Lucifer: Chapter 17
FATHER DAMIEN DIDN'T have to ask why he was wanted down at the police station. In his heart he knew what it must be about.
I know Damien was going to do a little digging, he thought as he set down the phone and turned to the door. Maybe he's finally found something.
He pulled in at the station not too long after Damien and Officer Jones had arrived. As he stepped out of the car he took a deep breath and let it out. Damien hadn't said much over the phone; just that he'd found something at Elise's place, to come to town, and to "bring your expertise with you."
What expertise? he mused to himself as he jogged up the steps to the station. Who am I fooling?
But he joined Officer Jones and his little party in one of the back rooms of the Michigan State Police station, smiling politely and shutting the door behind him. He glanced around. Yes, this was most definitely an interrogation room of some type; he could tell by how bland it was. Damien, Jones, and Elise were there, as well as two other cops, one in uniform sitting at the table writing, the other one, in plainclothes, leaning against the back wall and looking bored.
"This is Officer Felman," Jones introduced the younger one, sitting at the table. He waved but didn't look up or stop writing. Father Damien--and, he was sure, his nephew--wondered what all those notes could possibly be. "And this is Sergeant Danser. These are Elise Danbrook, Damien, and his uncle Father Damien."
"Hidey-ho," Danser called with a half-wave.
Hidey-ho? "Hi," Damien said now that they were all introduced, wondering why Jones had chosen these two to attend the "meeting." They didn't even look alive, for goodness' sake.
"Hello," Father Damien said, hiding his own puzzlement as he moved toward the table. "I assume this has to do with Scorpio."
"That's right," Jones said, motioning them to sit at Felman's table. They did so, except for Damien, who stayed standing, arms crossed. He didn't feel like sitting right now. Jones looked at him for a moment, but when he didn't move, finally sighed and gave up. He turned to Father Damien. "Your nephew's been telling me a little about this cult thing, Father. Since you know about it too I assume it's true."
Father Damien nodded, not bothering to ask just what Damien had told him. "That's correct."
"How long have you all known about this cult?"
"Just about all of my life."
Jones looked confused and startled at that. Felman didn't even look up; Damien now noticed he was writing, in definite shorthand, every single word that was being said. So much for tape recorders, he thought. Not when you've got this guy.
"How did you find out about them?" Jones asked.
"My sister and her husband are involved. I tried to get her out around 1975 or so. When Damien was six."
"I'm guessing you didn't succeed."
"Before we go any further, just how did she get in this cult in the first place?" Danser asked suddenly.
Damien looked over at him, finally wondering what his stake in this conversation might be. There was a pause before his uncle spoke.
"She was forced to join," Father Damien replied quietly. Even Damien was paying attention to him now; he wanted to know every single thing he could about the parents he'd barely known. No matter how trivial these cops might find it. "Several generations of Damien's family--not mine, because they're on his father's side--have been raised in or by the cult. His father wasn't born into it; his parents were in it and he joined later on, but didn't participate in it very much at first because this high priest--Alec something--"
"Bodine," Danser filled in.
"--Because Bodine wasn't taking much interest in our family. It was after Damien's father and Lilith married and had children that Bodine entered the picture."
"Lilith? That's your sister."
"So she was forced into this cult? What for?"
The priest shrugged. "For some reason the cult leaders thought she was the one to marry Lucifer--that's Damien's father."
Danser turned and waggled his eyebrows at Jones. "Fitting names, don't you think?"
Father Damien frowned at him, disliking his attitude as much as Damien did. "That wasn't his given name. It's the name the cult gave him."
"Okay," Jones said. He too was taking notes, though certainly not as extensive as Felman's. The other officer simply continued writing. "Please just list your family relations here, so we can get this all straight."
Father Damien sighed, but obliged. "Damien's father is the fifth of that name to join or be born into the cult. Damien and his brothers were the youngest generation before they escaped. Damien has a brother also named Lucifer--named after his father--who would have been the sixth of that name. So there have been at least six generations of his family in the cult."
"Uh-huh. Go on."
"My sister married into the cult--by no will of her own, remember--so now I'm connected to it, through her. Damien here was named after me, just as Lucifer was named after his father--the sixth one, that is--and so on and so on."
Jones bobbed his head. "So you yourself were never in the cult."
