Lucifer: Chapter 5
DAMIEN AND HIS uncle spent a lot of time together; they had quite a lot of catching up to do after fourteen years apart. Much of the conversation was pretty routine, what one would normally expect from two family members getting to know each other again. Whenever Damien talked, it was about his singing career; whenever Damien got his uncle to talk, it was about what Father Damien had been doing since they'd last seen each other. Whenever the matter of the cult was brought up the talk always grew slightly awkward; Father Damien apparently didn't want to discuss it very much, but his nephew knew they would have to sometime. Now that he'd met that Derrick guy, preferably soon.
"I thought you were shot," Damien said today, bringing up the subject again. They were at Father Damien's house; the day before, after meeting Derrick, Damien had finally had him over at his house, where the other family members had all squawked and fussed, just as enthusiastic as he had been on meeting their uncle. Now, however, the mood was more subdued.
Father Damien sighed and put down his drink, deciding it was time to answer his nephew's questions. There was no use putting it off any longer when it was one of the reasons he'd decided on getting back in touch.
"Yes, I was," he replied.
"And they didn't kill you?" It was a stupid question as the answer was obvious, yet he had to find out why.
"They thought they did. They shot twice. Actually I was only hit in the shoulder." He rubbed his left shoulder; Damien wasn't sure if he were indicating where he was hit or doing it out of habit. "But I was bleeding so bad it looked like it could have been worse. When they came over I held my breath and pretended to be dead. Luckily nobody bothered to feel for a pulse, and Alec or whatever his name was didn't say to finish me off--by that you should know what I mean."
Damien nodded. "So you escaped?"
He held up his hands. "Of course. I'm here talking to you, aren't I?"
Damien was silent for a moment. If his uncle was still alive, then..."What about Mom and Dad?"
Father Damien looked down into his drink and rocked the cup gently, swishing the fluid around. He studied his rippling reflection as if seeking guidance there. "They weren't so lucky," he replied in a soft voice. "They didn't escape."
Damien sat back and stared off into space for a while. It was pretty much what he'd expected to hear, yet he couldn't have helped feeling a tiny bit of hope that maybe they'd escaped too. Father Damien continued staring into his drink and didn't disturb him, apparently understanding what he was feeling. After a very long silence Damien spoke again, slightly halting.
"Last you saw them...were they all right?"
Father Damien shrugged and sighed. "Your mother, she appeared fine; she was always a strong one. I don't know about your father. As much as I hate to say it I think they got to him." He touched Damien's arm. "But take heart, Damien, I know your mother. We did grow up together. They'll never get to her. Ever."
Damien still wasn't convinced. "Then why does she stay with them?"
His uncle looked at him, studying his face, as if trying to determine if Damien were joking or not. "She doesn't," he said, finally deciding Damien simply didn't understand. "She's forced to stay. Plus her husband's in the cult. She won't just leave him."
Now his nephew's voice turned petulant. "Isn't that coercion? Isn't that illegal?"
His uncle sighed again--six years apparently hadn't been enough to learn all the intricacies of being in a cult--and tried to explain. "Of course it is. But this cult has people in high places, Dami, maybe even on the police force. And they're very covert. That's the way all cults are. You can't just storm in on them and free somebody. Chances are they'll have caught wind of what's going on and be gone by the time their hideout is discovered. Either that or they'll be ready and waiting with their guns and attack dogs. So as you can see, it's just not that easy."
"Don't tell me you've given up just like that."
Another look. "I haven't given up, Damien! I never will. Not till your mother--my sister--is out of that cult. I'm just saying that the method you're used to won't work here."
The method you're used to. What was that supposed to mean? Busting in? Did his uncle know everything about him, everything he'd been up to the past fourteen years?
The thought that he might made Damien want to turn red. And not from anger.
He sat back and let his head hang over the back of his chair. He stayed that way for several minutes. Maybe now would be the best time to change the subject. He pulled himself up. "Do you know a man by the name of Derrick--what is it--Derrick Grant?"
Father Damien frowned, puzzled. "No. Should I?"
