D Is For Damien: Chapter 14
A Message From Scorpio
DAMIEN RECEIVED A call later in the evening from, oddly enough, Officer Jones, asking him to come down to hear something important. Damien and his uncle, who had come over to see how things were doing at home, both left for the station, wondering what it could be.
When they got there Officer Brown conducted them into a back room where they found three others: Officers Jones and Slatinsky and Lieutenant Mabarak. They were standing around the table where a tape recorder and a telephone sat, staring at the phone as if expecting it to ring. They all looked up as the three entered.
"Hey, Mayberry!" Damien greeted, Father Damien following him into the little room. He indicated the phone and tape recorder with a wave of his hand. "What's all this?"
"It's Mabarak," Mabarak said with disgust. "Get that right."
"Mabarak says he just got a telephone call from the Twilight Zone," Officer Jones replied to Damien's question, pushing the PLAY button on the tape player. "Take a listen."
Damien fell silent as the tape started to play. There was a message--it was evidently Mabarak's voice--telling whoever was calling to wait for the beep, then the tone sounded. For a brief moment there was silence. Then a voice spoke, and Damien found himself chilled to the bone.
"Don't bother tracing this call," the voice--Damien instantly recognized it as Luther Broderick's--said. "It will get you nowhere. We have people in high and low places, so we know exactly what's going on at all times. What happened to Mr. Morris was a tragedy--I'm certain none of you want it to happen again. But if you keep messing with our affairs, believe me, it will."
Damien reached out and stopped the recording. "You just stood around and let him say this?" he asked, glaring at Mabarak, furious.
"It gets better," Mabarak replied icily, also reaching out and restarting the tape.
"To those of you listening to this," Luther's voice went on, "I leave this final warning: It's best to keep your fingers clear of the Scorpion, or you might just get stung, as unfortunate Morris did. Nobody wants to feel the sting of a scorpion. And no one wants to experience the wrath of Scorpio."
There was an abrupt clicking sound, and Lieutenant Mabarak's voice cut in. "What the hell do you want?" he shouted.
A laugh. "Lieutenant Mabarak!" Luther said with amusement. "Somehow I knew you'd be listening to this. I only want one thing from you. We're getting sick and tired of all this playing cat-and-mouse when everyone knows who'll win in the end."
"Just get to the point!" Mabarak snapped.
Replied Luther, all traces of amusement now gone from his voice, "We want to leave a message for Damien."
Damien felt his blood run cold.
"We know he's listening," Luther continued, "maybe not now, maybe not with you at this time, but we have something to tell him. Have him join you and you'll know very shortly what it is we want from him." There was a click, and a beep, and the message ended.
Mabarak stopped the tape.
For a brief moment there was silence, and all the cops turned to look at Damien. Damien just stared back.
"What does this mean?" Damien asked them. "Luther wants to talk to me? How the heck do we manage that, huh? Just tell me that."
"You're going to wait here," Jones said. "Until he calls back. Which he will, if I know him. He's definitely not afraid of getting caught."
"As if he will," Mabarak muttered.
Damien snorted angrily. "How long will it be before he does call? For all we know he won't call back for another month, just to tick us off!"
"As he said, Scorpio's got people in high and low places," Mabarak said. "Wherever someone is, they'll know. Which means they'll know when you're here. So we shouldn't have too long a wait."
Damien snorted again, but dropped back into a chair sullenly. Father Damien was more cool tempered. He moved around to the side of the table, looking at the tape player thoughtfully.
"You really expect him to call back, what with the risk of being traced?" he asked.
"Damn sure of it," Jones replied. "He's probably calling from a payphone, or maybe from somebody else's house. To tell you the truth, I don't think Broderick's scared of anything. No guy as crazy as he is would be."
Mabarak turned to the front room. "Gonna call the sheriff's department and see if they got any weird calls themselves," he said. "Call me when anything happens." He exited the room and the other five were left to themselves.
"What do they want from me, anyway?" Damien asked, great irritation in his voice. "I've left them alone, just as long as they leave me and my family alone. If they've got a problem with my family they deal with me first. But I've left them alone."
