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Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Prisoner

I'm working on a new odd failure on a 2000 Nissan Quest but I'm awaiting parts. I don't want to post the pictures and my suspicions until things work out as I suspect they will. Here is Storm Chapter 9.

“If you bunch are more relaxed now, let’s talk,” Janet said. “There’s not much to add to what each of you saw with your own eyes. We know what killed those kids and who summoned it. We don’t know yet how many students and faculty are involved in this Temple of Set spin-off. Ted and I aren’t going to insult your intelligence with platitudes about how much we can do. I’ll be around the school. All of you will have my cell-phone number if you need to contact me. Storm will have a list of people we decipher from the Temple of Set membership ranks who are also attending or teaching at Harding. She’ll get it to you before school tomorrow.”

“You almost killed Grable,” Carol pointed out. “Would all this end if you did?”

“We’re not sure,” Janet answered truthfully. “Grable’s untimely death is still on the table. It’s…it’s just we… I mean…”

“What my partner’s trying to say is it’s not as easy as you think to just blow someone away in cold blood. Tonight, we were in a battle for our lives,” Ted explained. “We also know the Amadors have a part in this and we don’t know what. This thing is beyond our expertise; which is why if any of you want to stop helping us, all we ask is you don’t tell anyone else.”

“One thing’s for sure,” Janet added. “There will be no more field trips like tonight. If…”

“I found it!” Storm exclaimed excitedly as she ran into the room, holding up an odd looking bell that actually clanged eerily as she jogged in. “It’s the key to my protection spell against Grable. I bought it in an antique store in Salem when my folks took me there on vacation. The spell is…”

“You mean Salem, Massachusetts?” Tracy asked, glancing around at her silent companions, who were all watching Storm attentively. “The place where they burned the witches?”

“They never burned anyone,” Storm replied, taking a seat next to Logan. She placed the bell on the table in front of her. “Nineteen died by hanging and one was pressed to death for not submitting himself to the trial. An unknown number died in prison. Anyway, yes, that’s the place. I read about a protection spell involving a four sided bronze bell. When I was in the antique shop I asked about it. The guy who owned the place grinned at me and went immediately into the back room. When he came out he had this in his hand. It has a very odd tone to it.”

“Let me get this straight, Wendy,” Janet said, laying her hands on the table palms down. “You’re going to beat the demon to death with a bell?”

“No, Scully,” Storm laughed with the rest of her friends at Janet’s attempt at levity. “This bell is part of a spell to keep Grable from torturing me to death.”

The immediate silence following Storm’s pronouncement made her laugh.

“Relax, I’m stating the facts,” Storm gestured in a nonchalant fashion. “I have to get to work on it right now while Grable may still be recovering from our visit.”

“What do you need?” Ted asked quickly.

“Just that cupboard over there.” Storm pointed at one of the small storage cupboards lined up behind Janet. “We don’t have a fireplace so naturally there’s no recess nook or cupboard next to a fireplace to put the bell in. One of those small cupboards will do. I have the spell right here.”

Storm held up a small card she had carried in with the bell.

“All I have to do is put the bell in the recess of the cupboard and read the spell.”

“You have to believe too, remember?” Logan put in, covering her hand with his.

“Oh, I believe big time.” Storm grinned. “I never felt anything like what happened tonight. I zapped that thing! I mean I really zapped it. When the salt and holy water you guys threw blew it apart, I just… what… what’s wrong?”

“We’re scared, you freak!” Chris blurted out. “This may seem like some goofy witch video game to you, but if we don’t stop this thing, it knows where we live. Even your damn FBI buddies don’t have a clue as to how we can stop this thing.”

“It was awesome, Storm… I mean… what you did,” Nancy added hesitantly. “But this stuff is too deep to get all happy feet on us.

