Lucifer: Chapter 3
Getting To Know You
AFTER EATING AT Dairy Queen, they went to Washington Park and sat at one of the tables under the trees, talking while others strolled by. Damien had told Kat what had happened; despite his protestations she'd insisted on calling for a ride home, so he and his uncle could have a chance to talk without her interference. He hated to admit to himself that he preferred it that way. Now, impatient for answers, he leaned across the picnic table, ignoring the quacking of the ducks down by the river, and repeated his question.
"What is this cult, Uncle? What do they want with us?"
His uncle fiddled with the straw to his drink. "I don't know very much about them," he admitted after a time, "but they're Satanists. A Satanic cult."
That makes sense, Damien thought. "So that's why they wore black. And what about the one with the skull on his head?"
"Skull...?" He looked confused. "Oh, you must mean the goat skull. Him, he was their high priest."
A nod. "Yes. I believe he's dead now, and another took over leadership."
Damien frowned, something nagging at him in the back of his head. "He didn't look so old."
"He wasn't. He was shot."
Damien said nothing.
"I can't remember his name," Father Damien went on. "Alec Something-Or-Other. But there's someone else in charge now. Damien, this cult--"
His nephew cut him off, waving his hand. "I've heard enough about them for now. Tell me, what've you been up to lately?"
His uncle looked at him, caught off guard. "Well, I suppose it's kind of obvious," Damien said with a smile, and Father Damien looked at his collar and smiled back, looking slightly guilty. "But what else? I mean, it's been years. And how did you know where to find me?"
"I've always known about you, Damien," his uncle replied, as if his nephew should have known too. "Ever since your sister--" He cut himself off abruptly at the look on Damien's face. Damien's smile had vanished and he'd shrunk back, looking as if somebody had just smacked him. "Ever since 1986," Father Damien corrected himself. He paused, casting his eyes to the side with an uncomfortable look. "That's when your name entered the news," he went on, explainingly. "It wasn't a very big story, but then again..." He trailed off and shrugged. Maybe it would be best to leave that subject alone; Damien himself certainly didn't look as if he wanted to talk about it. "After that, I heard you got into singing. I heard your first song on the radio." He smiled. "And do you know what I did? I went straight out and bought the album. Imagine, these music store people looking at a priest buying a pop-rock album. You should have seen their looks. But I've been keeping up on you. I told people to watch out for anything about you, and you should just see my scrapbook."
"Scrapbook?" Damien echoed, his face lined with disbelief.
Father Damien nodded and laughed. "Yes. I suppose you could say I'm your biggest fan. Now how's that for ironic?"
Damien shook his head to clear it. "You mean to tell me you've been keeping a scrapbook on me?"
Another nod. "And it's got everything in it. Magazines, newspapers, interviews--I had friends cut them out for me so I could keep them. I have that Grammy broadcast on tape. You know," he added, his voice now dropping slightly, "I was very proud of you. And I still am."
"Better be careful," Damien said with a smile of his own that was half joking, half serious. "Pride's one of the Seven Deadly Sins, remember?"
"I suppose it is, but even He can make an exception sometimes," Father Damien said, nodding his head at the sky to emphasize who "He" was. He clasped his hands and leaned forward. "So, when's your second album? You can tell who'll be the first to rush out and buy it."
Damien laughed. This was almost pathetic. "Please, Uncle, you really don't need to buy them just because I'm your nephew."
The priest looked surprised. "I'm not! Really! I really do like your songs. You know, I'd been keeping up on you, so when I heard your song 'Someone Is Watching You' I knew it was you and I told everybody in the room, 'That's my nephew.' I know I shouldn't have done it," he said, laughing again, "because of course nobody believed me. But at least I knew it was true."
Damien smiled and shrugged, and decided to confess. "Y'know, I myself don't really like that song much. Personally I thought it sucked."
Damien nodded and laughed to himself. "But, of course, nobody agreed with me," he said, echoing almost exactly his uncle's words. They both laughed together.
The singer finally managed to calm down and shook his head. "But really, I don't see why it hit number one. I thought Greg was lying to me when he said it did. It was April. 'Ha ha,' I said. 'Happy April Fool's Day to you, too.'"
"Oh, yeah, you don't know. He was the one who sent in a demo tape to Redlight Studios." He snorted. "Without my permission."
