Well, where do I start? This latest investigation has been a heart stopper. Smith (Danielson) was able to work his magic with the computer we got from the apartment of the cul-de-sac leader. We figured he was killed by the demon he brought here and the police were not going to find what we needed to find… well he found the chat messages and traced them through the 2 VPNs (which is supposed to be impossible, I’m told) to the office computer of an apartment complex in Woodbury on Guider Dr by the theater.
Have I ever mentioned how much stakeouts bore me? With the main office in the pool building, this stake out would be easy if the culprit actually used the computer.
The old lady that managed the buildings was dropped as a main suspect on the third evening. A young man in his mid thirties was in the pool until nearly 21:00 when he got out and went into the bathroom. Moments later, Smith registered that the user name that contacted Mr. Cul-de-sac had logged in. Jack left the vehicle and snuck around to apprehend the man when he left. Smith tailed him until the man logged off at 00:15 (if my computer geek days weren’t past me…). Moments later, we see Jack running with a body in his arms.
“Mia!” He shouted, swift even when carrying dead weight, “He poisoned himself! Help him or we lose our only lead.” He set the man down in the boulevard and I laid hands on him preparing for the pain.
Healing only takes a moment, 3-5 seconds tops, but often feels like a lifetime. Physical injuries I heal usually give me a sensation of what the injury felt like for the victim, disease is often a cold sensation throughout my body, and poisons feel like fire from the intake point to as far as it has gotten in the victim’s body, but this was something else… something I’ve felt before.
I watched my hands grow ashen, wrinkled and withered; the skin reaching its limits and peeling away from the flesh underneath bearing thin and frayed tendons. I can only imagine what everyone around me saw before I fell away from the man. I knew what this was and, more importantly, who was behind it.
“Ben!” I shouted, waking myself up. Back at the Institute house in a bed soaked in my own sweat with Sal reading in the corner. Anna and Jack came bursting in through the door. “What happened?”
Jack turned green as Anna said,”You decayed nearly to the bone… you looked… What happened? How did you…”
“I’ve felt this before” I interrupted, “What has happened with the case? The guy I healed, he survived, what did he tell you?”
“We have an address. Danielson is researching it, Nat is gathering equipment. We leave in 15.” Jack said with color returning to his face.
The trip to our target was much like the trip north for Sal’s exorcism, except Sal’s eyes were on me. I guess I have some explaining to do, but that will have to wait.
We reached our destination, an industrial yard with a mechanical consulting company, a lawn mower repair shop and an auto repair shop surrounded by fence and pressed between Phalen blvd and train tracks. Danielson parked the SUV in the gateway blocking it from vehicles trying to escape and jumped out. Jack leapt out of the passenger side as the rest follow out the rear doors.
Jack and Nat took cover and move around to get eyes on the personnel door to the largest building on the property, scanning for snipers and spotters. Sal followed Nat behind the car she was moving around when the door opened and Danielson and I follow Jack as half dozen men come out crouching and holding weapons. They spread out and several fire at us over the hoods and trunks of vehicles.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
When I looked right, Nat had moved around a car and had one man’s head moving like a bobble head doll as she moved around him and flung the man at the two only a few feet away. As they struggle to pull their long guns free of the tangled limbs she pounced.
Shots from my left pull my attention; Jack fired a hail of lead at 2 guys behind a car and one opponent’s head canoed. The last man fired and caught Jack in the left shoulder, but that didn’t faze the large man and Agent Cooper put a bullet in his chest.
I peeked around the front of the vehicle only to find myself face to face with an armed man. A fast man with a long gun at ready is slower than a slow girl with a pistol at ready… at least it was this time. I shot low and the bullet plowed through his inner thigh and blood spurting with the pace of a racing heart. He raised the gun for a moment before his eyes lost focus and he finally dropped (some day’s I am so lucky).
I came around the corner to find two bleeding and unconscious men under the feet of Miss Bliss and a man buried to his chin in the dirt with a look of terror on his face as Sal stepped over him.
We regrouped by the personnel door where I noticed Jack’s wound, but he shrugged me off. Danielson opened the door and Jack lead through followed by Nat, myself, Sal and Danielson.
The eerie light coming from the office flooded the main room with a light that was hemmed in darkness beyond what the eye can see. The cars, tools and tool boxes caused shadows that didn’t seem to be anchored to the items that created them. No people were to be seen, but the hairs on Jack’s neck were visibly standing on end.
