Minot: Chapter 2
THE LIGHTS WERE dim. He slowly realized that was because they weren't really lights, but candles. And what candles there were just kept flickering out and popping up again. He couldn't understand how they did that.
But they weren't doing that. There was something moving around him, in front of the candles, blocking their light. Several somethings.
Please just stay away stay away
But he couldn't tell them out loud. There was something in his mouth.
And as they passed the candles by there was a low chant, and some strange kind of music; the light glinted off of something sharp and metallic--
He knew what that was. And why the person
carrying it was coming his way.
Stop stop no
He felt himself start to grow faint. The person raised the knife in the air and opened his mouth to speak, but by then he was far gone.
"That Kincaid sure is a weird guy."
Damien nodded in agreement as they arrived at the Minot airport. It was Tuesday morning. Dino was with him, and they were going to welcome Damien's friends Matthew Benteen, Dorinda Jane and Austin James Broderick, and Psyche Cooper. Damien had the feeling the four of them might be able to help out; Matthew, who liked to be called Puck, had been loosely involved in Satanism at one time, and DJ and AJ (they were, of course, twins) had some experience with it as well. As for Psyche, well...he wasn't so sure about her, but he knew that she had a keen sense of intuition. If that's what it was. The group was there waiting for them; Puck, in a display of his usual weird sense of humor, held up a sign reading, in big bold letters, DAMIEN THE GOAT BOY OVER HERE. Damien rolled his eyes and went their way.
"It's about time you showed up," Puck complained as soon as they reached the four. "We've been waiting--" He tried to look at his watch; then, realizing he didn't have a watch, started looking around for a clock.
"Fifteen minutes," DJ filled in, rolling her own eyes. "Just fifteen minutes. Jeez, Puck, set your internal clock. Why did you call us here, Dami?"
In response Damien pulled out some copies of the newspaper reports he'd read the day before yesterday and handed them over. DJ, AJ, Psyche, and Puck spread them out amongst themselves, looking them over. Puck snorted lightly; DJ's eyes widened and AJ simply handed his back.
"Just how widespread is this?" DJ asked, also handing hers back, Puck doing the same. "Is this just some little spin-off group, or is this Scorpio?"
Damien shrugged at the mention of the cult he himself had had plenty of experience with. "I really don't think it's Scorpio. From the police reports Lieutenant Kincaid--he's the one working on the case--showed us, these guys aren't as 'sophisticated,' for want of a better word. You know Scorpio's always been sort of stylish when it comes to its own work; the people behind this seem to be more--"
"Inexperienced?" Puck filled in.
Damien shrugged again.
He looked at Psyche. She hadn't handed her clippings back yet, and was instead holding her hand over one, her eyes closed. He looked at the others. Puck smiled and DJ rolled her eyes again.
"Getting any 'vibes' yet, Psyche?" he asked conversationally.
"Ha ha." Psyche opened her eyes and returned the paper. "For your information I felt a breeze coming from somewhere, and I was trying to tell where from." She looked above her for an air vent. "See? There it is right now."
"There's two rent-a-cars waiting outside," Damien said. "If you'll follow us, we'll lead you to the police station, then get you situated. You have to meet Lieutenant Kincaid. He doesn't talk much but I guess he knows what he's doing."
"He sounds so charming," Puck said with a fake lisp, and the group started off down the hall.
They arrived at the police station to find Kincaid in his office, a younger officer talking over something with him. Damien had the group stop and wait outside; when Kincaid saw them standing outside his window, he waved at them to come in. They did, nearly filling up the room.
"Jenner, go out and get some more chairs, will you?" Kincaid told the younger officer. The other officer, in turn, slid between the newcomers and out the door, smiling at the women. Only Psyche smiled back.
"That was Officer Jenner," Kincaid said needlessly. "He's sort of new here, learning the ropes. Isn't this a wonderful way to learn the ropes?" And he spun around in his chair slowly.