"Well, be thankful that he did."
Damien instantly changed the subject again. "But what about before 1986?" he pressed. "I mean, you must have known about me before. How come you didn't come out earlier? All this time I thought you were dead."
Father Damien sighed and turned away, looking out across the river. A boat chugged lazily by. It was a while before he spoke. "It just never seemed to be the time," he said softly, so that Damien had to lean forward to hear him clearly above the cars and the people passing by. "You've been through a lot of pain, Damien, that I know. And so have I. It just never seemed to be the right time. I had to wait a while, and if it had been your choice, I'm sure in your heart you would've known that too."
Damien couldn't quite understand what his uncle meant, but was certain he was right. So he sat back and didn't question. For some time neither of them spoke.
"So," Damien finally said, as if in conversation, "what got you into the habit?"
"Habit?" Father Damien asked blankly, turning and looking at him.
"Well, yeah, the habit," Damien said, and indicated his collar. Father Damien looked at himself and again they both burst out laughing.
"I'm afraid you're talking about nuns," Father Damien corrected him.
"I know," his nephew replied, "but it's the only clean religious joke I can think of right now."
That set them laughing again, and for a long time they just sat in the park, talking.
"I'm afraid you'll have to forgive me for the mess," Father Damien said somewhat apologetically as he and Damien made their way through his house. They had met someone the singer didn't know at the door, and Father Damien had paid and dismissed her without any explanation. Now Damien stared with bewilderment at the toys strewn about on the floor. Father Damien reached down to pick up a few. "But I've had a couple charges here lately."
"You mean kids?"
"That, too. They're orphaned, and since Cheboygan doesn't really have anyplace they can stay, I decided to take them in for a while. There's only two left now. But they're a rambunctious two."
"Did not!" a very young voice cried out suddenly from upstairs.
"Did too!" cried an even younger voice.
Damien looked up the stairs as Father Damien smiled, shaking his head and attempting to clean up the mess. "Sorry about that, too, but after a while one learns to live with it."
"I don't know if I could," Damien muttered to himself. He didn't hate kids; in fact, he rather liked them. He just wasn't sure if he could handle them constantly. He sidestepped a Lego set and looked up at the pictures on the wall over the couch. "Did you paint this?" he asked, indicating a portrait of the Virgin Mary.
"That? Goodness, no. When it comes to painting I've got two left hands." A laugh; Damien realized his uncle was scooting around the house, picking up things behind him so he wouldn't trip. "I painted the one beside it. Now tell me about a vision of beauty!"
Damien smiled and chuckled to himself, examining the painting. "Don't worry, Uncle, at least you're ahead of me. I can't do a paint-by-number at all."
A snort. "Ha ha! That's very funny. Tell me another one." He disappeared into another room, leaving Damien wandering around inspecting the surroundings. Halfway through his unguided tour there was a thump-thump-thump-thump, and suddenly two little kids appeared at the foot of the stairs. One was a girl wearing a pink ribbon, and the other was a boy wearing a red baseball cap. Seeing him, they stopped in their tracks and stared, mouths open.
"Hi," Damien said.
"AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!" they shrieked.
"FATHER DAMIEN! THERE'S A ROBBER IN THE HOUSE!!!" the boy screamed with all his might.
Damien had jumped back at the girl's shrill scream, but as the little boy started shouting for help he held up his hands and started shaking them wildly, trying to calm the kids down. Instantly Father Damien appeared, looking startled, his sleeves rolled up and wearing rubber gloves. He glanced around, holding up a Windex bottle as if it were a gun. "Where?"
"He's right there!" the boy screeched, pointing his finger accusingly at Damien.
"Him? Oh, no no no! That's not a robber! That's my nephew!"
The two kids stopped screaming and looked at him as if he'd suddenly turned purple. "Your nephew?" the boy asked incredulously, as if it were the most unbelievable statement in the world. "You've got a nephew?"
"Of course I do!" Father Damien grinned at Damien, half in apology, half in exasperation. "I'm sorry about this. Damien, this is Harvey and Esmeralda. Harvey, Ez, this is my nephew Damien."