Damien shrugged. "He seems to have some connection to this cult. He came up to me at the river yesterday and started talking to me about it."
Another frown, this one suspicious. "What did he tell you?"
"Not much. We're supposed to meet tomorrow at Dairy Queen and talk about it."
Father Damien sat back now, still frowning. He shook his head. Something about this bothered him. "I don't know about this, Damien. It sounds kind of fishy if you ask me."
"I don't know either. Maybe he can tell me something useful. He seems to really know about this thing. Would you like to come?"
"I'm not sure. Isn't it just between you and him?"
"Well, that's the way it was planned. But I really don't think he'd mind if you showed up, since you are involved. So what do you say?"
His uncle shrugged. "All right, fine. Just call me when you plan to go and I'll be there."
"Good. He said around noon, so that's when you can expect us to be there. I should get going now." They stood up together. "By the way, where's Harvey and Ez?"
"The kids? Oh, they're around. They have this treehouse of theirs. It's actually not too far from your place, as hard as that may be to believe. They go there every once in a while; it's their big secret hideout." He gave a sly grin. "Nobody's supposed to know about it. Fortunately, though, I do. They trust me that much." They laughed. "Come by again soon, and maybe they'll let you in on it, too. You should hear them talk when you're gone."
A roll of the eyes. "What else? Ever since they met you that's all they ever talk about! Ez has been telling her little friends you gave her a kiss on the cheek, and she always points out the exact spot."
Damien laughed. That was certainly flattering. "Go figure! Y'know, I probably would have done the same thing at their age." He smiled wistfully. "If I'd had the chance. Well, tell them hi for me, and I'll see you tomorrow, Dairy Queen, at noon." He counted off three on his fingers as he spoke.
"All right. See you then." Father Damien showed him to the door, and watched him, smiling and shaking his head, as his nephew got in his Lamborghini and drove away.
The next day they both showed up at Dairy Queen around the same time, meeting each other outside. Damien murmured a greeting to his uncle and glanced inside the plate-glass windows.
"Looks like he's here already," he said, shading his eyes against the glare.
"That's him? Sitting on the right?"
Damien nodded, pushing open the door. "Time to enter the lion's den," he announced, melodramatically, as they entered.
When Derrick saw Father Damien he got the same look he'd had when Damien had commented on the cult's name, his eyes narrowing slightly; however, it was gone by the time they sat down across from him in the booth. Damien leaned back and draped an arm over the seat.
"I didn't know you'd have company," Derrick said by way of introduction, eyeing Father Damien warily. The priest offered a disarming smile, and Derrick seemed to let down his guard. A little.
"This is my uncle, Father Damien," Damien said. They shook hands, though Derrick didn't seem to want to very much. Father Damien noted his odd necklace and tilted his head, attempting to get a better look.
"That's a very interesting choice of jewelry you've got there," he commented.
Derrick looked down; to Damien it seemed his reaction was due to wearing the necklace a lot, since he appeared to have forgotten he even had it on. "Oh, that," he said again, in dismissal. "It's nothing, really."
"What does M stand for?" Father Damien asked. Damien looked at him, curious. It was as if he were pressing for an answer.
Answer to what?
Derrick smiled thinly. "An old girlfriend gave it to me. I forget her name. It must have started with M."
Father Damien nodded, and left it at that. Derrick, on the other hand, tucked his necklace inside his shirt and folded his hands on the tabletop.
"Well, you wanted to ask me some questions," he said. "So what are they?"
"You said this cult had a name--some kind of zodiac thing, was it?" Damien said.
Derrick nodded. "You forgot?" he asked, a little reproachfully.
Damien smiled and offered a shrug. "Sorry. I'm not very up on my astrology."
Derrick relaxed again. "That's all right," he said, as if Damien had committed some kind of faux pas. "It's Scorpio. The Scorpion. Or, in some cases, the Eagle, Dove, Phoenix, or Snake. But usually the Scorpion."
Father Damien's fingers were locked and he placed his chin on them, covering his mouth, staring at Derrick thoughtfully.