Officer Jones looked at Father Damien and raised an eyebrow questioningly. Father Damien shook his head. Jones sighed and said simply, "Well, Dami, you're tied into this more than you know. And Scorpio's got a vendetta against anyone who gets in their way--or more like anyone who they believe gets in their way."
Damien snorted once more. "Then they believe wrong, or they've got a very misplaced sense of judgement. Because I haven't been bothering them one bit."
The telephone rang suddenly. Everybody looked down at it, not really knowing what to do.
Mabarak returned from the back room. "They don't have anything over there," he called, just as the phone rang again. He glanced at it. "Hey, isn't anybody gonna answer that?"
A third ring. Damien looked at Jones with more than annoyance, as if to say, "Well, now what do I do?"
"Answer it!" Mabarak shouted, as if reading his mind. "It's hooked up so we'll get the whole thing on tape. We'll all hear it. Just pick the damn thing up!"
Damien sighed and reached for the phone. He picked up the receiver and put it to his ear as the recorder kicked on. "Yeah?"
"Good at following directions as always," Luther's voice said sarcastically. It echoed tinny in the small room.
Damien felt fury rising up in his chest. "Listen, I don't want anything else to do with you. I knew you but I also know what you did to Lilu and there's no way in hell I'm gonna forgive you for that."
Father Damien was subdued. Damien rarely, rarely swore unless he was extremely angry.
Luther laughed coldly. "What do you know about Lilu?" he asked with some humor. "She was just one of three who became two who became one."
"You shut up!" Damien shouted, enraged.
This reaction only caused Luther to laugh again. "Listen to you! You who were always the one with the level head. You who were always in charge and always knew just what to do. Tell me, did you know what to do when you found out your sister was dead?"
Damien felt like smashing the phone to bits, as if it were Luther's skull, but knew it wouldn't help the situation any. Instead he just stood there, his jaws locked, his eyes burning with hate.
"Don't act stupid, Damien," Luther said, lowering his voice. "I know how intelligent you are. You can't fool me with this act, and believe me, you never could and you never will. You know exactly what it is we want now, and you know we'll stop at nothing to get it."
"What do you want?" Damien asked, his voice also lowering.
"Your three D's," the voice on the other end of the line said ominously. "We have one already but we need them all. Their power is legendary. With them, we can never die, nor will we ever be defeated. You and all those weak, struggling fools with you will finally feel the power of the Great Goat."
"You've already got all the power you need," Damien said in a hiss. "What's the matter? Old Scratch won't give you immortality? I thought he could give you anything you asked for, so why ask me for the D's?"
Luther laughed. "How little you know of the True Religion! Of course we get what we want, but we have to pay back for it. This is our payback. And 'Old Scratch' does have the power to do anything. Which is why I know you'll give us the D's, if you value your life or the lives of your family."
"You leave them out of this! They have nothing to do with you. I'm the one you want!"
A low chuckle on the other end. "You're acting stupid again, Damien. Don't do that. It can get you in trouble at times. And yes, you are the only one we're interested in, but sometimes you have to take three steps back to get one step forward. And I can tell you, if you don't comply soon and give us the D's without any argument, this is going to be one very large step."
"Listen, you--" Damien started, but found himself talking to empty air. Luther had hung up on him. Furious, Damien slammed the phone down on the hook and struck the table with his fist. Everybody except Mabarak jumped back.
"Let's not get destructive here, okay?" Officer Jones said.
Damien whirled to face him. "You have some psychotic serial killer calling you up and laughing in your face and all you can worry about is me busting the table? God, Jones, you're even more idiotic than I thought!"
"Cool down," Mabarak said, fiddling with the knife he'd had before. "Neither of you's doing any good. Jones, start worrying a little more. Damien, start worrying a little less."
"A Satanist murderer and he tells me to worry less!" Damien screeched, getting up, turning to the doorway, and exiting the room, almost all in one move. They could hear the outside door slam a brief moment later before the building was again filled with silence. Father Damien sighed and put on his hat to shield his eyes from the dying sunlight.
"Let us know if anything else comes up," he said, offering his hand to Mabarak. The lieutenant shook it, at the same time putting the knife away. Father Damien noticed this and couldn't help but to glance at it.
