go with your gut.

“Flame wasn’t Plum’s right hand.  She acted like she was but, I got the feeling she was little more than a guard dog.”

Delilah nodded as though I had confirmed what she already suspected.  Flame glared at me and I felt her anger wash over me.  As it receded, I caught a trace of humiliation.  So, I was right.  Delilah gave me an approving look and immediately looked perplexed.

“So, why would Flame not immediately let Plum know that she had found you?  She sat out in the club for a long time.”

“Maybe she was waiting until she had me.”

“That’s possible, but I doubt it.  Your Plum sounds like the type who likes to call every shot.  Flame here looks like a good tracker but not necessarily smart enough to make the right decision when magic is involved.”

“Then you don’t think she’s a witch?”

“Definitely not, a witch wouldn’t submit to being tied up unless she had a trick up her sleeve.  Pardon the pun but Flame isn’t that bright.”

Flame hurled obscenities at the two of us, daring us to remove the handcuffs.  Delilah laughed and shook her head, smiling broadly.  Flame tried ineffectually to lunge at her.  She looked so ridiculous straining against the handcuffs that I had to laugh.  I looked over at Delilah in time to see the smile slide off of her face.  She stood up and rushed around behind Flame and pulled her into a chokehold.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“What are you doing Delilah?  You’re going to kill her!”

“Relax, I’m just putting her to sleep for a few minutes.”

“Why?”

“Did you not see what she was doing with her hands?  She’s trying to channel Plum.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“You’ll see soon enough.  Now be quiet, I only have a few minutes left.”

I opened my mouth to ask another question and thought better of it.  Delilah removed the black scarf holding back her curls and tied it over Flame’s eyes, cinching it tightly.  She called the dancer back in and sent her off after something.  I watched in fascination as she used her heel to trace a pentagram into the dirt floor around Flame.  She completed the task and murmured an incantation under her breath.

The dancer returned  with three other scantily clad dancers.  She handed Delilah a vial  and each dancer secreted themselves in a different shadowy corner of the room.  Delilah unstoppered the vial and poured its contents into the valley in the grooves of the pentagram created by her heel.  Delilah returned to her seat and we waited quietly for Flame to come to.  She slowly sat up straighter and turned her head slowly from side to side.

“I know you two are still here.  I can smell you.”

Delilah looked over at me and rolled her eyes, “You can smell us? Then you’re actually a halfway decent guard dog.”

I laughed and elbowed Delilah.

Flame snarled at me, “Now that I’m blind and bound, you’re feeling bold huh?  You’d be laughing out of the other side of your mouth, if my hands were free.  What’s with the blindfold?  Do you think that’ll keep me from channeling Plum here?”

“On the contrary, I’d like to meet her.”

“Well, take these handcuffs off..”

“Nope.”

Flame sighed exasperatedly and resigned herself to working with her hands cuffed behind her back.  I watched in fascinated silence as she relaxed her body in stages, humming deeply to focus her attention inward.  Seemingly all at once, she went limp.  The next movements weren’t her own.  Plum was with us. I recognized the poised posture and arrogant tilt of her head.  A sly smile played across her lips.  She blew her breath out sharply and the blindfold fell away from her eyes.

“That’s better, I like to see who I’m dealing with. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your little friend Patricia,” Plum purred.

“You’re not going to be here very long, so you don’t need to know her name,” I said with a bravado I didn’t feel.  Her eyes were boring into mine.

“My aren’t we suddenly brave.  Do you think she’s going to save you?”

“Save me from what?”

The angry smile that spread across her face made my blood run cold.  In it, I saw a foreshadowing of the danger to come.  I wanted to warn Delilah but couldn’t seem to tear my eyes away from hers.  My mind went blank.  All of the well-reasoned arguments I had come up with for returning the stolen items and parting ways with Plum dried up under the heat of her glare.  She shouted a word that I had never heard before and the handcuffs suddenly fell away from Flame’s wrists.

I shrank back in horror as she stood and prepared to lunge at me.  Delilah waved her hand and flames shot up from the pentagram.  It halted Plum’s aggressive advance only momentarily.  The dancers emerged from their hiding places, hands raised with palms open towards the pentagram, chanting in unison with Delilah.  The flames grew higher and brighter. Heat blasted my face and knocked Plum back a couple of steps.  She quickly recovered from her surprise and turned to focus her energy on stopping Delilah’s voice.

 

 

 

 

 

The Doorkeepers-Chapter Thirty

Ethan wasn’t sure he liked the worshipful way that Dorian was gazing at Enmerkar.  Dorian owed Ethan just as much gratitude, if not more.  After all, he never would have met the demon if Ethan hadn’t brought them together.  It was important that Dorian remember that, because he was going to be Ethan’s Plan B, if things went south.  People were always more loyal and malleable if they felt indebted.  That’s why the adoring looks that Dorian kept casting at Enmerkar were so troubling.  Ethan pushed away those thoughts for the moment, vowing to keep an eye on him.

“So what do we do now,” he asked.

“Now, I show the two of you how the power of three works.  Join hands,” ordered Enmerkar.