Storm stood up slowly. “You don’t get it. I feel it. Grable’s not coming after you bunch. She’s coming after me. The alternative to my getting happy feet, as you say, is to just give up. You’re right, this isn’t a game. We did great tonight in a life or death situation. We kicked ass tonight - together. Janet, Logan, and I saw five tortured souls scream out of the ground in Perkins Park this morning. We freed five souls! They weren’t going to Disneyland. They were going to hell!”

“I…I felt something when I held the cross you gave me,” Carol said, holding it up. “When that thing charged, I knew in my heart it couldn’t get us. I’m in until it’s over. I wouldn’t be here if not for Logan and Storm.”

“My older brother would kick my ass to kingdom come if I let the Hulk down,” Tracy put in. “I know he’s goin’ Storm’s way no matter what the rest of you do. Besides, it did feel good to kick demon ass. I’m sick of evil sequels. Let’s end this piece of shit once and for all.”

“Sorry Storm,” Nancy said, “I’m in too.”

“I’m with you Willow.” Chris sighed, leaning back in her chair. “But I ain’t ever going back over to the Goth’s house.”

Chris leaned forward suddenly, holding back laughter. “Did…did you guys hear Nancy ask that fruit-loop Kevin ‘hey, what is this, Kevin, a sleep over’. Oh man, I almost lost it right then.”

“Thank you for your help,” Ted stated sincerely as the others enjoyed a laugh over Chris’s remark. “We’re hanging so far out on the proverbial limb, I’m not sure we can find our way back. Any intel you kids can give us while we try to put an end to this nightmare will be greatly appreciated.”

“Ditto,” Janet added simply.

“And…and you will be there if Grable comes to class?” Nancy asked, looking questioningly at Janet.

“If I do this right, Nancy,” Janet replied, with almost a grimace, “you won’t see me unless you need me. Grable might see me when she least expects to. I’m not infallible, but I will blow that bitch to hell without blinking an eye.”

“I better get started,” Storm remarked, picking up the bell. She headed over to the small cupboard she had sensed would be the right one to place it in.

Storm opened the cupboard, which was bare of any normal accouterments. She slid the bell into the furthest recess of the cupboard before shutting the cupboard door. Placing her two hands on the face of the cupboard door, Storm lowered her head and recited the spell.

“'Metto nel buco del cammino, Questo campanello per tenere lontano, Pluto e le sue compagne, Che in questa casa non si possino presentare;…”

Storm shuddered, clutching at her stomach. She groaned loudly, trying to mouth the words. She collapsed. Logan leaped from his seat, hurrying over to where she had fallen before anyone else reacted. He plucked the card from her hand and took up the chant.

“Ne in forma di cane e ne di gatto, Ne di topo, ne di civetta, Ne di serpe, e ne di cornacchia, Quando alla mia casa si vengano, A presenta questa campano, suonare E tutti maligni si possino allontanare.”

The moment Logan finished the chant, everyone jumped when the bell started ringing away by itself and then was silent. Storm was able to sit up with Janet’s help.

“I…I fooled around too long,” Storm gasped, looking up at Logan. “Thanks.”

“Glad it worked, or we would have had to make a fast trip over to the Goth’s house again,” Logan stated seriously as he and Janet helped Storm up into her chair.

“Will it work through the night?” Ted asked.

“It should work until I remove it. Keep those crosses with you when you go home. I have more.”

“What are you, The Exorcist?” Chris asked only half in jest.

“I kind of… freaked out after pulling a stunt at my last school,” Storm admitted. “I felt something was after me. I…I thought I saw things that weren’t there. Until I bought the crosses I couldn’t sleep.”

“What did the words mean you said earlier?” Carol asked. “You know, when you zapped the demon.”

“O fire of burning purification, Lord of destruction and the sign of rebirth! Residing in my hand throttle my foe!” Storm translated her earlier long range attack from the Latin with passion, and then shrugged when her friends seemed to be stifling laughter. “Hey, it worked.”

“What about the Bell Spell?” Janet asked.

