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Friday, March 27, 2009

Temple of Set

Storm Chapter 7.

Storm slunk into the house after saying goodbye to Tracy who had given her a lift home. She hung up her coat and headed upstairs thinking to be hard at work on her notebook computer doing homework. Hoping Ted and Janet were running down leads, Storm thought to go upstairs and put off her eventual interrogation until later. As she took her first step upstairs Janet’s voice called out in a sing-song lilt.

“Oh Willow… Willow… come down and see us.”

“Shit!” Storm muttered, trudging around to the staircase downwards. “I have homework to do, Scully. Give me a break.”

“We know you’re heading over to see Wolverine later so get your butt down here and debrief,” Janet ordered. “Ted wants to discuss our day demon chasing and terrorizing the school.”

Storm walked down to join her FBI handlers, setting her bag down by the stairwell.

“First, that was some excellent work out there today,” Ted complimented her. “As Janet told you, we’re riding the wave with finding the bodies. The FBI and police have the park in lockdown while they investigate your find.”

“Get on with the good stuff Archibald,” Janet insisted impatiently.

“We have something on June Grable,” Ted did as ordered, holding up a warning finger at Janet. “After digging through all her past history, we came up with a suspicious connection from her college days at…”

“Cal State Berkeley,” Janet broke in heatedly. “A known hotbed of liberal commie witches. I always knew we’d get something on those traitors.”

Storm started laughing halfway through Janet’s diatribe but shut up quickly when she saw Janet was dead serious.

“Okay, you don’t like Berkeley graduates,” Storm commented carefully. “What exactly are we talking about here, sororities, clubs…”

“She’s a friggin’ witch!” Janet relaxed against the back of her chair as Ted made calming motions directed at her. “I just can’t believe we never turned up this cultish angle until now. We’ve been chasing our tails all these months believing it was some run of the mill serial killer.”

“Grable is officially someone of interest,” Ted added. “That means we have some leeway now in how we want to pursue her since you found the kid’s bodies. That won’t come out for days by the way. It’ll be under wraps with the usual cover of DNA testing takes time, next of kin… anyway, we have a few days to hit this lead hot and heavy. Jan and I like your idea of Chris going over to Grable’s house but we feel it’s just too damn dangerous.”

“Can you get a search warrant to tear her house apart?” Storm asked hopefully. “I could probably spot something connected to the murders, including how she may be controlling this thing, or if it’s controlling her. Do you think she’s working alone?”

“Nope,” Ted smiled, handing Storm a spread sheet of phone numbers. “Grable gets calls from two main sources when she’s off work on both her cell-phone and her land line: Amador and McGraff.”

“He’s probably onto me, thanks to my shooting off my mouth at lunch,” Storm sat down dejectedly. “Kevin even came in and blew Amador’s bogey story.”

“We think their whole act was staged in the office after Amador knew it wasn’t going to work,” Janet explained. “You’re right about them knowing something’s up and you’re behind it. It’s possible that cloud thing communicated what it knew to Grable and she tried getting you thrown out of school by proxy. This is exactly what we wanted. We’re smoking out the bad guys. Tonight, we have to find out if we have the right bad guys.”

“What about the supernatural bad guys?” Storm asked seriously.

“Frankly, we don’t know,” Ted replied. “Janet told me what led to finding the victims and what happened when Logan consecrated the site.”

“We found something in Grable the Goth’s college background,” Janet told her. “If you can hack into the group’s Internet site, maybe you can come up with something to fight it.”

“Why don’t we nuke her from orbit,” Storm suggested only half in jest.

“She belonged to that Temple of Psychic Youth I think you mentioned before and later to the Church of Satan,” Janet went on. “It’s morphed into different cults since she was with them. Grable settled for something called the Temple of Set.”

“I’ve run across them before,” Storm said excitedly. “They’re bad news. I can get in, and probably come up with some more information like a member list. I doubt they’ll have anything on there for vanquishing whatever Grable called up from hell.”