"No. I was only connected through my sister."
"So how did you get involved?" Danser prodded.
Another sigh; Damien could tell his uncle was striving not to get angry. How dense can these guys get? he thought himself.
His uncle's answer was more controlled. "Sergeant Danser, let's say you have a close relative whom you care about very much."
The police sergeant looked slightly uncomfortable about being volunteered as an example. "Well, there's my daughter--"
"Very well. And let's say she's kidnapped by a cult. What do you do?"
Danser barely thought before he answered, "I'd get together some of my men and go get her, that's what."
Damien rolled his eyes. God, and I thought I was eager to storm in there. He makes full-scale raids sound like tea parties.
Father Damien tipped his head forward. "So now do you question my decision to try to reach my sister?"
Danser snorted. "Hey, you mean you went about this all by yourself? No wonder it didn't work!"
"Sergeant Danser," Father Damien said again, gritting his teeth; Damien nearly cringed back against the wall. His uncle looked almost ready to lose it. "I didn't exactly have any 'manpower' on my side now, did I?"
"No, I guess not," Danser replied, a little meekly.
"Very good! So now you can see why I had to do it alone. Plus, involving anyone else would have been a terrible mistake. And, as far as I know, for me it was a terrible mistake. Scorpio has members everywhere. Maybe even on your police force."
Danser said nothing, but the look he got on his face said he found that hard to believe.
"Uh," Jones murmured, looking at his notes and flipping a page, "where were we?"
"'My sister married into the cult,'" Felman recited, "'by no will of her own, remember--'"
"Yeah, yeah, okay. So what happened when you tried to go in and get her?"
"Scorpio already had news of my plans. I'd had to trust one of them to tell Lilith what I intended to do." Father Damien looked guilty. "I suppose that was one person I shouldn't have placed my faith in. But in any case, Bodine found out. He was set to have Lilith and her whole family killed as a sacrifice--which would have been twelve people. I would have made thirteen."
"Lucky number," Danser murmured. No one bothered answering.
"Bodine had gathered the family into the middle of a field, not too far away from the compound, if my guess is right. He and his men had poured gasoline around the field and set it on fire, with Lilith's family in the middle."
Jones glanced up. "So he meant to burn them?"
"Obviously. His men had guns and attack dogs if anybody escaped. I showed up and tried to help them out. I managed to get the kids, but I had to leave Lilith and Lucifer behind. I wanted to help them, I truly did--both of them had risked their lives trying to save their children, and Lilith was my sister. I owed her at least that much."
"But the fire swept up and they couldn't get out. I urged the kids on. Damien was the last to go." He nodded at his nephew, who was staring at him with those same golden eyes that had stared with terror at the fire so long ago. "Soon afterwards the cultists saw me, and they shot."
"You were hit?"
A nod. "Right here." He indicated his shoulder as he had before. "I fell down when they shot again, but they missed. It wasn't bad but it certainly looked bad; the blood was all over so it looked as though they'd shot me through the chest." Elise was looking sick, but the priest continued. "I just kind of lay there and held my breath when they came up. One of them kicked me in the side but I didn't move. They obviously thought I was dead, because they didn't even bother checking for a pulse or taking me with them. I guess having me instead of the parents didn't really mean as much to them. Probably because I wasn't with them in the first place."
And so your only real value to Scorpio is either as a member or as a sacrificial victim, Damien was thinking. Great choice!
"So you and the kids got away, and the parents didn't."
"No. They weren't as lucky as we were."
"So what about Lilith and Lucifer?" Jones asked.
"They were punished," Elise filled in. Now all eyes--except for Felman's, which were still upon his notebook--turned to her. "Both of them. Beaten. Lucifer even more because Alec considered it more his fault. He was to be trusted because he was the father but he broke that trust."
"I'm assuming it's the men that are in charge in this cult?" Danser said.
Elise nodded, twisting her hands. "Yes."
"And what else?" Officer Jones prompted, his pencil still.
"They brai--indoctrinated him," Elise replied, immediately substituting the euphemism when she saw Damien's face. "Not Lilith, too much, because she was just a breeder. Someone who has babies," she said, noting Jones's puzzled look. He obviously didn't know much about cults. "Sure, more than 'just' a breeder because she'd had Damien and his sister--Alec thought they had potential--but she was only their mother. She they beat and put back in the common room. But they took Lucifer back with them and put him through indoctrination."
