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Monday, March 30, 2009

The Goth

Storm Chapter 8

Ted parked the car three houses down from Grable’s residence. At eight o’clock at night, leaves blowing from one yard to another provided the only movement on the tree lined street. No fences separated houses in the old neighborhood or blocked off access to back yards. Only a sparse arrangement of shrubs doubled as property dividers amongst half the houses. The trees had been there for many decades. They added a curtain of darkness shielding the yards from the dull glow of street lamps above.

The two agents sat in the darkness of their Honda, checking for motion on the street; but the chill of fall had limited outside movement after dark. They soon were satisfied not much was going on other than an occasional door being slammed. A few cars moved along Main Avenue, which ran perpendicular to Grable’s house on Walnut Street. Grable’s place was the last house on the right of the dead end street. As Ted and Janet approached the house, they could see it was an old two story with front porch jutting out toward the sidewalk. Although the porch was in complete darkness, lights glowed through curtained windows on each side of the front doorway.

“Jan,” Ted whispered, leaning toward his partner, “I’ll go around back and see if I can get a look inside from there. You stay here by the tree. I doubt anyone could see you even if they walked down the sidewalk.”

Janet nodded and stepped up alongside the huge elm tree. Ted continued carefully around the side of the house opposite the driveway. She knew Ted’s height would make it possible for him to look inside the first story windows at the back of the house. As she watched for the next few moments, Ted slipped around the edge of the house and gestured for her to come with him. When she hurriedly reached his side, Ted continued on around the house again. Janet noticed the flickering light at the two ground level windows where the curtains were shredded from age.

Ted crouched near the far one. The curtains covering the window hung in tatters. Inside the basement they could see two black robed figures kneeling outside a hexagram with candles lit at each tip of a six-pointed star. In the center of the star was a doll with nearly white hair. The two figures, who were plainly a man and woman by the outlines of their thin robes, chanted what sounded like gibberish. The candle flames peaked slightly as the chant proceeded. The chanters then stood up. They slowly faced each other, opening and shedding their robes. They were naked underneath.

The woman matched the pictures Ted had turned up for June Grable, known as Grable the Goth. Her black painted fingernails and toenails glistened brightly in the candle light. Grable’s nearly black hair was straight, hanging in a semi-circle at the middle of her back, contrasting starkly with her nearly albino skin color. Grable allowed her hands to lay gently palms out at her hips. Although thin, she was a beautiful woman, with hauntingly serene face.

The man was Kevin McGraff. From their side view of the two people, Ted and Janet could see the young man’s arousal plainly. Grable and McGraff moved toward each other interlocking their fingers above their heads, before easing down to the floor in a lotus position. Without moving, they began to whisper the chant they had spoken before. Ted pulled at Janet’s coat sleeve. She followed him away from the house.

“What the hell do you think that was all about?” Janet whispered.

“I can guess how Grable recruited the young men,” Ted answered. “What bothers me is that damn doll. I’ve seen enough horror movies to know what and who it represented. McGraff must have told Grable about Storm. The kids will be here any minute.”

“Let’s go out front and intercept them,” Janet replied. “Maybe Storm will want to come up with a different plan since we already know Grable’s in there and she’s playing hide the salami with McGraff.”

“You’ve been dying to say that salami line ever since they took off their robes, weren’t you?” Ted accused Janet with a grin she could barely make out in the darkness.

“That obvious, huh?” Janet asked rhetorically. “C’mon, let’s get out front.”

Ted and Janet barely reached the sidewalk when they spotted a car pulling up behind their Honda. Six teenagers piled out of the car. The group walked without talking toward them. As the two FBI agents walked to meet them, they could see the tall one was Logan and he carried a large bucket. Next to him, Storm carried two half gallon water bottles. The teenagers stopped in their tracks when they spotted the FBI agents hurrying toward them. It took Ted only a few moments to explain what they had found.

“We thought this might change your mind about ringing the doorbell,” Janet added.