“If she called anything up,” Ted reminded Storm gently. “I’m not much on coincidence either, but we have to be able to make a righteous case. Think of the difficulty in tying her into anything unless we first get probable cause. We need to search and find something significant.”

“The whole thing will be circumstantial.” Storm threw up her hands. She stood up angrily. “Even if you find some of the kids’ personal stuff in her place, I’ll bet you won’t find anything tying her directly to the killings. This is insane. You two can’t let her keep killing people. Sometime you’ll have to make a choice.”

“C’mon Wendy,” Janet said, putting an arm around her shoulders. “You’ve turned into our big gun on this. Find out what you can and see if we can get a little further. Don’t look so far down the road.”

“Okay… I’ll quit whining and see what rocks I can turn over,” Storm relented, plopping down in front of the computer, jetting into the cyber stream. “I still say we need to let Chris at least go up and knock on Grable’s door tonight and see what pops up. I’ll get Logan to come along. You two can be parked across the street, ready to rock and roll.”

“We’ll think about it,” Ted replied warily, looking at Janet for support.

“Grable won’t snuff the damn girl right on the sidewalk, especially if Logan goes along,” Janet pointed out. “It would be interesting to see whether she answers the door. Maybe we can sneak around outside and get a peek into her place before you bunch show up.”

Storm stayed silent, her fingers working the keyboard with blinding speed. Her brow was knit suddenly in concentration as Ted and Janet watched the screens cascading faster than their recognition processes. Suddenly, Storm slapped the table with the palms of her hands in triumph. She then pointed at the final screen on the monitor.

“Look what I found.”

Ted and Janet peered at the screen, first with incomprehension and then with realization.

“Holy crap,” Janet muttered. “Is this the membership key?”

“Yep,” Storm answered. “The names on the left are their on-line avatars. This is a small sect of Set. If not for the lead from her time with the Church of Satan, I wouldn’t have been able to trace her avatar through to this sect. Notice the troubling aspect of our little Midwest spin-off?”

“It appears all the victims were members too.” Ted sat down, running his hands through his hair. “Is there anybody around here that’s not a member?”

“Chris, Tracy, Nancy, Logan, and Carol aren’t members. That’s promising,” Storm replied. “If you have a file with the names of all the faculty and students at Harding, I can cross reference them to the membership. I’m copying all their downloadable files and checking for helpful items. It doesn’t look like there’s anything else of value like meeting dates.”

“What about those links in there to spells and incantations?” Ted asked, pointing to a ledger on the screen.

“I flashed through them already,” Storm answered. “They’re mostly old stuff that’s been floating around the Internet forever in the demon and witchcraft sites.”

“It looks like a pretty full repertoire,” Janet commented, reading over the list. “You know all this stuff, Wendy?”

“Well, the list does include the one I used to make that girl’s clothing disappear,” Storm informed them, pointing at the one she meant on the screen. “I’ve worked with the ones not Satanic in nature. I’m not into the demon stuff.”

“Oh, so you’re the good witch.” Janet shook her head. “I can’t believe I’m asking this but do you know a few we can use to stop the monster.”

“It’s not that easy,” Storm said. “We’d have to get something that belonged to the creature. Then I could try casting something relevant. If it’s inhabited Grable, we could collect something of hers.”

“We’ll be in the basement of the Hoover building in no time, Ted,” Janet sighed. “Start practicing your ‘the truth is out there’ shtick.”

“We’ll be up on charges if we let any of these kids get hurt playing Dungeons and Dragons,” Ted replied. “I’m…”

“I have to call Logan,” Storm said suddenly, having hacked in a spoof program which would allow them to enter the site’s hidden files at any time. “He’ll be working by now.”

“Heyyyyyyy…” Janet said, as Storm popped up from the chair. “Did you ever consider Ted and I might want to peruse the site? We don’t read a thousand words a minute, Willow.”

