D Is For Damien: Chapter 7
DAMIEN'S MIND REELED. What's happened? He stepped slowly toward the knife, realizing as he got closer that the knife was not the only thing that was there. Symbols were scrawled around it in red, and the knife itself was pinning a sheet of paper to the wall. He numbly reached out and pulled the note free and read it.
a secret treehouse out near a field.
Watch them lest some unfortunate accident befall them.
We know all about your family as well:
Esmeralda age 8
Harvey age 7
Cynthia age 3
Timothy age 2
Be careful what you say and do.
You wouldn't want something to happen to them.
Damien started to shake as he read the last words. No one knew about that treehouse except his uncle! Not even himself! He scanned the paper for any other clues and found one. It was small, and at the very bottom, but he could see it nonetheless.
He whimpered and slid down against the clean part of the wall, still holding the piece of paper as he reached the floor. Scorpio. Only they would do something like this. He wouldn't be surprised to find a horse head in his bed when he woke up the next day. Only Scorpio would substitute a goat instead. Or maybe do something even worse. He had to tell somebody. He looked around the room as if expecting to find someone.
Who? Morris? Officer Jones? Uncle Damien? The kids? Luther? Lilu?
But that was ridiculous. Morris and Jones were almost undoubtedly on the job. That would be the same for Father Damien. The kids were out at their treehouse. Luther most certainly wouldn't be there, and Lilu...
He shoved that last thought to the back of his mind and got up. Who to call? He had to tell his uncle first. He must be the first to know, because he'd had the most experience with Scorpio; maybe he could tell Damien what to do. What he needed right now was some advice, some reassurance that everything would be okay. He went to the phone and tried to dial the church, only his hands were shaking so badly he messed up and had to do it several times before he finally got it right. As the phone buzzed he looked at the piece of paper he held in his other hand, trying to keep his breathing down to normal.
A click. "Hello--"
"Is Father Damien there?" Damien asked abruptly.
It was a woman who had answered. "Yes, he is," she stuttered. A brief pause. "Damien? Is that you?"
It was Sister Annemarie. He let his breath out. "Yeah," he said, his voice quavering slightly.
Annemarie evidently noticed his quaver. "Is something wrong?" she asked, a note of concern in her own voice.
Damien sighed, breathing deeply and telling himself mentally to calm down. "No...no, not really. I just got to tell him something important. Could he come to the phone?"
"Yes, certainly. Just hold on a moment."
There was the click of the phone being set down, and he stood there waiting. The moment seemed to take forever. But then again, moments when you're waiting for something really portentous always take forever. Finally he again heard noise on the other end of the line, and his uncle's voice. "Hello?"
Damien let out a shuddery sigh. "Glad to hear you," was all he could say.
"Damien? What's wrong? You must have just gotten home. I didn't expect a call so soon."
"Something's happened here," Damien said. He glanced at the wall, then back to the phone. He was talking in a low voice as if somebody might be hiding nearby and listening in. "I came in and there were these--signs--all over the wall. In red. And there's a note. They know where the kids' treehouse is. They know their ages. They know I know about them now. And they're not above doing something about it."
Silence. For a minute Damien thought they had been cut off, and was ready to panic. Then, "What kind of signs?"
Damien looked over at the wall again. The red stuff--he figured it must be some animal's blood or something, preferably the former--was splattered in grotesque patterns along the creamy white of the paint. "A pentagram. An inverted cross. And an A in a circle."
"The symbol of anarchy," Father Damien identified it. He sighed. "All right, you just hang tight and I'll be right over."
"Listen, should I tell that Morris guy about this?" He tried not to shudder. "Lord. I must be gettin' desperate here."
"It's up to you. If you trust him, yes. Frankly I find him annoying but I don't believe he's with them."
Them. For the first time Damien realized that they rarely mentioned the name Scorpio, substituting instead that vague pronoun. "I think so too," he said, relieved that he wasn't the only one. "Anyway we need all the help we can get. Even the cops on this one. This place'll be swarming in a few minutes."