“I think you’re right about the doll,” Storm said with a slight tremor in her voice. “Still, we’re trying to keep the pot stirred, so Logan and I will consecrate the window sills and doorways. Then with you two backing us up from across the street, Nancy and Chris can play knock-knock while the rest of us spread around out of sight near them with the crosses I passed out. I have a protection spell to overcome what they’re doing - at least I hope I do. Kevin must have gotten a hair from me or something. The doll has to have my DNA on it for what you think they’re doing to work. The six-pointed star has always been the mark of the beast.”

“Crosses? What, we’re taking on vampires too?” Janet asked both questioningly and sarcastically. “Do you know something we don’t?”

“Nope. I’m just covering all the bases,” Storm replied. “Wait here until Logan and I get done. I’ll have a look at their party while I’m around back.”

“Okay, but sing out if they sense something,” Janet cautioned her.

“I will,” Storm said, leading Logan away toward the house.

Storm handed Logan one of the water bottles as they reached the porch steps. They went up them as soundlessly as possible. Taking a handful of blessed salt from the bucket, Storm spread it thinly along the first window to the left of the door, following up with a thin dribble of holy water directly on the salt. Logan made the sign of the cross, saying In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti (In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit), with Storm whispering amen at the end. They worked their way around the house.

At the cellar window Ted and Janet had seen McGraff and Grable, the couple spread salt and holy water as before while glancing in at the naked immobile forms with interlocking fingers. Storm blinked uneasily when she spotted the doll at the center of the hexagram. They finished at the window just before the couple below them in the cellar moved. Grable lay back, opening her legs. McGraff covered her body with his own, entering her slowly with a shudder. Storm hurried around the house to the next window with Logan keeping pace. Minutes later they were done. The two jogged toward where the others waited.

“That doll thing was a little freaky,” Logan said as they reached their friends.

“Chris,” Storm said a little breathlessly, “you and Nancy get going. Ring the doorbell methodically about five seconds between rings three times. Wait a full minute before repeating it. We’ll be right behind you, out of sight around the porch, okay?”

Chris nodded, gripping the cross in her coat pocket with desperation, her heart thumping. Nancy walked beside her up the porch steps. Chris rang the doorbell which sounded a loud chime inside. Their backups spread out near the front of the porch where they could not be seen by anyone standing in the doorway. Ted and Janet walked across the street, halting near the tree across from the house, where both agents held drawn weapons at their sides. McGraff pulled open Grable’s front door, leaving the outside screen door in place as Chris reached the third round of doorbell ringing. McGraff wore the black robe from his conjuring time in the cellar with Grable. Seeing who was standing at the doorway, he lashed out angrily.

“What the hell are you two doing here?” McGraff asked impatiently, gripping the partially open door edge with his right hand, his knuckles showing white from the strain. He gave no hint of the compromising position he was in.

“We…we just wanted to check on Ms. Grable,” Chris answered.

“She’s fine, now…”

“Hey what is this, Kevin, a sleep over?” Nancy asked, pointing at McGraff’s robe.

“None of your business,” Kevin retorted harshly, his eyes showing an anger neither girl had seen before. “I’ll tell her you stopped by.”

“We want to see for ourselves if Ms. Grable is okay,” Chris persisted. “The police found the bodies of who they think are the five missing kids in Perkins Park, buried under a tree with Satanic symbols.”

“Hello girls,” Grable’s husky voice called out as she came alongside Kevin. She had dressed in black slacks, sweater, and shoes, with her hair tied in the back. “I did hear the news. Why don’t you two come in. We’ll compare notes. Kevin was nice enough to help me with a moving project. A vase full of water we didn’t see fell over and soaked him. I’m drying his clothes. We were just having tea. Come in and join us.”

“No thanks, Ms. Grable,” Nancy replied with a smile. “We have to be going. We just wanted to make sure you were all right, because you were absent today when all this stuff happened.”

“Please, I insist,” Grable said, opening the screen door.

She jerked back inside, allowing the screen door to slam closed, gripping her wrist in obvious pain. As Kevin drew closer to see what had happened, Grable jerked her head up. She stared at Nancy and Chris with a malevolent look of hatred, her lips pressed together in a thin, cold smile.

“I see,” Grable muttered absently, never taking her eyes from the two girls. “I think you two have seen too many Harry Potter movies. Well, my dears, see you in school… or somewhere.”

