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Minot: Chapter 7

Under The Surface

THE PAIN HAD caused him to drift into a sort of dark stupor, anything to escape the knife plunging into his leg. At first the darkness offered some comfort; it fell around his ears and face like a black cloth, blocking out all visions of the person with the knife and the others standing around him. He could no longer hear their music and chanting or see the lights flickering around him. For once it was peaceful.

But that couldn't last.

Something began to drag him, struggling, back into consciousness. From out of the shadows came more monstrous shapes--creatures with goat horns, goat ears--goat faces. They were large, much bigger than he was. And they were coming up on all sides of him.

He tried to move, but was still restrained, tied down to that wood. The creatures just came closer. And the pain in his leg came back.

He cried out, twisting his wrists, trying to break the twine tying them down, but only succeeded in making his skin raw. The only way he could get his hands free was if he could get that knife.

As the monsters came closer he could see the knife again; now it was one of the goat-creatures that wielded it.

You are the chosen among us, chosen to do penance and be our scapegoat for the sins of humanity.

I don't want to be chosen!
his mind shouted; he found he couldn't speak either, for there was something in his mouth, pressing on his tongue and half choking him.

Now we leave you with the scar that will mark you as the chosen one for all time. Live with it, and never forget us, for those who do will pay the price and pay it dearly.

He managed to force his head up somewhat to look down at them. He himself was naked; he should have been ashamed yet was more afraid. The largest goat-creature raised the knife and brought it down. He dropped his head back and screamed through the gag over his mouth, arching as much as the binds would let him as wave after wave of pain stabbed through him--

Jabbing into his leg.

Mitchell made a forlorn figure behind bars, Damien noted. He almost felt sorry for the guy. Now it was Ace who was in interrogation, and Bowen who was asking the questions; Kincaid had left the room earlier, and when Damien last saw him he was at the water cooler, a hand to his head and a cup of water in his other hand. He looked as if he should be groaning from a headache but instead he was staring off into space, seemingly oblivious to the other police passing by. Damien turned away, back to the hallway and the interrogation room. Inside Ace sat at the table, fidgeting and looking around nervously.

"You feel like talking?" Bowen asked, scanning the newspaper.

"Yeah, sure," Ace said, trying to keep the stammer out of his voice. "I got nothing to hide."

"Good." Bowen put the paper down and pushed it across to Ace, who picked it up and read it. "Look familiar?"

Ace swallowed, and looked up at him timidly. "Hey, before I do say anything, can I ask for immunity or somethin'?"

"Why?" Bowen asked, his eyes half closed and his fingers locked.

"Well, be-because maybe, uh, you know--" He swallowed. "I didn't do nothing wrong, I can tell you that. But it might be--uh--construed that way." He actually looked a little surprised at his own agility with words.

"Would you like a lawyer?"

"Uh, naw, I don't need one.... Like I said, I didn't do nothing. But someone might think so. So, can I or not?"

Bowen stared him down for a moment, then shrugged. "All right, you'll get immunity. I'll make sure of it. Now tell me what you know."

"Yeah, this stuff's familiar," Ace said, readily now, pointing at the pictures in the paper. "We got it on the wall at our hangout."

"Any ideas how it came to be on the wall at Falcon's?"

"Well, I'm guessing Mitch put it there."

Bingo! thought Damien.

"You're guessing? Weren't you there?"

"No, not really...well, once. But that was it."

"And when you were there what did Mitch do?"

"He had a dead chicken with him," Ace replied. "That's where he got the blood to paint on the wall."

Father Damien winced. "And so where did he get the chicken?" Damien asked. Bowen looked at him; he shrugged, as if to say, "I couldn't help it."

"Well, he probably stole it from somewhere," Ace said thoughtfully. "There's some farms around.... Maybe he took it from one of those. Anyway, he cut its throat and poured it into a bowl so he--"

At that moment Kincaid reentered, opening and closing the door behind him softly. Ace glanced over at him; he looked uncomfortable again, but continued. "--And he, uh, where was I? Oh, yeah, he poured it into a bowl so he could paint with it. Me and a couple others were there; some of them helped Mitch, but me, I was just watching."

"Were you the only one watching?"

"Uh, no, there was a couple of us. Just watching," he clarified.

"What happened to the carcass?"

Ace looked taken aback. "C-carcass?"

"The chicken?" Bowen prompted.

Ace looked relieved. "Oh! That carcass!" He fell thoughtful again. "Come to think of it, I don't really know. Mitch usually gives the dead things to someone else to use."

"Use?" Bowen asked. "To who? And for what?"

Ace shrugged. "I don't know. Mitch was always real secretive about that. Sometimes a couple others would go with him but I never did."

"Why not? Wouldn't he allow you to?"

Ace shook his head. "Nuh-uh. He said I wasn't ready yet."

"Ready in what sense?" Kincaid asked from his side of the room.

Ace shot him an apprehensive look; He must really be unpopular, Damien thought. "Well, it's kinda, kind of a group we have going--"

"Like a cult?"

"Well, yeah and no. It was a group we had, we'd get together sometimes to have a drink, maybe listen to some music."