“That one will really make you laugh. The Latin means ‘in this comer of the cupboard I put this bell to drive afar Pluto and his company. That in this house they may not come, neither in form of dog or cat, nor of mole, nor of an owl, nor of serpent, nor of crow. Should they come into my home, may the bell ringing drive the wretches away.”

“Comer? Pluto?” Nancy repeated questioningly. “What…”

“Curved corner, like the inside of the cupboard I picked,” Storm interrupted. “Pluto was the Roman God of the dead.”

“Okay, I’m over my strangeness limit,” Tracy declared, standing up. “Take us home, Hulk. If you have to assault fortress Goth tonight folks, I wish you luck. I’m going to be home with all the windows and doors locked, bonding with my cross.”

The goodbyes were subdued, as the girls filed out to Logan’s Pontiac. Logan hung back to talk with Ted.

“Should I come back after I drop my friends off?” Logan asked seriously.

“Thanks for the offer,” Ted replied quietly. “I don’t want the neighbors more interested in us than they already are. Keep your cell-phone on. I’ll call you if we can use you.”

“I will,” Logan agreed. He went over and gripped Storm’s hand gently. “I’ll see you in school. Can I come by and pick you up?”

“Sure,” Storm answered immediately. She leaned into him, raising her head. Logan kissed her lingeringly until catcalls from outside ended the moment.

“What did Logan talk to you about?” Storm asked Ted, watching Logan jog out to his Pontiac. “It looked serious.”

“The kid volunteered to come back over in case there’s trouble tonight,” Ted answered and then did a double take at the exasperated gasp Storm gave him. “What?”

“I think Wendy here wants to play house,” Janet ventured, putting Storm in a gentle neck lock. “Why don’t you call your folks? They’ll get you back…”

“They already called when I was digging around for the bell.” Storm ducked out of Janet’s hold. “They were wondering how we were doing, so I told them we were making some progress. I wasn’t planning on playing house, by the way. Did you see what he did when that witch nailed me before I finished the spell? If not for Logan, I’d still be writhing around on the floor. It felt like someone rammed a red hot poker right in my gut.”

“Could she have killed you like that?” Ted asked, leading the way back into the kitchen.

“I don’t think so,” Storm answered truthfully. “She could make me wish I was dead. Logan believes and the spell worked. The key is faith. Even with all you two have seen, I’m pretty sure neither of you has the faith to ring the bell. Let’s call him. He can stay in my room.”

Ted and Janet both laughed as they sat down at the kitchen table once again.

“I better go get an idea of who else is on the membership from Harding,” Storm said, staying by the door. “I have a theory there are only two more other than the ones we already know about.”

“Where’d you come up with only two more?” Janet asked.

“Grable, Kevin, the Amadors, the twins, and the five dead kids,” Storm explained in a hushed voice. “I believe whatever they called up from hell is feeding on them.”

“Shit!? What the hell does that mean?” Janet exclaimed, looking at Ted and then Storm.

“It means if Storm’s right, we’ll at least know who this thing will be coming after next,” Ted answered. “If you find only two more Harding High School people on the membership list, it will lend credence to your theory. Assuming you’re right, what reason would this demon have for executing its hosts?”

“I’m betting Grable will survive. She’ll move on with the added power to form a new coven somewhere,” Storm replied. “This whole sick scenario will repeat itself and a second demon will be added.”

“Can you kill this monster?” Ted asked.

“I need to ask Logan to presume on Father Daniels again. We need old candle wax from the church, blessed incense, and a silver blade blessed in ceremony at the church. I’ll need to make an effigy of the creature and attach the piece we collected to it. I plunge the blessed blade into the effigy exactly at midnight under the tree where it was conjured. We then need to melt it in a fire with the incense mixed in.”

“Oh boy, there’s some good news.” Janet dropped her head down comically on the kitchen table. “Perkins Park at midnight under Satan’s tree.”