"Just call Morris for now, and wait until I get there. Then you can call the others. Chances are the place won't swarm; they don't like to make a big deal."
That's for sure. "Agreed. Hop on by and I'll be waitin' for you."
"Bye." Click. Buzzzzzzzzzzz...
Damien hung up. He looked at the board above the phone. Morris's number was stuck up there with a red tack; after leaving the police station yesterday he'd taken the liberty of writing it down up there and in his own address book, just in case. Anyway, this certainly seemed like a "just in case" if he'd ever seen one. He picked up the telephone again and dialed the number.
Isn't he going to answer?
Where the heck is he?
And then--click. "Hello."
"Morris?" Damien asked. "That you?"
The response was snide--just as he should have expected. "No, I'm just some weird guy who gets his highs by going to other people's houses and answering their phones. What do you think! Who is this?"
"This is Damien."
A rustle. "Damien! Of all the--you're certainly the last person I expected to hear from."
"Yeah, well, you're the last person I expected to call. But something's come up. Have you seen enough to know at least a little about Satanism?"
"Listen, I lived in Seattle before I moved here," Morris replied. "Now Seattle's not the most normal place in the world."
"That's nice. If you think Seattle isn't normal, I suggest coming over on M-33 right now."
"Wait a minute--M-33? What's the address?"
"You'll find it. It's the only place that has a Lamborghini in the driveway." Damien hung up before the detective could protest. Then he turned back to the wall. The red substance was slowly dripping down the wall by now; it must still be fresh. What the heck was that stuff? He moved closer, wiped a bit off onto his finger, and sniffed. Its scent was biting and metallic, and made his stomach churn. He remembered that smell. He wished he didn't. As if remembering his earlier weariness, he suddenly felt very exhausted, and went over to the couch, collapsing on it and, despite his feelings of foreboding, quickly dozing off.
As usual his sleep wasn't dreamless.
A loud ringing.
Damien opened his eyes slowly, squinting at the light and looking around as the fragments of a promptly forgotten dream scattered. Where was he? That's right--he was home. What was going on? He sat up in a haze. The red pentagram reared up before him like some hideous horned monster. He actually jumped back, nearly knocking over the end lamp. Shaking again, he reached over to steady it, then looked back at the signs upon the wall.
The ringing came again, then a pounding. It was at the door.
He got up and stumbled out to the porch, unlocking and opening the door so abruptly that Morris nearly struck him with his fist. The detective whirled to face him.
"It's about--!" he started, then cut himself off, staring with shock into Damien's eyes.
Father Damien, behind the detective, came forward and reached out a hand to Damien's arm. "Damien? Are you all right?"
Damien looked at them dazedly, from one to the other. "Why? What's wrong?"
"You look terrible," Morris said softly.
Damien turned to his left and caught a view of himself in the mirror. There were dark rings around his eyes and he looked disheveled. Doubtless the aftermath of his endless nightmaring. He pushed back his hat, then straightened it as best he could, all the while staring at that strange reflection. "Yeah, well...I just didn't sleep well. Come on in."
The priest and detective entered, looking around as if they'd never been there before--which was true, at least in Detective Morris's case. Morris lit a cigarette and shook out the match, gazing at the doorway arches.
Damien looked at him disapprovingly, but decided now wasn't the time for a lecture on the horrors of lung cancer. "This way," he murmured instead, heading for the living room and surreptitiously waving the smoke away.
They followed, entering the room through the doorway beside the markings and turning to look. Their reactions to the wall were quite different. Father Damien crossed himself and whispered something, and Detective Morris merely moved in for a closer look, inspecting the scrawls. He turned to Damien and his uncle.
"The priest says you found a note?" he asked, pulling out and snapping on a pair of gloves.
"Mind if I take a look at it?"
Damien picked it up from where he'd left it, near the phone, and handed it over. Morris read it, Father Damien looking over his shoulder.
Morris snorted and said, half to himself, "One thing's for sure, these guys ain't no Catholics."
"And what are you?" Damien said, with mild annoyance at his snide attitude.