Grable closed the door, leaving Nancy and Chris grabbing for each other’s hand. They turned and fairly ran off the porch, with Logan, Carol, Tracy, and Storm hurrying to catch up. As they reached the FBI agents across the darkened street, a shrieking noise, emanating from the house grew in volume. The huddled group watched as a dark billowing shadow whipped around behind the drawn curtains. Grable opened each of the windows.

“It…it’s trying to get out,” Storm whispered. “She’s sending it after us.”

“I knew I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this.” Tracy was mesmerized by the flitting shadow, as were her silent companions.

“I should’ve ran up and put a bullet between her eyes,” Janet muttered.

“Oh shit!” Storm exclaimed, clutching Logan’s arm. “I forgot about the second story. It…”

“Why doesn’t it just go through the wall?” Carol asked shakily.

“It had to be accepted into the house. It can’t leave unless the one who invited it is able to allow it to leave,” Storm answered.

“Why the hell are we all standing around like a bunch of retards from a slasher movie, waiting for the monster to slice and dice us?” Tracy asked, holding her hands up in exasperation as she faced her friends and the FBI agents.

“We shouldn’t have brought you bunch into this in the first place,” Ted answered, gripping his 9mm automatic unconsciously. “I’m not sure running will get us anywhere.”

“I can hurt it, if it finds a way out,” Storm said, taking the wand out of her inside jacket pocket she had used to divine the Perkins Park spot, where the thing had been hiding and burying its victims. She quickly spread the blessed salt around them in a circle. Logan, seeing what Storm had in mind, followed her lead with the holy water and blessing.

“Everyone grab a handful of salt. Logan and Ted take the holy water jugs and get ready. Janet, I know how much you want to kill this thing with a gun, but…”

“I know… I know, Wendy,” Janet muttered, holstering her weapon and grabbing a fistful of blessed salt. “The basement at the Hoover building’s looking pretty good right now.”

“Okay, Storm,” Ted held up the open jug of holy water, “what’s next?”

“We wait,” Storm shrugged nervously. “I can’t do anything unless it gets loose.”

Grable’s face showed briefly at the bedroom window on the second floor, a moment before she jerked open the window. Black tendrils seeped over the window sill, billowing outward as it cleared the window. It appeared the creature had been hurt trying to leave the house from the protected windows on the first floor. It skulked through the window tentatively. Storm moved in front of the group on the sidewalk, carefully staying within the circle. Storm raised her arms and lowered her head. Her companions shifted uneasily as the end of the wand glowed dully. Storm threw her head back, moving the wand in a fluid pattern confidently.

“Omne flammans flamma purgatus, domine extinctionis et signum regenerationis, in mea manu ens inimicum edeat!” Storm shouted, stabbing the point of the wand at the creature as it emerged from the window completely.

The end of the wand crackled. A bright blue bolt discharged from the glowing end. It struck the creature as if the full force of a lightning strike with hurricane type wind momentarily converged for a split second upon the monster. Its wail of agony echoed out over the street like the clarion call from a thousand lost souls. Illuminated in the brief instant of cobalt brightness within the shimmering darkness, the monster’s unimaginable form writhed into reality. Serpent like in shape, the monster’s horned dragon like head rolled and stretched upwards, jutting this way and that in its pain. Gaping mouths of fangs shot out hideously from the scaled body, snapping at empty air. Spindly clawed appendages, the like of which Logan struck at the night before, tore apart the second floor porch railing, shredding it.

It was then Storm struck it a second time, screaming out the incantation from a moment ago. This time when the bolt hit, it ripped through the visible creature, tearing a portion of its scaled side off with scalpel like precision, evoking a shriek of deafening proportions. The hideous thing fell to its side, the weight of its corporeal body splintering the second floor balcony, sending it crashing to the ground. Logan caught Storm’s collapsing body as the strength in her legs gave way to the stress. Storm looked up weakly, scrambling onto her knees, still grasping her wand as Logan steadied her.

“Holy crap, Willow,” Chris called out happily, thinking the thing was dead.

Inside the house, Grable screamed out unintelligibly at the group across from her.