“Maybe we should suck it up and go over there tonight,” Ted suggested, evoking a quick irritated look from Janet, whose head popped up fast with his suggestion.

“We don’t have the stuff we need. Besides, I’m too weak to pull it off,” Storm admitted. “Just as with your case, I have to pull this stunt off perfectly or our DNA from the creature will be gone and it’ll still be alive.”

“Good enough,” Ted agreed. “Go confirm your suspicions about two more coven members. We’ll go down with you. Then, let’s get some sleep. It sounds like one hell of a long day coming up tomorrow.”

Kevin McGraff parked his car around the block from Storm Crandall’s address. He turned off his lights, sitting quietly in the pre-dawn darkness, trying to figure out where the night had gone wrong. After hearing some of Crandall’s suspicions, he had immediately called June Grable, explaining in detail what had happened at the table with Logan and the other girls. June had invited him over after school, telling him they would handle this together, promising him a reward for his diligence.

Grable turned him inside out, ever since he had been invited over her house in his sophomore year and she had seduced him. June, as Kevin called her when they were alone, had been the single most exotic experience he had ever had. Enticing others into their group as Grable’s recruiter, Kevin became more and more enamored with earning sexual favors from Grable. The double life of weird séances in the park at midnight, while acting out a normal high school routine, had been intensely erotic to McGraff. Now all their work was at risk, thanks to this Crandall girl.

Earlier, Grable had patiently explained to the police how when the porch gave way. There had been loud cracking and popping noises the neighbors may have confused with gunfire. Her calm explanation and the physical evidence of the collapse had waylaid police suspicion. Grable had grabbed Kevin’s arm the moment she was rid of the police. She then hustled him downstairs into her basement once again.

Starting from scratch charged Kevin up even more because of Grable’s blending of sexual and Satanic rites. Grable then lanced the Storm Crandall effigy with a long thin ornate pin after completion of their ceremony. Watching his paramour laugh and clutch the effigy to her almost sensuously, McGraff had figured their problem was about to be solved. Without warning, the thunderous clamor of a bell rang out, causing Grable to scream out in pain, as she threw the doll out of the six pointed star. Grable lay on the cement floor writhing in pain and fury for ten minutes, her hands clamped over her ears.

Later, Grable had plotted with McGraff to kill Crandall in her sleep.

“You can do this, Kevin,” Grable had urged him huskily. “They won’t expect anything tonight after all that’s happened. Once she’s dead, we’ll be safe.”

“Those parents of hers can’t be just a mom and pop interested in their daughter’s welfare, June. They had guns and they knew how to use them,” Kevin had argued. “Crandall’s Mom nearly killed you. I saw the way she fired the gun. She knew what she was doing. Maybe we should leave now while we have the opportunity.”

“We can’t,” Grable stated ominously. “There’s no going back now. Our plan was proceeding perfectly until those three bitches mucked around in the park. Now, we’ll have to stick it out.”

“Crandall found the tree,” Kevin reminded her. “You said no one could find the tree.”

“She has some… skill,” Grable allowed reluctantly.

“Small doubt about that - she fired bolts of energy at your familiar.”

“You have to kill her, Kevin! I’ll guide you to her bedroom. I’ll give you a talisman. It will allow you to enter the house without detection. Slit her throat with this knife.” Grable had handed him a foot long, wood handled knife with odd markings burned into the handle. “Believe me, there’s no other way.”

“What about sending your familiar?”

“It has to recover. It’s sealed from the house by the same spell keeping me from handling the bitch.”

“I don’t think I can do it, June.”

“You remember those five kids I had to sacrifice?” Grable asked, her voice a quiet icy rasp of menace. “They wanted out too.”

So, here I am, Kevin thought, looking down at the teardrop shaped, yellowish brown teak amulet. A thin leather thong passed through a hole drilled in the amulet at the thinnest part. He shuddered, remembering the five times Grable’s demon familiar took a life near the tree in Perkins Park. Images of silently shrieking faces flashed through McGraff’s mind, and he hurriedly left the car with amulet and knife.