“Just click on the file marked witch on the desktop,” Storm replied, pointing to the symbol she had added. “It will take you right into the hidden files. I have an idea to protect Chris from anything bad over at Grable’s house.”

“What?” Ted asked, turning toward Storm, who was already heading up the stairs.

“Better I explain it later,” Storm called out. “You two will just make bad jokes about it.”

“Not anymore,” Janet muttered tiredly so only Ted heard her.

“A new believer?” Ted asked quietly.

“I’m cynical, not stupid. Storm guided us to a place no one could find. I saw those poor kids’ souls slip out of the earth and that creature streak straight out of a tree screeching like a tortured cat. We’re in trouble. Best case scenario, Wendy figures out some way to end this, and we get stuck explaining it.”

“Ouch,” Ted remarked. “And the worst case?”

“I ain’t going there,” Janet said, looking directly at Ted and reaching under the neckline of her sweater. “Look what I got while I was out today.”

Janet held up a large gold crucifix on a light gold chain. Without a word, Ted pulled out a silver crucifix from under his shirt, smiling. Janet laughed uneasily, sticking her cross back under her sweater. Ted noticed her hand was shaking slightly. In their nearly three years as partners, Ted had never seen Janet shaken, including two life and death situations.

“We are so screwed,” Janet stated resignedly.

“Welcome to the club, I’m the President. Have a little faith, Scully,” Ted urged, taking her hand. “Maybe after we beat back the forces of darkness, Storm can do that little disappearing clothes trick on you.”

“Maybe… she won’t have to,” Janet replied, grasping Ted’s hand. “I was raised Catholic. I admit I’m not much on the whole church thing. I believe in God and this is the first time I’ve feared for my eternal soul.”

“One thing I really believe is true.” Ted clasped her hand in both his. “You can’t lose your soul unless you wish it away. These kids and their teachers conjured up something bad… something wicked they thought would be cool.”

“I thought this whole thing of recruiting the bad girl geek to find a serial killer was a ticket straight to a change in career,” Janet admitted. “Today, we may not have saved anyone’s life, but we freed five souls from hell. If there’s any chance this thing… you know… comes close to snatching me… promise you’ll put a bullet in my head.”

Ted began a snappy reply. Seeing the way Janet was looking at him, he just nodded.

“Okay, I promise,” Ted agreed. “How about we beat it instead of feeding it.”

“On it,” Janet slipped her hand out of Ted’s grasp and turned to the computer. “Let’s find something on that site Miss Know-It-All missed.”

“Now you’re talkin’.” Ted turned to his own screen, networked into Janet’s station. He glanced once more over at his partner, thinking of her in a completely different light.

* * * *

“Hello?” Logan asked questioningly, holding his hand over the ear not pressed to the phone, trying to blot out the noise from the crowded restaurant.

“Sorry to bother you at work,” Storm apologized. “I was wondering if you knew that priest well enough to acquire a couple more things.”

“Sure,” Logan said, straightening at the sound of Storm’s voice. He had thought maybe his folks were calling about some emergency at home. “I’ll call him. What do you need?”

“I need you to round up as much salt as you can and stock up on more holy water.”

“I can handle that. The rush is on over here right now. I can get free to make a trip over to see Father Daniels in about an hour. See you at six?”

“I’ll be there. I’m rounding up everyone else too,” Storm told him. “Thanks Logan.”

“No problem, you can owe me.”

“Owe you what?” Storm asked with a giggle, trying to mask the way Logan’s voice sent shivers through her. “I thought you liked being an Exorcist.”

“Luckily, I’m not a priest, so I can like other things,” Logan answered lightly, trying to dispel the images of exactly what those things entailed. “I have to get back to work, Willow.”

“Not you too!” Storm gasped. “You know Willow liked girls in the Buffy series.”

“That’s because the Werewolf dumped her,” Logan chuckled.