"And what's that involve?" Danser this time; he was staring straight in her direction, his eyes boring right through her.
Elise just shrugged, and Damien saw Danser frown and lean back slightly as if disappointed. "I don't know most of it, because I didn't go through it. Not completely. Most of the guys do, because they're the important people in the cult. The women are usually just breeders. Like cattle, kind of. But I think it involves lots of talking, threatening, torture." She fell silent, peering at Damien out of the corner of her eye.
"You might be wondering why Jones chose Felman and me to attend this little meeting," Sergeant Danser said, turning to Damien and his uncle. Damien found himself thinking, Yeah, I was kind of wondering why. "I used to specialize in this stuff. Psychological warfare, if you will."
"What's it mean?" Damien asked, looking at him sullenly.
The policeman shrugged. "Well, judging from what ex-members of other cults have said, they get read to a lot from some kind of 'scripture.' If this Scorpio has any kind of literature that most certainly would've been read to him. Over and over. He was probably deprived of sleep or food for quite a while. Sleep deprivation is pretty good at getting people to do what you want." Damien winced but Danser went on, heedless of what he might be feeling. "And, like Ms. Danbrook said, they probably used some kind of torture. Things like sticking needles under fingernails or burning with cigarettes or cutting with a knife. They probably wouldn't have done anything overly serious, because he's a member and they still want him, right?" Nobody answered, so he continued again. "He would've been threatened. His family, most probably. 'I'll hand your wife over to my men to have some fun with' or something like that, because to me, from what's been said so far, it seems Lucifer only risked his life for her. And deliberate tactics to confuse him--such as showing him two lights and telling him there's really three. And not letting him go to the bathroom until he admits he actually sees three lights. And, after a certain amount of time, without food, without sleep, with a cigarette being held to your arm, you really may see three lights. And you'd probably believe any damn thing the leader says. Like if you're a monkey, you're a monkey. And if your leader's the Messiah and he's always right, you've got to follow him and do whatever he says. It's stuff like that that takes the resolve out of the strongest people and turns them into obedient little drones."
"It sounds like what the people of Salem did during the witch hunt," Damien murmured. He couldn't bring himself to believe everything Danser had just said.
"Pretty much. Even if you're innocent, you're gonna be tortured and brainwashed till you admit you're guilty. Either way you lose."
"Where were we?" Jones asked again, meekly.
"'They took Lucifer back with them and put him through indoctrination,'" Felman read.
"Yeah, okay. Thanks. Indoctrination." Jones was obviously not used to studying "psychological warfare"; probably filing was more his forte. Damien tried not to snort at that thought. "Okay," he said again, trying to gather himself together. He looked at Damien, then his uncle; he seemed a little embarrassed. "You can kinda tell I'm not too good at this, huh?" he admitted. "I'm just not used to this kind of thing, cults and Satanists and stuff; I mean, this is Cheboygan, after all."
"Yeah. Go figure," Damien muttered. This summer all of my pleasant delusions have been shattered, too.
"But I'm really trying to do the best I can here, so just try to bear with me."
"We know you are, Officer," Father Damien sighed.
"So you're a specialist in this," Damien said to Danser. The police sergeant glanced over at him again, noticing the tone of his voice. "You must have some kind of interest in what's going on. Why are you getting involved now?"
Danser frowned; he evidently didn't like the way Damien had asked the question. "What do you mean? I just heard about this from Officer Jones."
"If you're such a specialist, you should have heard about this before." He was thinking about what Officer Jones had told him, about a Scorpio file being shut down. It made sense. Who else would be involved but an expert on psychological warfare?
It seemed as if Danser could tell what he was thinking. Felman actually glanced up from his writing to look at them too, and Damien finally saw how young he looked. They both studied him for a minute. Danser's eyes narrowed momentarily; then, as if someone had flicked a switch, the look disappeared, he gave a sympathetic smile, and said, "We're only here to help."
Yeah, right. Damien didn't believe it. Nevertheless, he didn't say so. Perhaps he could get something out of these guys.
If he could only be patient enough.
"Ms. Danbrook has obviously received a threat here," Danser continued. He held up a small plastic bag which contained the strange note they'd found in the sheep. "Though Jones tells me he thought it was for you. Whatever it is, it's a death threat. That means we have to do something about it. Preferably now."