“I’ll get you, you bitch!” Janet yelled in reply, grabbing for her holstered weapon and firing with practiced ease, a human target finally presenting itself.

The report from Janet’s 9mm Ruger made her companions flinch. One shell tore hairs from the side of Grable’s head. The two shots following hit the empty air where her head had been. Grable was gone.

“Shit!” Janet cursed in fury, trying to step around Storm’s body, where she knelt on hands and knees in the circle. “I’m going over there and…”

“No, Janet… I’m done… put a fork in me,” Storm told her. “That thing will be coming at us any second.”

“You nailed it, Wendy,” Janet retorted, “I’ll…”

“Here it comes, Jan,” Ted interrupted, pointing at the recovering monster, drawing his own weapon while still holding on to the holy water.

Nancy, Carol, Chris, and Tracy stood in terrified silence, their only weapons two handfuls of blessed salt. Logan stood in front of Storm now, his lead pipe in one hand and the holy water jug in the other. Resignation learned on battlefields a world away etched across his scarred face, the young man grinned tensely in anticipation.

The creature’s head lolled from side to side as it yowled in unrequited rage. It slinked forward. Ted fired a fourteen shot clip at the creature, aiming for its eyes. His shots struck with unerring precision, but to no effect. As Ted released one clip to jockey in another while holding onto his jug, Janet nudged him.

“No use, Ted, it’s gone.”

Ted looked up in time to see the last of the corporeal monster dissolve into the dark filmy blackness from before. It hovered toward them, drifting from side to side as if trying to recover from its wounds.

Storm put away the wand. Janet helped her up. She retained her grip on the FBI agent’s hand and reached down to get a handful of salt.

“Easy, it has to be close,” Storm cautioned. “Get ready… now!”

The darkness had churned more steadily toward them across the street. Its dark shades within the cloud whipped around as if the rage propelling the creature needed an outlet. Reaching a spot only ten feet from its targets, the thing pulled back as if getting ready to launch, issuing a sound like a fingernail file scratched across a chalkboard. The salt and holy water hit it and the creature wailed like a banshee. The second barrage proved too much for it to bear. Shredding apart with a final scream, the creature shot off in a thousand directions. They expected sirens wailing in the distance, but there was only silence as the exhausted monster squad looked around. No one had ventured out of their houses on the dead end street.

“Kids,” Ted called out, gesturing the stunned youths toward their cars. “We need to get the hell out of here. Let’s meet over at our house for a few moments. I’m not thrilled with trying to explain this pitched battle with a monster no longer in evidence. Jan… don’t do it!”

Janet had headed across the street while Ted was turned around. She ignored him for a moment before altering her course reluctantly to intersect with the rest of them heading down the street.

“She needs to die, Ted,” Janet muttered when she caught up.

“On what charge? We can’t even arrest her. We don’t have enough evidence to search her house, let alone convict her of something. I know how you feel but we need to get our helpers here home safely. I… hey… what the hell?”

Logan was suddenly sprinting across the street toward Grable’s front yard after Storm whispered something to him urgently. She jogged weakly toward Ted and Janet.

“I need a piece of that thing if Logan can find something,” Storm explained.

“You’ll need a key to the handcuffs you’ll be wearing if we don’t get the hell out of here,” Janet retorted, drawing her weapon and gesturing at Ted. “I got his back. Maybe I’ll get another shot at that bitch.”

“Let’s get the car and swing around for them.” Ted moved toward the Honda with a steadying arm around Storm. Janet hurried to stand guard for Logan. “Nobody’s sticking their heads out yet.”

Ted saw the other girls had already jumped into Logan’s Pontiac. Storm let Ted help her into the backseat. He then quickly slipped behind the wheel on the driver’s side. Ted started the car, speeding toward Grable’s house in seconds. Logan ran away from the balcony wreckage with something wrapped in his jacket. Ted stopped the Honda near where Janet stood guard on the front lawn of Grable’s house. Janet kept her weapon trained on the house until Logan closed the passenger rear door behind him. After Janet jumped into the passenger side front, Ted did a quick u-turn and pulled up alongside Logan’s car.

“What did you get?” Storm asked, gesturing at Logan’s balled up coat.