Mabarak caught his glance as well and pulled it back out. "Want a look?" He held the knife out for the priest to see. Father Damien caught a quick glimpse of a winged snake on the handle before the blade snapped out, startling him. Mabarak clicked it shut.
"No, thanks," Father Damien replied. "Damien's waiting for me. He can get impatient at times. I'm sorry about his temper. I hope to see you all later, though."
"You will," Mabarak said, pocketing the knife and stepping back. The four police stood and watched as Father Damien left the room, and could hear as his car started up and drove off from the station.
It was starting to grow darker as Damien and his uncle drove home. Damien sat looking out the passenger window, brooding to himself. Father Damien stole a quick look at him, then sighed and rubbed his eyes, growing tired. Damien had told him about Luther's record, including who the alleged victims were; though Lilu wasn't on the list he knew that's what Damien was thinking. Who wouldn't start to think that? He just wished his nephew could control that temper. It wasn't as if he didn't have a valid reason to be angry, but--
Suddenly he saw something dart across the road several yards ahead of the car, caught briefly in the headlights. It looked like a person! Startled, he braked, pitching the two of them forward sharply. Damien's head darted up from where he'd been starting to doze off. "What the heck's going on?" he cried.
"Someone just jumped out in front of the car!" Father Damien exclaimed, squinting futilely into the darkness ahead. Not caring if any other cars came by, he put the station wagon in park and kept peering around, the engine running.
Damien looked out the window also. "What'd he look like?"
"I have no idea. I don't even know if it was a man or a woman!"
They sat very still for several minutes.
Finally, Damien spoke up again. "Maybe you're gettin' tired."
Father Damien rubbed his eyes again, growing confused. He could swear he'd seen someone.... "Maybe you're right. I've been pretty stressed out lately. We better get on ho--"
"Wait a minute!" Damien interrupted him, leaning over and abruptly grasping the dashboard. "There's someone in the woods!"
"Are you sure?" Father Damien asked, now questioning what before he'd believed so earnestly.
"Sure as armpit deodorant," Damien replied, receiving a weird stare from his uncle. "Someone's out there. Maybe they're following us."
"On foot? Don't you think there'd be an easier way?"
Damien shook his head, not to indicate no, but just to clear his thoughts. "Yeah, that does sound kind of stupid," he admitted, sitting back. Then he sat forward again. "But I still wanna go check it out. Just to make sure."
"I don't think that's a very good idea."
"Don't worry. I'll only be gone a minute." Damien opened the door and got out. "Lock your door," he said to his uncle, who obeyed, then he locked and closed the passenger door and tramped down into the tall grass that choked the shoulder of the road and the floor of the woods.
Father Damien sat alone in the car now. He was rarely jittery when nervous, so he was quite still, but stared out the window apprehensively, his hands clutching the steering wheel as if he expected to rip it out and use it as a weapon. Several moments passed. Nothing. He waited several more minutes. Still no Damien. Knowing it could be a foolish thing to do, yet wanting to get his nephew's attention, he rolled down the window and honked the horn once. It echoed out into the woods.
Nothing. He was growing anxious. Finally, however, he heard a rustling, but still saw no one. He unlocked and opened the door, getting out and standing next to the driver's side. He leaned over the roof of the car.
"Damien?" he called. His voice echoed back, Damien--Damien--Damien.
He went over to the passenger's side near the woods, craning his neck this way and that. "Damien?" he called again. "Damien, can you hear me? Are you all right?"
All right--all right--all right.
And then a call: "Come down here! It's safe."
Somewhat relieved but still suspicious, Father Damien started carefully down the slope, holding onto saplings to steady himself on the way down. Near the bottom he stopped and peered warily into the darkness; he heard the gurgle of a creek nearby, but could see no one. A moment later, however, he saw Damien dimly in the shadows, coming toward him slowly while looking over his shoulder. He turned his head. Father Damien could see that he was laughing to himself but trying to contain it. Another minute or two passed, and another figure advanced out of the dark. Father Damien squinted. It appeared to be a young man; as he came closer, more details of his physique could be made out. He had wild, black hair hanging down past his ears and wore a red bandana around his head, along with a big gold ring in one ear and a leather jacket. His eyes looked black but changed to brown as he came within a few feet of the two. Father Damien looked at him, wondering what was going on.