At the mention of his name the kids' jaws dropped again; they came closer and stared up at him in open disbelief. Damien felt like a bug in a jar, only he was bigger and they were smaller. He forced himself not to squirm.
"The Damien?" Harvey asked with awe.
"'Someone Is Watching You'?" Esmeralda offered.
Damien felt his face growing red as he nodded and gave a stupid smile, his throat stuck.
The two kids were silent for a moment as they looked him over, trying to decide if it were really him or not. Finally, they must have decided it was so, for they started jumping up and down and screaming, this time in excitement.
"Oh WOW!" Harvey cried. "The Damien! In our house! Wow, this is great!"--just like a miniature Tony the Tiger.
"Wow, can I have your autograph?" Ez exclaimed. "I've always wanted to meet you! Hold on while I get my book!" She dashed back upstairs as fast as she could go.
"Wait, me too!" Harvey said, and followed, hot on her tail. Damien and his uncle were left alone with only the thump-thump-thump of the kids' feet pounding on the stairs while they went to grab their autograph books.
Father Damien smiled, pulling off his gloves. "Sorry about that, too. They're a little excited to meet you."
Damien turned to him, a pained look on his face. "A little? Uncle, please, tell me that's an understatement."
"All right, a lot. I suppose I should have told them earlier. But I guess I forgot to plan that." He sighed and flopped down on the couch, balling up the gloves and dropping them beside him. "You see, I didn't really expect them to be here. There's supposed to be a couple coming up from downstate to see them, only they didn't show up. I suppose they changed their minds."
Damien looked back toward the stairway. Though he wasn't, actually, he still considered himself somewhat an orphan, and knew how they must feel. Still, it was good that they had each other. Which was more than he'd had after 1986.
"Tell me about them," he said, joining his uncle on the couch and locking his fingers over his knees.
Father Damien sighed and appeared to be counting on his fingers. "Well, Esmeralda's the older one; she's seven. Her parents were killed in a car crash. Harvey's six; his mother died, and his father was divorced and didn't want him, so he was living with his uncle. But his uncle couldn't take care of him either." He shrugged. "So, here they are."
Damien snorted. "Sounds like a great life."
His uncle waved a hand at the air. "Oh, don't worry about them. They're little kids, and little kids have a way of getting back on their feet. And believe me," he said, as they heard the thump-thump-thump start again from the stairway, "they really are on their feet."
Harvey and Ez reappeared, waving little books and holding pens. "Sign here! Sign here!" Ez cried, flapping her book in Damien's face. He smiled and took the book, signed it, and then took Harvey's. As soon as they both had his autograph they started bouncing around the room like jumping beans, cheering and dancing.
"Wow wow wow!" Harvey yelped. "A real live pop singer in my house! This is cool!"
"Do you have a girlfriend?" Ez asked, smiling shyly.
Damien burst out laughing. "Not very timid, are they?" he asked his uncle.
"I'm afraid not," Father Damien replied. "And now, if you two don't mind, we'd like to have some time alone to talk. Don't worry, you'll be seeing a lot more of Damien. He's my nephew, you know."
At first their faces had started to fall and they'd seemed on the verge of protesting, but when they heard he wasn't leaving town anytime soon they began cheering again and raced back upstairs noisily. Even after they were gone Damien could still hear them talking in excited tones.
"Sorry," Father Damien said again. "I really should have told them sooner. I guess they just never connected my name with yours."
"Don't worry. They probably wouldn't've believed you." Damien looked at the clock on the wall and stood up, stretching a little. Last night's lack of sleep was starting to catch up with him. "It's gettin' late. I think maybe I should get going. If you want to come over, drop in anytime. I bet the others would be glad to see you. If they don't freak out first!"
"I think that would be nice. Take care, Damien." He watched as Damien headed for the door out of the room. "And, Damien?"
Damien turned to look at him. Father Damien wasn't smiling anymore; he seemed stressed. The slight nagging feeling in Damien's mind came back.
"Please be careful," his uncle said softly. "They're everywhere."
Damien didn't need to ask who "they" were. Instead he nodded and left.
Father Damien stared at the spot where he'd been several moments ago before sitting back again with a sigh, picking up the gloves and twisting them between his fingers. He missed his nephew already. Even with Harvey and Esmeralda upstairs yelling at each other, the house was going to be decidedly lonely without him.