Logan unraveled his coat. It was one of the clawed appendages.

“Phew!” Janet exclaimed, rolling her window down. “I didn’t think anything could be worse than that monster. I stand corrected.”

“We’ll take it with us, kid.” Ted laughed. He shut up quickly as the first sound of sirens wailed in the distance. “Go ahead. We’ll see you at our place. Don’t get stopped.”

“Yes, Sir,” Logan acknowledged, leaning over and kissing a surprised Storm with passion. “That was tight, Storm.”

The piece of demon was lying on the seat a second later. Logan launched out of the Honda and ran around to get in his Pontiac. Storm watched him the whole way, feeling his kiss all the way to her toes.

“Wrap Smelly Cat’s hoof up before I hurl,” Janet ordered. “I guess you’ve never heard of playing hard to get, huh Wendy?”

“I think I’ll skip the romance lessons from you, Scully.” Storm’s comeback drew appreciative laughter from Ted, who had the Honda headed toward their house with Logan following. “That was some nice shooting. You almost nailed Grable right between the eyes, Scully. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to kill her. That thing might end up free of any restraints. Hey, can’t the CSI guys collect your rounds and match them to your guns.”

“Yea, if Grable wants to let CSI comb through her house,” Janet replied.

“I’m betting Grable tells the police who show up she had a porch collapse and the noise they were called in for was from the mess on her front lawn,” Ted ventured. “Storm’s right, Jan, those were some nice shots from clear across the street in the dark. Grable must have second sight to have been able to avoid getting her head blown off.”

“It’s just as well I missed. Wendy’s theory about Grable’s death freeing the monster sounds legit. We don’t even know if the damn thing would have quit with her dead or not. What the hell did you chant the lightning strike up with?”

“It was Latin for ‘O fire of burning purification, Lord of destruction and the sign of rebirth! Residing in my hand throttle my foe’,” Storm answered, waiting for Janet to say something sarcastic. Instead, the FBI agent merely turned and nodded. “What, no witty Wendy or Willow reference?”

“After tonight?” Janet shrugged. “I got nothin’.”

“I know one thing,” Storm said. “It worked because I believed. My other success at the park has picked my confidence up to the point I think I could cast anything.”

“You were done in after the second strike though,” Janet reminded her.

“Yeah, it sapped me real good. I’m not sure anything can be done about that.”

“I hope you have some new idea for the monster,” Ted added, glancing back at Storm. “Do you think Grable will come after you or the others tonight?”

“I would if I were her. When we get to the house, I’ll show you what I have in mind. What’ll we do about tomorrow and Kevin?”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like you to finish working up a spread sheet comparing the membership names in The Temple of Set with a list of students and faculty,” Ted replied. “We’ll talk about what to do at school tomorrow when we get to the house.”

“Grable better be absent tomorrow or I’ll be sitting in on her classes,” Janet said angrily. “I forgot there are other people from the school who belong to that sect of freaks.”

“More likely they wanted to experiment around with the dark side,” Ted replied. “This whole Goth business is tied into that crap. You’d think reality would set in when their membership starts disappearing. Hey, maybe Grable will be sealed into her house. The balcony’s gone so she’d have to lower herself out the window.”

“As soon as the holy water dries up and the salt blows away, she’ll be unsealed,” Storm explained. “It sure looked as if Kevin was her closest acolyte. He was definitely helping her create a stick the needle into Storm doll. I wonder how close to completing it they were. Maybe I better do the protection spell first before the database.”

“I agree,” Ted assented. “Protection first before anything. We’ll try and make this a short meeting so you kids can get some sleep. It wouldn’t hurt for you all to take the day off yourselves.”

“She’s on the run, Ted,” Storm objected. “You said yourself she probably won’t show tomorrow anyway. We need to keep the pressure up. Too bad you can’t get the Amadors and Kevin picked up.”

“We’ve come too far to screw this up now. If we find out Principal Spelling is in the clear, I think we should come clean with him about what we’re doing at least. We don’t have to expand our explanation to include witches and demons.”

“He could let me keep an eye on everyone that way,” Janet agreed.