Quickly, we squatted in the shadow of a minivan. Jack waved his hands and pointing around and Nat and Danielson quickly nodded. Jack and Nat sprinted off along the garage doors in different directions while Sal and I looked at each other in confusion. Sal moved to follow Nat but Danielson grabbed his shoulder and motioned for us to stay put. A few moments later, Nat returned soon followed by Jack.
“No one’s around,” Nat’s voice still sultry in a whisper (She is so hot, but cold to the touch).
“Office?” asked Sal as his sweet breath washed past me.
“I’ll lead,” said Jack as he started to move.
We stayed crouched as we moved towards the office door. The windows, white with blinding light, did not afford a view into the office, but we didn’t know what might be looking out at us. Once at the door, Nat gently tested the lock to find it open and looked at Jack, who shimmied into position. The door flew open and we poured through stumbling on the unexpected terrain.
The heavy, steamy air hit our lungs as the ankle deep water of a swamp soaked into our shoes and boots. The muck under the water slowly gave way under our weight and we sank several inches. Above, the grey sky poked through the moss covered tree limbs. Nothing looked alive.
“Keep the door open!” coughed Sal, “We won’t find it if it closes.”
Danielson lunged for the door, slipped his fingers in just before the door closed and we all heard the thud and grunt as the door stopped against his fingers and the frame. A tree limb was broken off with a hollow, rotten sound and wedged under the door.
Peeking through the moss, we saw what may be a path cut out of the moss hanging from above. Jack made a signal like patting a dog with a flat palm and started moving slowly forward. 20 feet forward the land started to rise and another 40 before we were on what might have been dry ground. Ahead, a clearing could be seen through the mossy growth.
A man stood on a block of stone shouting, but his voice sounded miles away. We closed to just outside the clearing, when we saw the bodies. The blood from the ritual suicides was still draining from the bodies and pulsed with the words of the man chanting and gesturing on top of the stone; gathering into legs and formed up to just past the inverted knees.
“He’s summoning a demon,” whispered Sal, “I think I can counter his casting.” He stepped out into the clearing, waving his hands and speaking his magic tongue.
“If we have to shoot him, aim for his chest,” I said. I got nods from those still with me as we moved out from cover with weapons drawn. Nat went wide to flank as Jack, Danielson and I moved up to cover Sal as he worked.
The man on the stone opened his eyes as the counter magic took effect. Without skipping a beat, a flourish of the man’s hand produced a handgun.
I stepped in front of Sal as the lead flew. The man only fired once before rose buds of blood sprouted from his chest. The round found my flesh yielding but my ribs deflected it from its intended target. My body will, eventually, pass the lead as it has in the past, but the impact shock wave passing through my organs and pierced lung dropped me to my knees. As I fell forward to the ground I focused on the pain.
When I lifted my head, Sal was five steps in front of me glaring at the legs which were melting back into the puddle and Jack, Nat and Danielson were standing around the man. I got up, grabbed my 9mm, and joined them by the man.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
I shot him in the chest, startling my team.
Nat grabbed me, disarming me, and threw me to the ground.
“Hold her, Nat,” said Jack as he shifted his stance to cover me with his firearms. “What the hell are you doing, Mia?!?”
“Oh, he’ll be fine! I wouldn’t kill my own son!” I knew I should have told them more, but secrets are hard to tell when you have kept them as long as I have. “You might want to shoot him again, he might be healing and he’s less dangerous to move if he isn’t awake. Oh, and don’t touch his skin, he might be poisonous and that direct of a dose… well, just don’t touch him.”
Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam!
“His eyes fluttered!” screamed Danielson dropping an empty magazine to the ground and slamming another into the side arm.
“We gotta go!” Sal’s voice was a combination of concern and fear. “Whatever he was calling is on this plain and is looking for us. I don’t know how close it is but it knows where we are!”
Jack grabbed my son in a fireman’s carry and we ran.
As the office door slammed shut, the blinding light flickered and went out leaving only the EXIT lights to guide us out.
The interrogation of my son, Benedict or Jason as he was calling himself, didn’t go great. He was less than forthcoming with details but what was clear is that the structure of the organization was build to defeat this exact situation. Fortunately, a mother’s glare can pry where no man’s threats and promises can find, given enough time.
My eldest son, Paul, was found to be the best fit to punish Ben for his crimes, with over watch provided by the Hoffmann Institute.