"Lieutenant--" Damien cut himself off, remembering how Kincaid liked to be addressed. "Kincaid, these are Puck Benteen, AJ and DJ Broderick, and Psyche Cooper. You remember Dino."
"Of course. And you can all call me Kincaid."
There was a general murmur from the group, and Jenner reentered the room, two folding chairs under each arm. While AJ and Dino sat on Kincaid's couch, the other four waited for the chairs. Jenner set them down and scooted them into place for DJ and Psyche. Damien smiled to himself. He wondered how this guy would get along with Mandie. Psyche thanked him; DJ took her chair from him with an acidy smile (she was sort of a feminist), and they all sat down at once, except for Jenner, who stood beside Kincaid's desk again, almost like a servant.
Or a guard.
Kincaid had just opened his mouth to speak when he saw something out the window behind them and shut up immediately. They all turned to see the door open and another policeman--much bigger than Kincaid, or any of them, for that matter--peer in, frowning at them all. Kincaid in particular.
"I wasn't informed that we had company," he said, his voice carefully modulated but somehow menacing nonetheless.
"This is Chief Bowen," Kincaid said. "Chief, these are those fellows from Michigan I told you about."
The chief raised his eyebrows, as if to say, "Oh, did you?"
Now Kincaid frowned. "But I might have forgotten."
"Yes, you might have." The chief entered the room--causing the others to scoot their chairs aside slightly--and crossed his arms. "You know, Kincaid, I believe you've been forgetting quite a few things lately."
Kincaid actually looked slightly hurt, as if he'd been insulted. "I'm sorry, Chief."
"I'll bet you are. Kinnie, I think it's time you took a vacation. A nice long vacation."
Everybody could clearly see the raw antagonism crackling between the two, and now Damien was sure everybody was taking mental notes. "No thank you, sir. I'm feeling fine."
The chief said nothing, but only continued staring at them all as if they were some new kind of bacteria. Everyone started clearing their throats and mumbling, turning back to Kincaid, except for Puck, who smiled at the chief first, and then turned around.
"Might I ask just when you became the fellow in charge of crime investigations around here?" Chief Bowen asked mildly.
"I didn't, Chief. I just thought it might be helpful if--"
"You thought, Kincaid? Do I pay you to think?"
Damien saw Kincaid's jaw tighten. "I was led to believe so, sir. After all, that's what you need around here."
Now everybody else was dead silent. They knew a confrontation when they saw one.
"May I speak to you in my office, please?" Bowen asked politely enough, stressing the word "office." Kincaid stared at him a moment, then got up and followed him out of the room, like a sulky child going to be punished. The door closed behind them, and from out the window the group could see all the other police in the station staring after them as well, until they disappeared behind Bowen's door. Then all activity resumed, though more subdued.
Officer Jenner cleared his throat uncomfortably, and shifted from foot to foot. "I believe Chief Bowen's in a bad mood today," he said with a faint, apologetic smile. He held out his hand to Damien. "I'm Officer Chad Jenner."
"I know. And I'm--"
"Damien, of course."
Damien raised an eyebrow. Jenner smiled and brushed it off.
"You're only my favorite singer," he said. "I have all your albums. Except the second. That one's hard to get nowadays."
Damien was the one to smile now. As many fans as he had out there, it was rare that one got dragged into his problems. "I'll be sure to send one to your forwarding address."
"Would you? That'd be great!" Jenner exclaimed; then, realizing how boyish he sounded, he cleared his throat and attempted to appear older again. "Uh--if you don't mind, could I have your autograph? My little girl is a fan of yours too."
"Sure." Damien took the pad of paper and pen that Jenner offered him.
"Sign it, 'To Chelsea, with love, Damien,'" Jenner dictated, and Damien finished scribbling and handed it back. "And thanks. She'll really like this."
"No problem." The door opened and Kincaid came back in, looking subdued. He sat back down in his chair and stared at the desktop gloomily, then picked up the letter opener and started jabbing. Damien sat back, whistling through his teeth. This didn't look good.