"Was it on these occasions that Mitch would go to the Falcon's Nest?"

"Sometimes. Usually he'd stay with us but sometimes he'd go off alone. It was once when I went with him."

"When did you usually have these 'get-togethers'?"

"Weekends, man. When we weren't doing anything."

"What day? What time?" Bowen asked.

"Oh. Well...usually Saturday."

Damien sighed and turned to his uncle. "This is getting so tangled," he murmured.

"And the time?" Bowen had to remind him.

"Oh. Usually evening. Night. You know. When it's dark out."

"So between about six and midnight."

"Sure, yeah. Whatever."

"Did you do anything else while listening to the music and drinking? Talk about anything?"

"Well, yeah, Mitch would sometimes. He'd talk to us."

"About what?"

Ace shrugged and gave a lopsided smile. "I wouldn't know what the hell he was talkin' about. He'd just tell us all this weird junk, and we'd all laugh because we thought he was drunk, and then he'd get mad, call us stupid and leave. Usually it went like that."

"Can you remember anything he told you?" Bowen prodded.

"Uh..." Ace paused to rack his memory for a moment. "Not much," he finally admitted. "I think half the time he was talking another language. He'd tell us all these weird names, and he'd read somethin' from this little book he had, and then he'd tell us we'd better believe it or man, were we dead meat."

Bowen raised an eyebrow. "Believe what?"

"What he was reading to us, man."

"Can you describe the book he was reading from?"

"Yeah! It wasn't very big, y'know...just a little thing. Looked kinda battered, like he read from it a lot. He always did when we were there. Little thing. Had some kinda picture on the front. A circle or somethin'. I don't remember. He told us who wrote it and the guy had a funny French name like 'V' or somethin'." He tried not to laugh, then his face lit up. "Hey, I bet Mitch still has that book somewhere. He was always reading it. Sometimes we'd walk in on him and he'd be sittin' there with it, studying it or somethin', and he'd get real pissed off 'cause we hadn't knocked or anything. I bet he's still got it someplace."

Bowen looked at Kincaid; Kincaid shrugged. "I searched him. He didn't have anything like that," he said.

The chief looked back at Ace, who shrugged again. "He always kept it with him," he insisted. "So we wouldn't take it or somethin', I don't know. He told us once, he told us we were too stupid to understand it, so we better not try reading it or else somethin' bad would happen, like our heads would explode or somethin'." He laughed again, but this time it sounded nervous. "He said he'd 'gotten the Word' or somethin' from somebody, and he was tryin' to spread it, only we were too dumb to understand."

Damien stood up suddenly. "Gotten the Word?" he echoed. "From who?"

Ace shrugged once more. "He never said," he replied. "He just said he took orders from this guy, whoever he is, and that we'd better all listen to him--Mitch, I mean--because this guy knew what he was doing. This guy was in the position to do away with us if he wanted."

Damien turned to glare at Bowen. "You hear that?" he demanded. "That means whoever this 'guy' is, he's one of you. One of the police."

Bowen stood up and towered over him, his eyes growing dark. "And what gives you the idea to say that? There's plenty of people in this town in positions of power, and we cops aren't the only ones."

"But he said the position to do away with them if he wanted," Damien pressed. "And that sounds like a cop if I've ever heard one."

Bowen snarled down at him. "Just what gives you--"

"Chief?" Kincaid said.

Bowen turned to glare at him; Kincaid stared back, and finally Bowen's fists unclenched and he backed off. Damien stood his ground, growing confused. Just who was in charge here? Bowen sat back down.

"You've made your point," he growled. "I accept the idea that someone on my force might be involved. But that doesn't mean one is."

He didn't sound totally convinced. Damien continued looking at him, trying to tell if he was serious; when Bowen kept staring back, he decided he must be. His own fists unclenched, and he discreetly stretched his fingers. "All right," he said. "Let's both keep that in mind from now on."

"Whatever you want."

Bowen was obviously not pleased with Damien's insinuation; however, neither was Damien. He was starting to think of the Minot police force as one of the better, if more disorganized, ones he'd seen, and now this had to come up. He looked around at Bowen, his uncle, Ace, Kincaid, and began to wonder just who might be behind it all.... He shrugged to himself and sat down also, indicating he was now out of the conversation. Bowen stared at him a minute more, then, turning to the squirming Ace, sighed.

"Do you have any idea where Mitch might have put this 'book'?" he asked wearily.

Ace shrugged, then thought again. "Uh...maybe he left it at the house? That place is so run down, he could've hid it under the floorboards or in the wall or somethin'. It's just that I always thought he carried it with him."

"And this is his house, right?"

Ace looked a little surprised, and shook his head. "Naw, I thought you knew. He don't own it. None of us do. It's just this place we hang out at. Nobody lives there. Though I bet Mitch would move in if he could."

Bowen stood up, a strange fire leaping into his eyes. Damien understood the look; Mitch's house wasn't a private residence and as such they could do a little "digging" with or without a warrant. The chief motioned to Jenner, who was just entering the room with a cup of coffee in his hand. "Jen, I want you and a couple others to go check out that place of Mitch's. He might have a book stashed there."