"Such as?" The singer couldn't keep the irritation from his voice. He pushed himself away from the wall. "Take a look around you, Sergeant! Can you tell me if anyone in this room can tell us what it takes to stop this? Huh? Can you? You just told me you don't know anything about this. What about you, Officer?" He glared at Officer Felman, seated at the table; the cop actually shrank back a little. "Do you have any ideas to add about Scorpio? Huh?"
Felman glanced at Danser, as if looking for guidance, and then shook his head.
"I didn't think so. Jones? Uncle? Anybody? Gee, that's funny." He shrugged, scowling. "I could swear we were going to come up with some kind of plan, only nobody knows what it is!"
"Calm down a minute, hey?" Danser said, holding up his hands. When Damien looked at him again, he said, "You're not going to get any professionals on this. I'll tell you the truth about that because that's how it is when it comes to these kind of things."
Damien paused, baffled. "These kind--"
Danser sounded impatient. "Cult matters, okay? Remember how child abuse was treated when it first started popping up in reports? 'Oh, that doesn't happen in normal families.' Well, take a look what we've got now." He gestured around the room. "Maybe if you waited a few more years you'd get your professionals."
Damien surged forward. Both Father Damien and Officer Jones quickly put out their arms to hold him back. Officer Felman jumped up so suddenly Damien didn't even see him do it; he was standing in front of Sergeant Danser as if protecting him, though Damien could have sworn he didn't look the type; he looked more like a rookie, for God's sake. He wasn't sure if he'd seen the officer's hand go for his gun or not.
"Easy," Jones said, stressing the word only slightly. "Take a minute." He glared at the police sergeant over his shoulder. "Danser, d'you have to go screwing up things? I only called you in 'cause I thought you might have something to contribute here."
Danser looked both insulted and a little angry. "That's what I'm trying to do," he said. "Only it seems someone doesn't appreciate what help I can give."
As if finally realizing what he'd been doing, Damien backed down. The two beside him did the same, pulling their arms back. He saw Officer Felman's tensed posture relax and felt a bit of a start--his hand had been on the butt of his gun. He really thought he'd had to use that?
Damien decided right then and there he wouldn't get between these two. Rookie or no rookie.
"Sorry," he said, turning away slightly, feeling a bit embarrassed about his outburst. He could still see the look on Danser's face change; the sergeant sighed and tipped his head slightly.
"It's just that this is my family you're talking about," the singer continued, putting up his hands. "There's no way I could just 'wait a few more years' when this high priest could decide to kill them tomorrow."
"I know that. But you tend to simplify a bit. In this business if you call for a professional you're only going to get us." He indicated Felman and himself. "'Cause there's just not that many people out there yet that're willing to acknowledge this thing exists."
Damien finally took the chair Officer Jones offered him and sat down, leaning his head on his hands. He stared at Felman's notebook, covered with scribblings. He took a deep breath and let it out. "Just tell me what you plan to do. Anything. I'd jump off the Mackinac Bridge if I thought it would help."
He could hear Danser sigh again, and another pause. "The only thing I can think of," he said finally, "is to get some inside information on this cult. Especially who's being kept where. Who will be where at what time. How many will be there. What they would do if found out. We have a little background information, but without someone doing an inside job--"
Father Damien abruptly cut him off. "You're thinking of sending someone to infiltrate the cult?" he asked, horrified.
The sergeant looked at him, and shrugged. "Thinking? I've been thinking about it for a long time. That doesn't mean it's ever going to be done. Police have ethics too, you know."
"Why can't it be done?" Damien asked defiantly, raising his head. Everybody looked at him, disbelief in their eyes. "I would go in there if I knew they wouldn't recognize me--"
"It's not that simple," Danser retorted, shaking his head.
"Indoctrination," Felman said. The others, besides Danser, started; it was the first word they'd heard him speak, besides the reading from his notes. The younger officer just looked around at them. "Ms. Danbrook said the males go through indoctrination. If a man were sent to do an inside job, he'd almost certainly be brainwashed."
"Which is exactly what we don't want," Danser filled in. "So there goes that plan."
"What if it were a woman?"