"You're to have limited access to the crime scene," he said in monotone, that blank look back on his face. "I could get you no more. You're to take no photographs, films, or recordings. Only notes. There will be no handling of any objects involved. You're to look and leave it the way you see it." He looked around at them all. "I could obtain for you a week. No more, no less. You can have two hours at the crime scene behind Falcon's. Then you can all go back to your apartment and come up with your own theory, and leave the police alone." With that he was just about to ram the letter opener into his desk when Puck reached out and grabbed his wrist. Kincaid looked at him emotionlessly.
"Crime scene behind Falcon's," Puck echoed.
Kincaid looked at them again. "Didn't I tell you?"
A general shake of heads.
Kincaid sat forward and stuck the opener in its correct spot--not in the desktop, Damien noted. "A few days before you came a ritual mutilation was found behind Falcon's place. A goat was impaled on a tree with a sign around its neck--'YOUR NEXT PIG.' I take it to have been a warning for me."
"Hold on now," Damien said, waving his hand. "If all of these threats are meant for you, then why? Why is this cult or whatever after you?"
Kincaid looked thoughtful for a moment or two. "That I'm not certain of. Perhaps because I'm a prominent member of the police force. Or because I have enough evidence to lock these fellows up for good." He held up his hands, splaying out his fingers in a "You tell me" gesture. "Take your pick."
"Thanks, but no," Puck said.
"So we have two hours to look at the stuff," Damien echoed.
Damien sighed and got up. The others automatically followed. "Well, lead the way," he said to no one in particular.
Jenner picked up his lead. "If you'll all follow me," he offered, and they left Kincaid to himself, jabbing at his desk again.
There wasn't much to see once they got there; mostly everything had been cleaned up, as Jenner had told them on the way. He'd overseen the cleaning up himself, and so could tell them all the details.
"It looked like some kind of iron stake," he explained while they circled the tree. He was somewhat halting, making sure to choose his words carefully. "It was thrust through the goat's chest, right below the sternum, like this." He made a jabbing motion at his chest, and for a brief ridiculous moment Damien was reminded of Kincaid and his ever-present letter opener. "There were some symbols of some kind painted on the tree and nearby, also."
"What color was the goat?" Puck asked, trailing his fingers over the bark of the tree. Damien could see no relevance whatsoever in the question, but decided to hear the answer.
Jenner thought a moment. "Well...I never really took a very good look, but I believe it was white with some colored spots. Like brown or something."
"Mm-hm," Puck said. "Describe the rest of it."
Jenner looked confused, but that was just as well since the rest of them did too. "Well, it was a goat. I mean, there was nothing really extraordinary about it or anything...."
Puck started circling the tree. "What kind of horns did it have? Did it even have horns? And was it male or female?"
"It had goat horns," Jenner replied helplessly. Then it struck him. "You know, the kind that just curve back like this." He made a swooping motion over his head. He seemed to be warming up now. "They didn't curl up at the top. And I really have no way of knowing, but I believe it was a male goat. I mean, I didn't really look for that, you know?"
Puck nodded. "And the symbols on the tree?"
"Oh, there were all kinds. All over the back of Falcon's, too. They had to be painted over, they were in so good. The blood had dried into the wood. You can see they missed a couple spots over there." He indicated a bare whitewashed section of the tavern, where faint pinkish marks could be seen. Puck immediately left his post at the tree and went over to inspect them. Damien followed, looking over his shoulder.
"Do you recognize any?" he asked mildly.
Puck nodded. "Anarchy," he said, tracing a large A in a circle. "Baphomet." He outlined the familiar inverted pentagram.
"Oh, and there was something else, too," Jenner piped up from behind them.
They turned to look at him. Confronted by all their stares, he cleared his throat a little nervously.
"The goat... I guess the chief didn't notice it because it just looked like some blood on the goat's head, but I believe there was something carved into its skin."
"Something like what?" Puck asked, leaving the wall behind.
"I don't know. It was hard to see because it was all bloody and furry. But they took the goat to the county coroner, and maybe he could tell you. I know it sounds silly to do an autopsy on a mutilated goat, but he did, and I'm sure he would have written down all the details."