Morris grinned at him sarcastically. "I was born, am living, and will die a Presbyterian." He looked back at the note. "Ain't no Presbyterians, either." Damien rolled his eyes in disgust. "How long ago did you get back here?"
"A few minutes before I called you."
"You call anyone else?"
"Only Uncle Damien."
"Good. I hate cops." Morris placed the paper on an end table. "You touch anything?"
Damien thought a moment. "The doorknob, the phone, the note, the knife, and I checked out the blood."
They both looked at him blankly. "Knife?" Morris inquired.
Damien felt like slapping his head. Of course! He'd forgotten. He went to the end of the couch and picked it up from the other end table, where he'd placed it before he'd fallen asleep. "It was pinning the note to the wall. You can see the hole."
Detective Morris took the knife--it was a rather expensive-looking thing having an ivory handle with a snake with wings carved on it--and turned it over in his hands. The blade was bloody, either from the wall or from the thing it cut up, whatever that was.... "Nice knife. Another thing's for certain--these guys got money." He held the knife to his nose, sniffing the red substance on the blade, then dabbed some onto his finger and gingerly tasted it. Damien and Father Damien looked at each other and both rolled their eyes. "Investigative procedure?" Damien whispered. Morris only made a strange face.
"Blood, all right," he said in response to their thoughts, putting the knife in a plastic bag as evidence. He was reaching for the note when Damien coughed as politely as he could.
"You aren't exactly afraid of any--diseases, are you?" Damien hinted.
Morris just looked up at him. Damien shrugged. "You know.... Don't you watch the news?"
"Not really. It's all bad news, and I get enough of that as it is. You seen any dead animals anywhere around here?"
"None. But I haven't looked either."
"Then let's do just that. You guys search the house. I'll look outside."
They split up. Damien looked around on the ground floor. Father Damien searched upstairs, and Detective Morris went outdoors.
Damien stopped outside his own door, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and entered, expecting to find something horrible. Inside he opened his eyes and looked around. Nothing. Only his posters, stereo, cassettes and CDs, and magazines. Not one thing out of the ordinary. He let out his breath with relief, then felt rather silly. What had he expected to find, anyway? A goat head? But really... He turned and exited, going to Lucifer's and Sandy's bedroom.
Morris searched around in the woods surrounding the house, particularly on the south side where they got denser. He found nothing disturbed; no plants nearby were uprooted, no sticks were broken, no graffiti left to challenge passersby. Everything was normal. He snorted, stamped out his cigarette (he didn't want to be responsible for starting any forest fires), and went back around into the front yard facing the highway.
Father Damien found himself in Esmeralda's bedroom upstairs and scanned it carefully. Pastel violet curtains, walls, and bedspread; stuffed toys lining the walls and resting in a wall hammock; posters of female rock stars, a unicorn and a basketful of kittens. Everything all right. He went next door to Harvey's room, and opened the door. Blue-and-red curtains and bedspread, race car wallpaper design, toy cars and dinosaurs lining the walls, posters of male rock stars, Godzilla and a litter of tiger cubs, and the air vent in the floor--
Damien heard the shout. "Damien!"
He whirled around, pausing for a split second, and then dashed upstairs.
The call had come from Harvey's room. Damien went in, confronting his uncle. He stared at him with bewilderment, then glanced around. "What? What is it?"
Father Damien's gaze shifted to the air vent in Harvey's floor. Damien's did likewise, and he suddenly felt like throwing up. He ran back downstairs and glanced up at the ceiling, then looked quickly back down to avoid getting sick. He'd already seen too much blood today. He just couldn't believe that he hadn't seen it earlier, when he lay down to take his nap.
Hanging from the air vent, tied up around the neck with twine, its throat slit and now dripping slowly onto the carpet below, was a dead cat.
The door opening and slamming; Morris dashed into the room. "Somebody yell?" he panted, then, seeing Damien breathing heavily and leaning against the wall, he said, "Hey, you okay?"
Damien pointed at the ceiling.