They rode in silence the rest of the way. Storm studied the shorn off demon appendage, some excitement growing with an idea she had of getting rid of the monster. She also felt some trepidation as to how Grable was going to attack her through the doll and whether she could counter it in time. After Ted parked the car in the driveway, Logan’s Pontiac pulled up in front a few seconds later. Storm hurriedly exited the car.

“I have to start rounding up what I’ll need for a protection spell before Grable does something to immobilize me,” Storm called back as she ran for the house with the appendage tucked under her arm.

“If she does get immobilized, I will hunt that bitch down, evidence or no evidence,” Janet muttered just loud enough for Ted to hear and nod his agreement as they too left the car.

“Where’s Storm going?” Logan asked, watching Storm unlock the house door and hurry inside, leaving the door open.

“She has to round up the makings of a protection spell,” Ted explained. “Let’s get inside. We’ll start the debrief without her. Storm will join us when she can. You five need to be home at a decent hour. We want to make sure you’ll be safe too.”

“We have munchies and soda, but I don’t serve,” Janet informed them. “Help yourselves in the kitchen. Follow me.”

“Uh… bathroom?” Carol asked.

“Two of them, upstairs to your right, and one straight ahead through the living room on the left,” Janet answered as they walked through the entrance. “Logan, you hang with Ted and me in the kitchen. You’re the short order cook. Maybe you can rustle us up something to eat.”

“I can open potato chip bags and soda cans,” Logan replied with a grin as the four girls split up toward the two bathrooms. “For anything else I get eight fifty an hour.”

“You’ll do,” Janet patted him on the back, gesturing at the kitchen on the right. “Just so all I have to do is sit down. You’re the bartender, Ted. I’ll have a double.”

“I wish,” Ted chuckled. “I don’t think getting drunk with a witch ready to send her demon familiar after us is such a good idea.”

“Fine,” Janet acquiesced reluctantly as she sat down on a kitchen chair and leaned her head on the oblong table in front of her. “I think someone blew my pilot light out.”

Fifteen minutes later Logan and the four girls were sitting at the kitchen table facing Ted and Janet, sipping from soda cans. The bowl of potato chips had been emptied and refilled by Logan twice already.

“This ghost busting revs up the appetite,” Logan commented as he refilled the potato chip bowl again. “I guess we should have ordered pizza.”

10 comments:

Beth Partin said...

Bernard,

I liked the interlude between Ted and Janet in the last chapter. And I get the feeling something bad is going to happen to Storm very soon. She doesn't get to be powerful all the time, does she?

BernardL said...

No, she doesn't, Beth. She has some real close calls coming up. Thanks for staying with the story and commenting. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Nice building of tension. I like the scene with the girls on Grable's porch.

BernardL said...

Thanks Charles. The girls are in for the duration. Blending in the right amount of horrid fascination for them to stick with Storm rather than hide was a problem. :)

Beth Partin said...

You're welcome, Bernard. I admire the way you get these stories out. Do you write them and post them, or do you let them sit for a while?

BernardL said...

Beth, in the past with Layla, Cold Blooded, and the Connor/Ellie story I posted each section as I finished writing it. Storm is a finished product I’m posting because I have had little interest in it on the query letter trail. I haven’t decided what I’ll do with it other than keep sending it out now and then. It’s a bit too quirky with movie and comic references but I had fun with the writing and it has a heck of a wind up in my prejudiced opinion. :) I appreciate the comments. I won’t post more than two or three chapters per week so as not to overwhelm the small number of readers Storm has managed to interest.

I'm a little over 81,000 words now with my Connor/Ellie story. I have not forgotten I owe the finish to a number of people. :)

raine said...

Agree with Charles, like the build up of tension.
And agree with Janet--I'd insist on a double after all that, lol.

BernardL said...

Me too, Raine - witches, demons, smartass teens... barkeep! :)

Virginia Lady said...

Nice tension building chapter. I was a little surprised that Storm and Logan didn't really react much to seeing Kevin with Grable in a such a sexual postion. It felt like it was missing something there. But I loved the trapping the demon and then realizing the upper story was open and then the battle. Very nicely done.

BernardL said...

You definitely noticed all the highs and lows, VL. Thank you. :)