"Could we get in trouble for talking to him?" Damien asked.
Jenner paused, then shrugged and smiled. "I see no reason why," he answered slyly.
The others in the group smiled back. They were starting to like Officer Jenner already.
They reached the coroner's office in about fifteen minutes; Jenner had called ahead and he met them at the door, ushering them through the building and into the morgue. Psyche shivered and rubbed her upper arms; the others didn't look too thrilled either. However, Jenner, Puck, and the coroner were all apparently at ease. In fact, Damien had the distinct feeling that Puck would open all the body compartments to peep inside if he could. He preferred not to think about it, and instead turned his attention back to the matter at hand.
"You're here about the goat, eh?" the coroner, Dr. Steiner, said, adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses on his nose. When he lifted his chin a bit to look Damien in the eye the florescent lights reflected in the lenses, making his eyes look as if they were covered by large silver coins. Damien shuddered and turned away; his own eyes fell upon the autopsy table; he decided to look at the floor, where nothing could bother him.
"You're that singer fellow, aren't you?" Dr. Steiner said.
Damien peered up at him and nodded.
"Ah, well isn't that nice. Remind me to get your autograph later for my grandson. It'll be a great gift for his bar mitzvah." He promptly turned away and pulled out one of the compartments. The others all clustered around, and most of them covered their mouths at the sight of the dead goat.
"He's a beauty, isn't he?" Dr. Steiner mused. "We washed him up real good, so he's not all messy; then we cut him open and pulled all his guts out." He chuckled. "Then we shoved 'em all back in and zipped him up again. Zip! Just like that." He pretended to be pulling up a zipper and laughed to himself.
Puck turned to Damien and twirled his finger at his temple.
"Officer Jenner was right," AJ said, gently brushing aside the fur on the goat's forehead to reveal scarring. "Something was carved here."
"That? You could see it better when it was still bloody. I have it all written down." Dr. Steiner went over to the other side of the room and pulled out an autopsy report, handing it to Officer Jenner. He opened it and looked at the sketches and notes. "It was some kind of symbol. What it means, you tell me."
Jenner stared at whatever was written on the page, then shook his head and handed the folder to Damien. Damien looked at it also, and didn't understand just what it was that he was seeing.
The picture before him was a crude drawing of a goat's head, just an outline really, with an odd symbol inscribed on the forehead right between the horns. It resembled the upside-down cross he'd seen so many times, only the arms of the cross bent down slightly at the ends, and there was a half-circle above them, arcing over the tallest part of the cross which pointed up. He didn't know what to make of it, and could only stand there puzzling over it until Puck took it from his hands and gave it the briefest of glances before snorting and handing it back.
Damien recognized that as his sign of understanding something, and looked at him for an explanation. "Do you recognize it, Puck? What is it?"
"Recognize it," Puck muttered. "How can I not when I have to live with it every day?" So saying, he pulled up his shirt sleeve to show his left shoulder. There was a slight gasp from the gathered crowd. The same symbol was on Puck's shoulderblade; only it seemed to be branded into his skin.
"God, Puck," Damien whispered, stunned. "How did this happen?"
"As you know, I've had some experience with this subject myself," Puck replied, pulling his shirt sleeve down again. "Let's just say my 'gang' and I had a conflict of interests, and I was kicked out. Not to mention just plain kicked, and hit, and burned. In thoroughly polite terms I was thought of as a--let's say disappointment to the 'religion,' hm?" He pointed to the symbol on the sheet. "You know what this is? It's the sign for a Satanic traitor."
Silence. The room fell under a spell of unearthly quiet. For the moment it seemed as if everyone had lost their voices. Finally Psyche spoke up, and what she said was what they were all thinking, but didn't want to hear.
"Then this means," she said thoughtfully, "that someone on the police force is a Satanic traitor."
"And that means," Jenner added, "that someone on the police force was in on this."
AJ was the last to add to this thought. "Or maybe still is."