Lucifer: Chapter 4
CHEBOYGAN WAS A small city; Damien may have been famous but most certainly not everybody knew who he was; and even those who did, at least in Cheboygan, usually left him alone when they saw him. Sometimes he would still get people crowding around asking him for an autograph, though they were usually out-of-towners and he didn't mind that, not at all; generally it was just people standing on the sidewalk gawking at his car, or asking to touch it. He decided it was his car that actually got more attention, and the realization made him want to laugh. Maybe he should drive a Datsun or a Buick and then people would pay attention to him. That was just fine, though, since the reason he lived there was to escape all that. But Cheboygan was also his home, and he preferred it to the big city, so that was that.
He would often drive out and park on the side of the highway to look over at a large old railroad bridge spanning the emerald-green, twisting snake of the Cheboygan River; that was the last place he had seen his sister before--what had happened to her happened. He really didn't like to think about it but couldn't help it; just like with the ring of fire, he had dreams about her too, only they were much more common; he had them almost every night. The others could see this--or sense it--so her name was never mentioned, at least not around him. He could only hope they never talked about the two of them behind his back. If he ever found out they were, he didn't know what he'd do.
Her name had been Lilu, and she'd been murdered down near the bridge, where they used to sleep at night--they didn't really have a house, since their parents were gone, the rest of the family scattered. But someone had cut her heart out. And done other things to her. All while he was gone, off doing some trivial thing. No one knew who'd done it or why. That had been about three years ago, in May of 1986; a few people--mainly, the police--knew about it but mostly it went unnoticed in the news because of the implications. Cheboygan wasn't the kind of place where such things could happen.
Unfortunately, Damien thought bitterly, this did.
He'd done his little bridge ritual today, after dropping off a batch of lilies at Lilu's grave--he never placed any other kind of flower there, it was always white lilies, without fail--and then drove downtown to sit on the dock along the river. No swimming was allowed because of boats, though he assumed the pollution was reason enough to keep out. He didn't really care to swim anyway; so he just sat there with his feet dangling above the water, staring at the boats and ducks and swans going by, occasionally throwing a piece of bread he'd brought along to them. It was hot out already, being July, and as such there were other people walking around or lying in the park; across the street Dairy Queen was as busy as ever. Damien ignored all the chatter around him. He was starting to study the few green-tinted objects he could see on the riverbottom when someone behind him coughed quietly. He turned his head.
There was a man standing there, about his age, twenty or so, with tousled, dusty-brown hair and blue eyes; he was looking at Damien closely, as if he knew him, though Damien was sure he'd never seen this guy before in his life.
For a moment neither of them spoke. Damien finally realized he would have to start the conversation if he ever hoped to get anywhere.
"Yeah?" he said, raising his eyebrows, hoping to sound merely curious and not rude.
"You're Damien, right?" the man asked, tilting his head forward.
Damien nodded, slightly puzzled. "And you're...?"
"Derrick," the man said, holding out his hand. Damien took it. "Derrick Grant. Listen, I was hoping I would find you eventually." He cast a glance around the park, a glance that seemed almost wary. "You've met up with your uncle, what is it, Father Damien?"
Another nod; though Damien found he was growing slightly suspicious. "Yeah. Excuse me for being rude, but why exactly are you here?"
Derrick looked at him closely again, then shook his head as if forgiving him. "It's not rude at all. I just thought you might like some information."
Now Damien was getting interested. He sat up a little straighter. "Information? On what?"
Derrick sat down on the dock beside him but did not dangle his feet above the water. Instead he sat Indian style, away from the edge, as if he thought he might fall in. "Your uncle told you about this cult?" he offered.
Damien stiffened again. He shouldn't know that. "Yeah, he did," he said after a minute, his voice cautious. "How did you know about that?"
Derrick smiled slightly and shrugged a shoulder. "Don't worry," he said, "I've heard of them too. And I can tell you a little about them, if you want."
"Of course I want," Damien said, now turning to face him, bringing his feet up from over the water. "For one thing, just what are they? Why are they so interested in my uncle and me?"
"They're a Satanic cult," Derrick said. "That much I'm sure you and your uncle know. You were with them as a kid, weren't you?"
Damien nodded. "I was born into it. But we escaped. My uncle helped us."
This time Derrick nodded. "That's why they want you," he said, as if any connection were apparent. "And your uncle."
Damien was surprised. "Why? Because we escaped? What's the big deal? We left them alone. I never tried to get after them for anything." A voice in his head added, Not yet I haven't.
Derrick shook his head. "That's not it. They lost members. People aren't supposed to get out. Not alive." Damien was beginning to feel uneasy. He wondered just how Derrick had gotten to know so much about this cult. And why he was talking to him now. Who else besides his uncle and himself knew? "That's why they want you. The only way you get out of the cult is dead."
A pause. Damien turned back to the river; Derrick did the same, and they both stared across it for some time, at the condominiums neatly littering the other side. A motorboat slipped past, leaving a rippling wake which made some paddling ducks bob up and down. "Does this cult have any kind of name?" Damien asked.
Derrick nodded, still staring across the river. "They call themselves Scorpio. After the eighth sign of the zodiac. The Scorpion."
Derrick looked over at him and seemed a little annoyed by this statement; however, he said nothing and looked back toward the river, his gaze resting almost uneasily on the rippling green wavelets.
"Listen," Damien said, raising his hands, "let's make a little deal here. Since you don't seem to be quite in the talking mood right now, let's meet again, and you can tell me more about this cult thing. What do you say?" He tried to look Derrick in the eyes, but the other made no contact. Instead he thought it over for a minute, then shrugged and nodded.
"All right," he said. "Where?"
"I don't know. How about the city beach?"
Derrick shook his head adamantly, as if the idea alarmed him. "No. Maybe we should just go to a restaurant or something."
Damien wondered what was wrong with the city beach, but said nothing and instead nodded. "All right then."
Derrick stood up, and Damien followed suit. He held out his hand and they shook again. "Nice meeting you, Derrick Derrick Grant," Damien said, causing him to smile, a small, wary half-smile.
"Just Derrick, Mr. Damien," Derrick said in return. He took a step back. "Dairy Queen, day after tomorrow, around noon?"
A shrug. "Sounds good enough."
"Good. I'll see you th--" He suddenly tripped over a little warp in the wood and swung out his arms with a yelp, attempting to regain his balance before he plunged backwards into the river. Damien reached out and snatched his arm, pulling him up. Derrick stood shakily, casting a look back at the water below into which he'd nearly fallen, and let out a shuddery breath.
"Th-thanks," he stammered, rubbing his neck and looking guilty.
"No problem," Damien said, puzzled.
Jeez. I knew it was polluted, but not that badly polluted.
He glanced down and noticed that, when Derrick had been yanked forward, a necklace he'd been wearing had snapped its chain and fallen to the dock. He bent over and picked it up, looking at it closely. It was a small, round, medallion-type thing, made out of what seemed to be glazed clay, black with a red symbol painted on it, resembling an M with a tail.
Damien rubbed the pendant with his thumb and turned it over. "What's this?" he asked.
"Oh, that," Derrick brushed him off, holding out his hand. Damien gave it to him. "Just a little thing a friend gave me. Listen, I'll see you day after tomorrow, all right?"
Damien nodded. "Till then."
"Till then," Derrick echoed, and left the river and the park behind, slipping the necklace over his head as he went.
Damien watched him until he was out of sight, then sighed and sat back down, staring once more into the water.