Ethan and Dorian looked doubtfully at one another, each uncomfortable with the idea of holding hands.  They looked away from one another and clumsily joined hands.  Enmerkar put a hand on each of their shoulders and began to chant in a language that neither of them understood.  After a few moments of listening intently, Ethan’s mind began to wander.  Exhaustion was robbing him of focus.

By degrees, Ethan became aware of a strange tingling sensation in his hands that quickly became an unpleasant tugging sensation.  He wanted to open his hands and relieve the building pressure, but they appeared to be welded to Dorian’s.  Ethan was alarmed by the realization that his strength was draining away. Enmerkar released their shoulders and they stumbled slightly, having to balance on weakened legs.

He turned away from them and began waving his left hand in a tight circular motion which began slowly and then increased in speed until the hand became a blur to them.  Golden light began trailing from his hand, forming an ever-expanding swirl which became a vortex.  It grew as tall and wide as a doorway and Enmerkar suddenly urged them through, pushing them into it, one after the other.

Ethan reflexively closed his eyes against the blinding light which engulfed him.  He suddenly felt warm and weightless.  The ground dropped away.  In another moment, he found himself stumbling onto solid ground once more.  Ethan’s eyes flew open.  He put his hands out, bracing for a fall.  It took a moment for his eyesight to readjust to the absence of brilliant light.  He blinked against the dark spots dancing in his field of vision.  Gradually, his eyesight returned to normal.  Ethan found himself came face-to-face with Janet, Patricia and Marko.  Shock temporarily paralyzed him.  They appeared to be in the balcony of a darkened theater.  Before he could say a word, Dorian shoved past him and Enmerkar shouting.

“You bitch!  Now, I’m going to kill you!”

Andrea reflexively blocked his tackle, easily pushing him to the side in his enfeebled state. He lost his balance and toppled backwards over the balcony railing.  Marko grabbed the sisters by the arms. One shouted word from him and they disappeared.  Ethan gasped, staring dumbly at the empty space they had just occupied.  Enmerkar’s splayed fingers closed on thin air.  He had rushed forward and almost succeeded in grasping the amulet around Janet’s neck.  Ethan ran to the balcony railing and stared down at Dorian’s crumpled body on the concrete floor below.

Enmerkar let out an enraged roar, before vaulting up and over the side of the balcony.  Ethan watched him descend down towards Doran, landing with both feet on his head.  From his great height, Ethan heard the sickening crunch of Dorian’s skull being crushed.  He ran to the hall and stumbled down the stairs, in his haste to confirm what his disbelieving eyes had just seen.  Dorian lay were he had landed, his head shattered open like an exploded watermelon.  Enmerkar was still grinding one foot into the pulpy mess.

“What the hell are you doing?  Show some respect.  The man is dead,” yelled Ethan.

“He deserves to die for his stupidity, but he is not dead.  I should let him walk around like this to teach him a lesson,”spat Enmerkar.

Ethan glared incredulously at Enmerkar.  He was about to accuse him of being insane when Dorian’s body began to twitch.  His limbs moved as spastically as those of a dying cockroach. Ethan waited for death to still Dorian’s limbs.  They gradually slowed and stilled, until he was motionless.  Ethan was heaving a sigh of sickly relief when Dorian suddenly sat up, gazing up at them with his lidless left eye rolling loosely in his shattered eye socket.  The other had burst open and glistened on his right cheek, like the runny contents of a poached egg.  Ethan felt a prickling sensation on his scalp and his eyes swam out of focus.

He grew dimly aware that he was about to pass out.  A wave of nausea brought him around.  Enmerkar put a foot on Dorian’s chest, forcing him to lay back down and angrily shouted a violent sounding spell.  Ethan stumbled backwards as Dorian’s ruined bones and flesh noisily knitted themselves back together.  Dorian began screaming, even before his mouth had completely reformed.  It was the most gut wrenching thing that Ethan had ever heard.  After a seeming eternity, Dorian’s cries quieted and trailed off.  The ensuing silence seemed to ring with echoes of those agonized screams bouncing around the abandoned theatre’s vaulted ceiling.

Dorian regained the use of his legs and crabwalked backwards, awkwardly attempting to distance himself from Enmerkar.  Fear bordering on hysteria was evident in Dorian’s wide eyes.   Ethan was too curious to be fearful.  Falling from the balcony should have killed Dorian.  Even if by some miracle he had managed to cling to life, then having his skull completely crushed under Enmerkar’s feet certainly would have done him in.

“What just happened?  How is he not dead?”

“As long as his soul is tethered to that of his master, his body will not die.”

“What do you mean tethered to….oh, the devil’s mark?  Then the same is true for me?  So, what happens if Charles is killed?”

“If your body experiences death in the natural world, then as long as you bear the mark, you will share his fate,” said Enmerkar in a matter-of-fact tone.

Ethan felt his legs about to give out and moved to drop into a dusty theatre seat.  Up until that moment, his plan had been to destroy Charles.  His heart beat faster.  Had he died in that abandoned house?  Ethan had tried so hard to forget that horrible night that it seemed like a distant memory.  Everything that happened was blurred in his mind.  Ethan recalled only the horror of those shadow creatures and the searing pain of them reaching inside of him.  The rest was all sense memories of pain, fear and confusion.  He awakened in that hospital bed feeling reborn.  Perhaps he had been.