“So, you’re a werewolf, huh?”

“Does hair on my chest count?”

“Hummmm… I’ll let you know when I inspect it,” Storm teased. “See you soon.”

Storm immediately called Chris.

“Hi, Chris, it’s Storm. Can you recruit Nancy and Carol for a meet over at Burger King?”

“Oh, hello Willow, is it zombies, vampires, or…”

“If you don’t want to do this, say so,” Storm cut her off impatiently.

“Take it easy.” Chris changed her tone at the urgency in Storm’s voice, but at the same time her heart leapt up into her throat figuratively. “We’ll be there. Do we have backup?”

“Absolutely. See you at six, okay?”

“Affirmative, commander,” Chris answered sarcastically and hung up.

Storm’s next call was to Tracy. “We’re on for tonight, Tracy. Want to just go to the King and see what’s up, or are you through with this all together?”

“I’ll pick you up at a quarter till, Willow,” Tracy offered. “Are we going to Grable’s?”

“Yes, and we’ll have plenty of backup. Besides, it will be Logan, Chris, and Nancy at the door. I think Grable’s onto me. We’ll have the FBI with us.”

“I’ll bet your FBI friends are real thrilled to have a sixteen year old running their operation,” Tracy commented wryly. “How’s that going over?”

“Better since this morning with what Janet saw at the park. I can leave you out of this, Tracy. It’s not a game.”

“Just have your homework notes with you when I pick you up. I need some magic help in Physics.”

“I’ll get right on it.” Storm laughed. “Bye, Trace.”

“Bye, Willow.”

“You…” Storm began a retort, but Tracy had already hung up.

“I’m going to forget what my name is if I stay around this place much longer,” Storm muttered, hanging up the phone.

By the time Storm and Tracy walked into Burger King at a minute after six, Chris, Nancy, and Carol were already sitting at a table with Logan serving them. Logan had already pulled two tables together and placed three extra chairs around them. The restaurant was still crowded, but thinning out quickly after the dinner hour. Storm was amused to see the three girls had all dressed in blue-jeans and black parkas. She and Tracy wore blue-jeans too, with black sweaters. While Storm wore her dark gray trench-coat, Tracy had chosen to wear a black windbreaker over her sweater. Logan gestured for them to sit down as they walked over, having already put two meals on the table for Storm and Tracy.

“I rustled up your favorite meals from last night,” Logan said sitting down with them at the table. “You five look like evil elves.”

The five girls laughed in surprise at Logan’s uncharacteristic zinger.

“That’s better than being Willow’s groupies,” Chris said finally, grinning at Storm. “Well, what do you have for us, fearless leader?”

“We’re going to Grable’s. My folks will be watching out for us. If Logan managed to get the items I asked him for, we’ll be all set. This is not a burglary. You three will walk up to Grabel’s house and ring the doorbell. Logan will be right behind you. The rest of us will be out front. I’ll have already fixed things at the entrance so there won’t be any problems.”

“How the heck did you talk your folks into all this?” Carol asked suspiciously. “I had to actually tell my Dad I was meeting a study group here. He called over to your parents’ house to check my story.”

Storm leaned forward over the table. She felt confident in sharing her secret having found out none of their group were on the Temple of Set member role. “They aren’t my parents. Ted and Janet are FBI agents.”

As the three girls not privy to Storm’s secret looked at each other in stunned disbelief, Storm quickly went through the details in a hushed manner, including the events the three did not know about in the park that morning. She brought them up to date on her hacking into the Temple of Set website and the number of members she still needed to investigate. When she finished talking everyone was hunched forward in their seats.

“You…you didn’t let us in on this because we could have been part of it?” Carol asked.

“No, I didn’t even suspect all this until Ted and Janet came up with Grable’s college connection to the Church of Satan. They thought it was better if only the ones we had no other explanation for were in on it. It’s important now for all of you to know. Ted and Janet are probably cussing me out right now for outing them to three more people but it can’t be helped.”