Moving along the nearly silent streets, with gently shifting leaves the only sound, McGraff slipped the thin black ski mask over his face. Dressed completely in black, McGraff stayed close to the house fronts, his passing noted by only the occasional dog bark. Fifteen minutes later, McGraff crouched across the street from the Crandall house, taking deep breaths. When he had his nerves as well as his breath under control, Kevin sprinted across the street and up onto the porch entrance to Storm’s house. Holding the amulet tightly in his left hand, Kevin gently turned the doorknob.

“Hi, Kev,” Logan’s voice growled from beside him.

Kevin had only time to turn slightly before a huge fist slammed into his stomach, causing the air to launch out of him as if propelled by a shotgun blast. McGraff gasped painfully for air, collapsing to the porch floor on his side. He tried weakly to bring the knife up, but Logan kicked him in the side, evoking a scream of pain. The knife fell out of his fingers and onto the porch. Ted came running from the back of the house in his pajamas as Janet whipped the front door open, gun drawn.

Logan?” Janet peered out, hitting the light switch.

“What’d you catch, kid?” Ted asked, walking up on the porch as he lowered his weapon. “I thought I told you to go home and get some sleep.”

“I dozed,” Logan said simply, patting down the groaning Kevin for any additional weapons. “I had a bad feeling so I came back after I dropped the girls off. I was in the dark corner of the porch when Kev here decided to pay a visit.”

Janet, dressed in a robe, eased out around Kevin, and pulled off his ski mask.

“How’d you know it was Kevin.”

“The way he moved. I heard him approach from down the street and watched him make his move on the porch. He was clutching this in his hand. The door opened like it wasn’t locked.”

Logan handed Ted the amulet while Janet picked up the knife with a handkerchief she pulled out from her robe. Logan helped Kevin to his feet and into the house, where a yawning Storm was just walking down the stairs. She looked at the procession coming through the front door in open mouthed confusion.

“For God’s sake, Wendy,” Janet said in exasperation, “put a robe on.”

Storm realized she only wore a short night gown. She began to turn back up the stairs. She pointed a finger at Logan, who grinned and looked away as she ran up the stairs to get her robe. Storm joined them in the kitchen. Janet leaned against the stove tiredly, fiddling with the coffee maker. Logan and Ted sat on either side of McGraff. Kevin looked up at Storm sullenly. Ted quickly explained the situation, and showed Storm the amulet.

“You should have let Logan stay in my room,” Storm joked, smiling at Logan and taking the amulet from Ted hesitantly, feeling the dark aura of the amulet. “Wow, Grable cast a spell to hide your presence and open a dead bolted door, huh? I’m glad I have friends.”

“It’s nice you’re in such a good mood, Wendy,” Janet said sarcastically. “Grable’s desperate. She played her sidekick card. On the other hand, if Logan hadn’t been stowing away on our porch, it might have worked. Now what?”

“I’m sure Mr. McGraff would be glad to take us through all this in detail,” Ted remarked.

McGraff kept quiet.

“You do understand all we have to do is let you go and the Goth will take care of you for us,” Janet added. “She won’t like the way you botched your assassination mission. Maybe she’ll sic the hoodoo on you like she did the other five kids in your coven.”

McGraff’s head shot up as he twisted toward Janet. “How…”

“We do this for a living, Einstein,” Janet cut him off. “From the moment we saw you in the basement, alone with Zelda, we figured you as the recruiter. We’re FBI agents, not psychics.”

“Jesus…” McGraff whispered, running his hands through his hair. “I…I never meant for anyone to get hurt, let alone killed. By the time it started happening, it was too late. You’ve seen that…that demon.”

McGraff shut up abruptly, putting his head in his hands as he leaned with his elbows on the table. Ted and Janet exchanged knowing looks. They had him. After a moment, McGraff lifted his head and went on.