"I'd like you to meet someone," Damien said, "only I don't know him just yet, either."
"Dino," the man said cheerfully. "Dino Garris. Don't let the name fool ya--three-quarters Italiano." He stuck out his hand to Father Damien, who took it, then to Damien. Damien refused, being too amused to do any such thing. The man who called himself Dino shrugged and turned back to the priest.
"A great nephew you have here," he said, with a sort of crazy smile to match his wild attire. He looked like some sort of weird street hoodlum. Father Damien's eyebrows screwed together, and he looked back at Damien.
Damien shrugged, still smiling. "I really have no idea whatsoever," he admitted.
"I suppose I should explain a little," Dino said, half apologetically, half explainingly. He turned to Damien. "Y'see, I'm a real big fan of yours. Always have been. Always will be. So of course I know just about everything there is to know about you."
Damien raised an eyebrow. "Oh really?"
"Well, sure," Dino said, as if this should be common knowledge. "You could quiz me. You were born here in Cheboygan. Your first hit song was 'Someone Is Watching You.' You won two Grammys on your second album. You're a Gemini. Ask me anything."
"I'll pass," Damien replied, still trying not to crack up. "So I don't need to panic or anything--you're just some fanatic looking for an autograph?"
"Noooo, nothing like that!" Dino said emphatically. Even Damien looked surprised. "Y'see, I've been following you guys--please don't look at me like that, this is totally legit--and I know there's somethin' goin' on--some kinda cult thing, is it? Anyway," he went on, without bothering to wait for an answer, "I was sittin' there thinkin' to myself, 'Hey, Dino, wouldn't it be awesome if you could team up with this guy that you like so much, give him a hand, get noticed?' And, 'Dino,' I says, 'that ain't a bad idea. Let's give it a go.'"
"He sits around talking to himself," Damien whispered to his uncle. "Kinda makes you wonder, don't it?"
"So, 'Dino,' I says, 'let's give it a shot,' so here I am," Dino concluded, spreading out his arms and smiling widely. "I know this ain't the best way to meet somebody, or the best time, but hey, I figures you could use a hand."
Father Damien expected Damien to reply with a final no, as he didn't take very well to fans mugging him when he was on vacation (if that was what one could call a summer such as this), so was surprised to not hear him say no. Instead Damien merely laughed silently to himself, looking Dino up and down, trying him out for size. Maybe he was thinking the same thing Father Damien was--Dino seemed just too goofy to be a member of Scorpio. Dino simply waited--Father Damien noticed he was a rather fidgety sort and didn't stay still very long--until Damien finally relented.
"Sure, why not," he said with a shrug. "Who knows what could happen, they always say that three heads are better than one."
"Great!" Dino exclaimed. "This is so fantastic! Me, inconspicuous, nobody Dino, teaming up with the States' biggest rock star. This is just too unbelievable. Just too unreal."
"Get used to it, pal," Damien replied with a crooked smile. "A lot of unreal stuff seems to go on when I'm around."
"Hey, the stuff adventures are made of," Dino said, puffing his chest and smiling at him. Then he leaned forward and lowered his voice, his eyes glinting. "By the by, I hear you drive a real live Lamborghini. You don't think I could maybe--"
Even before Dino had gotten the whole name of the car out Father Damien was cringing. He had seen the look Damien got in his eyes, and it wasn't a pretty one--it was the one he usually got just before dealing somebody a good one right in the face. Dino, however, was very lucky; the priest heard a loud splash, and opened his own eyes to see what had happened. He sighed with relief to see Dino immersed up to his chest in muddy creek water, dripping wet. He looked mildly surprised, to say the very least.
Damien was standing nearby, his fists clenched, that look still on his face. "Nobody," he said, "drives my Lamborghini." He started to walk away from the creek, then turned around and added, as an afterthought, "Not even a three-quarters Italiano." He turned away again and disappeared into the brush, continuing on up the hill.
Father Damien watched him go, then cast a look at the waterlogged Dino, and, sighing, said resignedly, "You'd better not try going into his room, either."