“So… they’re listening to all this?” Chris inquired uneasily, clasping her hands in front of her. “This gets freakier by the minute.”

“Better to have the FBI backing us up over at Grable’s than a couple of yuppie parents,” Nancy added logically. “You said you had something planned for protection.”

“Did Father Daniels help you out with the salt and holy water, Logan?” Storm asked.

“Yep. He laughed like hell until I told him how I used the holy water this morning and what I saw. Father Daniels took one look at my face and went to suit up formally. He led me over to the church and performed the ritual blessing at the altar in full robes. I have a couple gallons of holy water along with a twenty-five pound bag of salt he blessed. It’s in the trunk of my car. They have bags of the stuff left over from when the King changed over to packets of salt.”

“That’s great!” Storm said in a relieved tone. “We’ll need it.”

“Do we have to do this after dark…” Carol began to ask when Storm’s cell-phone rang.

“Uh oh,” Storm chuckled answering her phone. “Witches are us, Willow speaking.”

She heard Ted chortling in the background and an aggravated snort from Janet.

“Thanks for consulting us on your revelations,” Janet retorted. “Ted and I are going to check out Grable’s house before you bunch get to the front door. Make sure you don’t arrive there until at least eight-thirty, okay?”

“Aye, matey,” Storm replied.

“We’re going to have that Mother/Daughter talk real soon you smartass little…”

“Bye, Scully, see you soon,” Storm ended the call. “We can’t approach until eight-thirty.”

“I assume you have some protection spell plotted for the salt and holy water,” Logan said.

“I’m going with what worked for us this morning. There’s no use getting fancy with something from hell. We’ll do it together.”

“Do you believe?” Logan asked. “If you don’t you said it won’t…”

“I believe,” Storm stated, picking up her bag. She took out five wooden crosses, six inches in length, made out of oak, and handed them to each of her friends.

“You all better believe too,” Storm added.

The others took the crosses from Storm immediately, without a word.

“This is better than a horror movie,” Tracy joked.

“I hope the ending’s different than those damn ‘Jeepers Creepers’ movies,” Chris shuddered, holding her cross with both hands. “This thing can’t skin us, can it?”

“Best not to go there,” Storm answered carefully. “Anyone wanting out, now’s the time to say so. No one in their right mind would fault you for going home and skipping out on this crap.”

“I’m in, but I wish I hadn’t eaten that Whopper,” Nancy said, evoking laughter.

“You really hacked into the FBI?” Chris asked, looking at Storm as if she had beamed into Burger King from a alien spaceship.

“More importantly, they caught me. I was bored. It made me into an ex-felon. I’m not bored anymore.”

“What should we do if Grable asks us in?” Carol asked.

“Don’t go in under any circumstances,” Storm told her forcefully. “Just keep up a conversation about her being absent. Ask her if she has heard about the police finding the bodies in Perkins Park.”

“And if she doesn’t take no for an answer?” Carol persisted.

“Say, oh look at the time, we have to go, bye,” Storm rattled off a short answer. “Don’t go in past the threshold.”

“We’ve got it,” Nancy replied. “Now, about that chemistry homework.”


raine said...

Am just catching up, reserving judgement, just reading, since I actually never saw Buffy (gasp!) and I thought Scully sucked. ;)

BernardL said...

If not for my kids I would never have seen Buffy either, Raine. Once I started though, I was hooked.

They needed Scully. Someone had to save that wuss Mulder every week.

Thanks for reading, Raine. There is a story here buried under all the Buffy and X-Files trivia. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Starts off well. I'm running around like crazy and will have to try and check back to read the whole thing. The story is flowing, though.

BernardL said...

Welcome anytime, Charles. :)

Virginia Lady said...

As I catch up, things are looking interesting. I like the group effort between all the kids.

BernardL said...

Thanks VL, I'm glad you're getting a chance to read it.