Silence filled the room. Everyone turned to face who had spoken. Elise sat at the other end of the table, mostly in shadows, yet still unnaturally pale in the dim light. Though her hands were still moving she stared back at the others steadily.
And Damien suddenly realized what she meant.
"No!" he shouted. The others jerked back. He stood up, toppling over the chair and leaning over the table.
"Not that!" he protested, jerking a finger at her as if accusing her of something. "I won't let you!"
"Huh--?" Officer Jones asked the air.
Danser and Felman were both silent. Indeed, the sergeant had gotten a sort of anticipatory gleam in his eye at the suggestion. Damien whirled around to face the two, shaking his hand at them as well.
"You're not going to let her do this!" he snapped. "I won't let her! She got out, and she's not going back!"
"It's the only way to get the info you want," Elise said, her voice quiet. She was staring at her hands now, fiddling her fingers. "I'm not worth that much to them, so--"
"You're worth something to me!" Damien shouted, rounding on her. Jones was gaping by now. Father Damien stepped forward to put a hand on his nephew's arm. "You think I'm going to just let you throw yourself away like that? You were lucky, Elise. You didn't even need to run. You try this and you'll be running for the rest of your life--if you even have a life."
She lifted her head now and looked him in the eye. "Do I have one now, Dami?" she asked softly. "All I've ever done is live in that apartment. It's not like I have any relatives or anything to call. It's not like I get visitors. You're the first person I've really talked to in years. I wouldn't have met you if I hadn't been in the park that day."
"But you were. And so was I. And you do have a life. We're your life. Don't think you're not attached to anything because you are. If you go in there, you'll be ripping a little part of me out, too."
The silence returned. Father Damien dropped his hand. He was wondering if everything Damien had said were true--if he really did care about Elise that much--or if he merely cared about her as a possible way to free his parents. He couldn't believe his nephew would be so selfish. If it were the latter, why would he be against the plan that could make this work?
Elise dropped her head again. "All my life, Dami, I wanted to do something important," she murmured. "But I never got the chance. Even the cult wouldn't let me do anything important." A faint smile wafted across her face as she contemplated the irony. "I've got a chance now. If I win or lose--so what? Didn't I at least try? Don't you want to see your parents again?" She made eye contact with him, pale hazel to sandy gold.
"Yes," he said. "But not this way."
"What other way is there? I know the compound layout; I could find them for you. I bet I could even get in without any trouble. They kicked me out, but that was a while ago; maybe the new high priest could find some use for me." She gave a strained smile and shrugged. "Even if it's cleaning windows or something."
"Damn it!" Damien snapped, striking his hand against the table. His uncle flinched back. "Don't make a joke of this!"
"It's not a joke. I told you I never found this funny. You believed me. Believe me now." She turned to Danser, and before Damien could open his mouth said, "If you need to send anyone in there, Sergeant, I guess it has to be me. None of you would ever get out alive."
"And what about you?" Father Damien was relieved that Danser was still considering other options. Or at least had the decorum to pretend he was. "How would you get out alive?"
She shrugged again. "Maybe the same way I did last time. Make myself useless." Another smile. "There's plenty of ways to do that."
Danser paused. Damien took advantage of the brief silence to stand directly in front of Elise and look her in the eyes again, his own eyes pleading. He bent down to face her. She stared back.
"Elise, don't do this," he whispered, desperate. "We can find some other way."
She stared at him for so long that he thought maybe she was going to change her mind; then she gave a final, very faint smile and touched his face. He felt his heart sinking, deeper, deeper. He knew he'd lost this battle.
A Catch-22, isn't that what they call this? that annoying voice said. Her or your parents. You can never have your cake and eat it too.
"No other way," Elise replied, her voice just as soft as his; after another moment she stood up, trying to compose herself. Damien could tell she was scared witless inside, though she barely showed it; her hands shook slightly. "I guess I better start preparing myself for this, huh?" she asked no one in particular. "I think it's gonna be a little while before I can say home sweet home again."
Another pause. Danser finally nodded, once. Felman, obviously taking that as a sign both for her and himself, stood up, shutting his notebook and looking around at the others. Damien dropped his head and turned away, toward the door. It wasn't Father Damien but Officer Jones this time who made to touch his arm; Damien brushed his hand away and walked out, shoulders slumped, head hanging. Everyone stared after him as he left the station.