Morris looked up, then whistled through his teeth and looked back at Damien. "This is startin' to get out of hand, Damien. What'll they do next, can you guess? How long will it take before it goes from pet to person?" He stopped speaking abruptly, suddenly aware of what he'd said. Uh-oh. What a bad slip to make around this guy. He cleared his throat and his eyes shifted uncomfortably. "Hey, listen...I'm sorry. I shouldn't've said that."
"Stop trying to protect me," Damien said in response, taking his hand away from the wall and leaving the room.
Morris sighed again. "These singer types are all alike," he said to himself, following.
Damien went outside to take a few breaths and try to calm down. That house was starting to get too cramped and stuffy for him, especially with its latest additions. He leaned against the house this time and ran his hands over his face. Morris came out behind him, followed a moment later by his uncle. Father Damien now looked very tired.
"I didn't think even they would resort to this," he sighed. "And in Harvey's room as well--"
He cut himself off, seeing Damien look up, his eyes shocked. He'd suddenly realized--
"Harvey," he whispered. "The kids!"
"What?" Morris asked, looking at Father Damien. The priest also looked horrified. Damien pushed himself away from the house and jogged out to the highway, then turned back.
"Where is it?" he cried.
"Out near a field some ways off," Father Damien said. "I'll show you." He ran after Damien.
"Hey, hold on here!" Detective Morris called. "What's going on? Who's this Harvey? He involved in this, too?"
Damien ran out into the road and continued along the shoulder, cars whizzing by, the priest and detective following closely behind. The gravel crunched under his feet; he wasn't wearing his sandals now so it stung, but he couldn't even feel it with his lungs about to burst. All the while he called out the names of his niece and nephew. "Harvey! Ez!" Is this what being an uncle is all about? he asked himself as he ran. Worrying your head off about the younger ones, worried that they might slip and fall down the wrong hole someday, and not be able to climb back out? He knew that what he'd thought must be true, at least for his own uncle. It was Father Damien who had helped him the most to get his life back together. If it hadn't been for him maybe Derrick would have gotten to him long ago, or maybe even worse--
He felt fire rising in his throat. His heart was pounding so hard that he wondered why it didn't leap out of his chest. Pounding hard, hard, hard, just like her heart must have been pounding that night...
And then--a faint call. "Damien? Damien, we're over here, near the woods!"
Damien followed the voice, his mind racing with a million fevered thoughts all at once. Did she call out? Did she call me when I wasn't there? Who else was there for her to call? There was only me...and Luther--
He nearly missed Harvey and the kids, so stunned was he by that last thought. At the very last minute he dropped to his knees and gathered the children into his arms, hugging them tight. Sadie, Lawrence, and Ann came up, panting.
"Thank God!" Damien cried with relief, not relinquishing his grip on the two children. He finally held them out at arms' length, looking them over but still not letting go. "You're okay, aren't you? You're not hurt or anything?"
Harvey tried to disengage himself, half confused by Damien's odd behavior. He rarely made such displays of emotion. He didn't know whether to be relieved that Damien wasn't mad at him, or worried. "Yeah, we're okay," he said. "We were just at the treehouse. A car drove by real fast and scared us but that's all."
Ez too squirmed uncomfortably, trying not to show that his grip was rather hard. "Really, Dami," she assured him. "We're okay."
Damien finally let go of them and they stepped back a few paces, discreetly rubbing their arms, gazing at him with puzzlement. He stood shakily and put a hand to his head.
"I don't want you out here alone anymore," he said, trying to keep the quaver out of his voice. "There's been some trouble back home and I don't feel it would be very safe."
"Trouble?" Harvey echoed, his eyes widening. "Like what?"
Father Damien stepped forward now. "There's plenty of time to find that out later," he replied. "Right now we should get going. How about a trip to Dairy Queen? Banana splits on me."
"Okay!" Harvey, Ez, and the other kids cried, and they ran off ahead, jumping and shouting as the three adults started back for the road. Damien went last, falling behind the other two and rubbing his temples; by now he was nearly overtaken by the shakes.
Morris broke off his conversation with Father Damien and fell back until Damien caught up with him; he cocked his head forward and looked at the singer closely. "You sure you're all right?"
"Fine," Damien said, and spoke no more all the way there.