"Book?" Jenner asked, looking blank.

"Yeah. Little Satanic treatise or something. Look under the floorboards, any holes in the walls, little crevices, anywhere. Hollow trees. Under rocks. Just find me that book, okay?"

"Sure," Jenner replied, still looking confused. He turned and left the room again.

"Okay," Bowen said, flicking a large hand at Ace, who still sat, looking uncomfortable, in his seat. "You're free to go. Just make sure to stay out of trouble. And I'm gonna get a restraining order for you to stay away from Falcon's, you hear me?"

"Yes sir!" Ace replied, with great relief. He added, in a smaller voice, "Uh--about that immunity?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Bowen said, shrugging it off. "I'll have that written up for you soon."

"Thanks!" Ace exclaimed, and, before any of them could say anything further, he was gone.

"Good work," Damien commented. He meant it only for the hasty grant of immunity, but it appeared Bowen took it for everything. He rounded on Damien again and gave him that icy glare.

"Remember, don't mess with me or my men," he said in a soft but deadly voice. "It's only by my word that you're even allowed in here."

"Sure," Damien said, a little meekly, holding up his hands in surrender. "Whatever you say."

They all filed out of the little room, Kincaid last of all. "And I thought Cheboygan had a few screws loose," Damien whispered to his uncle, who shrugged and cocked his head as they departed.

Behind them, Kincaid turned and went to his office, shutting the door behind him. He pulled the blinds so he couldn't see out and no one else could see in. He sat down at his desk, pulling out two objects; the first he set before him, the second he kept in his hand. Then he began jabbing his letter opener into the desktop while he stared at the battered copy of Anton LaVey's Satanic Bible lying upon the desk.

Needless to say, Jenner and his party found nothing whatsoever of a bookish nature at the old house, though they did find objects of another sort under the floorboards. Damien and his uncle arrived just in time to witness a great moment, Jenner grimacing while he removed the mummified carcass of a pigeon, holding it delicately by the foot. When he turned it upwards it stayed stiff as a board, looking as if someone had stuck it into liquid nitrogen for several months. He held it up for them to see.

"I told you they were into this," he muttered. "And I was beginning to tell myself that what they did to that dog was bad. I wonder what other treasures we'll find under here." He bent back to the floor and began digging around with one hand, supporting himself with the other.

Damien cocked his head to whisper to his uncle again; it was something he'd taken to lately, as it seemed no one in this town could be trusted. "This place must be getting to me. Did you see that whole confrontation back at the station?" he asked softly. "When Mitch kept looking at Jenner for help."

"I saw that. So?"

Damien shrugged. "Just seemed weird to me. Like he was scared of Kincaid and wanted Jenner to help him out."

"I believe you're on the right track."

"Yeah, but why's everyone so scared of him? And from the way Jenner reacted, I wouldn't exactly go begging him for mercy, either."

Father Damien was the one to shrug now; he winced as the policeman pulled out another carcass, this evidently one of a frog, from under the floorboards. "Like he's said, Jenner doesn't like what they've been doing to these animals. I mean, look at it all." He gestured to the pathetic remains Jenner was in the act of digging up. "These may seem small potatoes to you, but believe me, things start getting bigger and bigger."

As if to punctuate this statement, Jenner exclaimed, "Whoa!" and reached his arms far under the floorboards. "Get me a bag, Hawthorne," he yapped, his nose wrinkling. Damien and Father Damien held their breath while Jenner heaved out a dark-colored object. Whatever it was--had been--it was very large, very furry...and very dead.

Damien winced. "What is that?" he asked, trying to block his nasal passages to keep out the horrible smell that suddenly filled the room. The officer getting the bag gagged as Jenner placed the animal upon the floor.

"Looks like a cat," he said, his voice funny; Damien realized he, too, was trying to avoid the stench. "But I can't tell."

The other officer timidly tried to push it into the bag with a stick; Jenner finally gave a frustrated sigh and picked it up by the legs, dropping it in. The bag was quickly tied shut, and everybody stood around, waving their hands in front of their noses. Everybody except Jenner, whose hands now definitely would need a wash. He looked at them briefly, trying not to gag himself. He swallowed and managed a sick smile for the two standing near the door.

"All in a day's work," he said, turning back to the floorboards, yanked up by their nails. He picked them up and set them back in place, covering the hole they'd left.

"An enviable job," Damien muttered, turning and leaving the house, his uncle following.

Kincaid had arrived after them, and was leaning against his car, watching; when Jenner presented the bag and its contents he glanced at it dispassionately.

"Just put it in the trunk," he said, as if it were a bag of groceries (Damien was beginning to wonder if groceries and shopping were all Kincaid ever thought of), and Jenner did so, but only after giving him a queer look. Kincaid ignored him and got back in the car, starting it up. He drove off so suddenly that he nearly took Jenner, who was closing the trunk, with him; the younger officer stumbled away, almost falling over. He coughed at the cloud of dust left in the air, stumbling back to his own car.

Now it was Father Damien who spoke to his nephew. "You're right," he said, a tired look on his face. "This place must be getting to me, too."

Damien smiled and shrugged, and they walked off together.

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