"Have I ever seen you before?" he asked suddenly.
"No," Derrick said, giving him a funny look which said, What the hell are you talking about? "Why do you ask?"
He waved his hand at the air. "No real reason. You just remind me of somebody I guess I knew. Anyway, about this cult? What is it you've got to tell us?"
"I really don't know. It was Damien who set up this session. So ask away."
"Why do they call themselves Scorpio?" Father Damien asked. They both looked at him, not having expected him to ask anything else.
"I suppose it has to do with Halloween," Derrick replied after a minute, his voice cautious. "I'm not really sure. Halloween is a really important date on the occult calendar, and it falls on October 31. There's also Devil's Night. Both of these fall under the sign of Scorpio, so maybe that's where they got it. Other than that I can't think of any explanation."
Another nod, and Father Damien sat back, apparently excusing himself from the questioning. Damien sat forward now, taking over.
"Do you know anything about the members of this cult? Their leader? Their rules? Anything?"
Derrick stared at him sideways. "You're really involved in this, aren't you?"
"My parents are in that cult," Damien replied, sounding determined. "I want to know if there's any way I can get them out."
Derrick snorted lightly and picked up a drink he'd ordered before they'd shown up. "Good luck," he said as Father Damien went over to get himself a cup of water. "Nobody gets out of that cult. Not alive, at least. Even the last high priest could attest to that. He was shot." A thoroughly unnerving grin spread across his face as he said this, taking a drink as if in an attempt to hide it.
"So I've heard," Damien replied impatiently. He couldn't care less about that at the moment. His uncle came back and sat down again, taking a drink. "Who's leading it now?"
"I don't know his name," Derrick said. His voice was slightly strained and he glanced at Father Damien's drink. "I don't keep up--"
Father Damien tried to set the cup down but accidentally knocked it over, water spilling across the table. "Nuts," he muttered, reaching out to try to wipe it up. Derrick jerked back from the table with a gasp. The others glanced over at him, surprised.
"Excuse me," he said hastily, and stood up, "I think I don't feel too well. It must be the heat."
"We could get you some water--"
"No, no! No thank you. I don't want to be any trouble." Damien was shocked to discover Derrick really did look sick; he was pale and sweating all of a sudden, and stumbled a little as he headed for the door. "I'll just go home and rest a little."
"Hey, are you okay?" Damien stood up, his uncle following, slightly alarmed, and took Derrick's arm. "You look really sick! Maybe you should sit down. I'll bring the car up, and we'll drive you home. Where do you live?"
"That's--all right--I really don't need--" Damien and Father Damien caught Derrick quickly as he slumped down in a half-faint. One of the attendants from behind the counter rushed up and helped them move him back to the booth. He was shaking now, but seemed to have recovered a little. He glanced around the restaurant, putting a hand to his head.
"I'm okay, really," he stammered. "It's just the heat. I don't take too well to heat. I knew this would be a bad idea," he lamented, as the attendant came back and attempted to place a cool, damp cloth on his forehead. He brushed it away. "No, no thank you, I'm fine." He stood up shakily despite their protests. Father Damien took his arm again to steady him, and glanced down as he did so. Damien sighed with frustration as they made their way for the door. "I can make it home all right. I just need to get someplace cool and lie down. I get these spells once in a while," he said apologetically. He was now edging toward the door as if anxious to get out without seeming rude. "I'm sorry it interrupted us like that, but maybe some other time--"
"Yeah, some other time," Damien echoed. "You just get on home now. You're absolutely sure you don't want us to drive you? You might run off the road."
He shook his head, adamant. "Don't worry about me. These things never last very long, and they always go away for a while. I'll be okay. Thanks, though."
Damien nodded, and watched him slip out the door and walk away quickly down the sidewalk, almost jogging, until he was out of sight. He hoped he wouldn't pass out in the street! He peered at his uncle out of the corner of his eye and saw him watching also. The only difference was, the look on Father Damien's face wasn't worried. It was something else altogether.