“There’s no excuse for what I’ve done. If you knew all this and could have stopped it, you would have. You couldn’t and neither could I,” McGraff admitted ruefully, as Ted stood up and took cups of coffee from Janet and passed them out. “I started hanging with June for sex and excitement. We lit candles, carved in trees, and paraded around naked. Then June conjured her hellish familiar and everything changed. The younger girls freaked. They wanted out. When it took one of them right in front of our eyes, we all started running. It swept around us, herding everyone back to Grable. She told us we were in it now and there was no way out.”

“Okay.” Janet nodded, sitting across from him with her coffee. Storm sat next to her. “We know how she got you. How’d she get the others - the older Amador and the other teacher… uh… Blake, was it, Ted?”

“Cynthia Blake, the art teacher, and Carmela Eager, a junior,” Ted answered, remembering the names Storm had found, which coincided with their Temple of Set membership list.

“June… June doesn’t care who she’s with. I recruited the kids. She seduced them. I filmed it. We blackmailed them. She recruited Dave’s Father and the art teacher. I filmed it and they were screwed. Then, like I said, when they saw the deaths, and how futile running would be, they protected June as best they could.”

“But…but how did she keep you others conforming while she had that devil pick off those five girls one after another?” Storm asked, stunned at how Grable had coerced her coven into being.

“June told us after each death the dead girl had been threatening to out the rest of us,” McGraff replied. “We were terrified.”

“Not terrified enough to keep you from setting your sights on Tracy, you…” Logan grabbed McGraff’s hair, wrenching his head back, before anyone could react.

A split second later, Logan had his arms folded in a press around McGraff’s neck. Pulling McGraff out of the chair like a small child as Kevin gasped for air, Logan held him in a death grip Ted recognized. Ted gestured the others to stay back. Storm saw death written across the young Marine’s face.

“Don’t do it, kid!” Ted warned. “We’d have to arrest you for murder.”

“Stay out of this!” Logan retorted, making the move to snap McGraff’s neck.

“Wait!!” Storm screamed, hurrying around the table, her hands held in pleading fashion. “I have a plan for him! Logan, listen to me. I need him!”

Logan paused, glaring pointedly at Storm, trying to decipher whether she was making up her need for McGraff. He pulled Kevin further away from Ted. McGraff’s hands waved and grasped at Logan’s arm at his windpipe helplessly, his feet barely scraping the floor.

“It will involve the knife and my blood!” Storm yelled, putting a hand on Logan’s shoulder. “Please, let him go and I’ll explain.”

“Listen to her, Logan,” Janet urged coldly, not caring one way or another if Logan broke McGraff’s neck or not. “You can always snap the little prick’s neck later.”

“Oh… thanks Jan,” Ted muttered, sitting back down.

Logan shifted his grip. He slammed McGraff down in his chair. Kevin heaved himself back and forth, trying to suck air into his lungs for the second time that night. “If your idea will help stop this thing… he lives. If you’re bullshitting me, Storm, he dies. Your friends here will have to shoot me to prevent it. I promised Tracy’s brother I wouldn’t let anything happen to his sister. Shit… I acted like a damn pimp for this asshole.”

“I’m not shooting him,” Janet said calmly, sipping her coffee.


Charles Gramlich said...

I still sometimes flash on X-men characters when I first see Storm and Logan as names.

BernardL said...

Thanks, Charles, that's what I had in mind as a spoof in the story... along with all the other quirky over-the-top comic/TV/movie references. :)

raine said...

Grable is suitably nice and cold.
And I begin to like Jan more than before, lol.

BernardL said...

I'm glad you like Jan more now, Raine. She has a big scene coming up. I appreciate the comment. :)

Virginia Lady said...

Well played. It's nice that Logan isn't as totally in control as he's appeared. And I agree with Raine, I like the way Janet is developing.

BernardL said...

Thanks for staying with this, VL. The story gets pretty wild. I appreciate your comments. Thank you.