13 An Unclean Spirit

Tom found Baker waiting. She had already pulled down a couple of boxes and was ready with addresses to mark on the big map. Tom had just stuck a pin in the last of those when Smith arrived.

“Sorry, am I late?” Smith asked, looking at his watch.

“No, we got back early,” Tom said. “Grab a few more boxes?”

The young man hurried, and they began their process again. By three, they had tagged the last crime scene and Tom stood before his big map looking at the scattered locations before him. “I think we’re going to need that computer, Baker,” Tom said with a laugh. As they stood on either side of him, ever the teacher, he asked, “What do you see?”

“Sir?” Baker asked.

“You’re not just here for your brawn. Use your wanna-be-cop brains!” Tom teased good naturedly. “What do you see on the map?”

“The scenes are all over the place,” Smith said.

“Too all over the place, if they’re really related,” Baker said softly, after a moment’s thought.

“There you go,” Tom said. “The pattern could very well be the lack of a pattern. If these cases are related, and at least some of them are, someone went out of their way to obscure the pattern. I think, and this is assuming that a good number of these cases ARE related, that some of the crimes are … what’s the term?”

“Red herrings, sir?” Smith said.

“Exactly!” Tom exclaimed, smacking his hands together. “We have to find commonalities which will show us which are important: Then a real pattern may emerge. Maybe they’re based in a neighborhood, or only certain kinds of targets are meaningful….” Tom shook his head and said, “Thanks guys, I’ll see you next Tuesday. And, lips zipped,” he added holding up a finger, “even with your cop buddies. I want to take our time and do this right and not have detectives breathing down our neck. Or worse. I don’t want cultists finding out I’m here.”

“Yes, sir,” they both said, and left him alone. On his way out, Tom left Pryce a note: “Just getting started, nothing to report. Tom.”

At home, Tom noticed Billy’s car in the driveway and smiled. The boy couldn’t stay away. As he entered, Tom made sure to make a lot of noise, just in case, but he found them chatting in front of the TV while Billy did some school work.

“Hi, guys,” Tom called. “I’ll be in my office!”

“Hey,” both responded. Tom tromped upstairs and called Alasdair.

“Dr. Franklin,” the man answered distantly.

“Alasdair, it’s Tom.”

“Tom, what can I do for you?” Alasdair responded more warmly.

“David’s going to the Halloween Ball,” Tom began.

“With whom?” the man teased.

“Well you know the situation,” Tom said, ignoring him, worry creeping into his voice.

“My wards are very powerful,” Alasdair tried to calm him.

“So is our adversary,” Tom replied. “I put the Akkadian Shield on his costume, but I’d still like to chaperone.”

“Well, it couldn’t hurt,” Alasdair said, “so long as David isn’t mortified by it.”

“He’ll live. I suspect he might breathe a little easier,” Tom added.

“Still having a rough time?” Alasdair asked.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Tom said.

“Hmmm,” Alasdair thought for a moment, “he is seeing someone, right Tom?”

“Yes, a counselor at the University,” Tom responded.

“Good,” the man answered. “Will Aiden accompany you?”

“I don’t know; he’ll probably have to work,” Tom said. Alasdair laughed and Tom got a bad feeling. “What?”

“Chaperones have to come in costume,” Alasdair said with a humorous undertone. “I know how you love to let your hair down!”

Actually,” Tom began, “I had an idea about that….”

Oh? Do tell?” Alasdair said, intrigued.

“It’s a surprise,” Tom answered. “Bye!”

“Talk to you later,” Alasdair laughed as he sat his phone down.

Tom spent some time preparing his Friday lecture, and was nearly finished when David walked in. “Hi, buddy. You okay?” He noticed the boy’s eyes were a little red.

“Yeah,” David smiled his killer smile. “Just kind of an intense session today….”

“Want to talk about it?” Tom asked.

“Not really,” the boy said, awkwardly standing by Tom’s desk, “but, I … it’s just hard.” The boy couldn’t say what he wanted to say, and more importantly couldn’t ask for what he wanted to ask for. Tom stood up and wrapped his arms around David, feeling him relax. Tom gently rubbed the boy’s back as David cried.

When David was ready, Tom leaned back and smiled at him, “Okay now?”

“Yeah,” the boy said, smiling. “Thanks … for understanding.”

Tom patted the boy on the shoulder and said, “Feel like going grocery shopping? I need to get food for dinner tomorrow night since we’re having guests.”

“Sure,” David said.

When they returned heavily laden with groceries, they were surprised to see Aiden tinkering in the kitchen. “What’s for dinner?” Tom asked with a curious look.

“Chili,” Aiden said. “My specialty. It’s a single cop’s best friend. You can cook a big batch, and it lasts for a week, and pretty much all you need is a can opener. Of course, in this fancy kitchen, I added a little flair,” the man teased.

Tom reached around him and tasted it. “That’s pretty good!”

“I have a few surprises up my sleeve,” Aiden said with a smile and stole a kiss. David and Tom put the groceries away as they talked. After dinner, Tom and Aiden relaxed on the couch in Tom’s office so Tom could think out loud about the cases he was reviewing.

“It sounds like you are on to something,” Aiden said. “Once you’re through sorting through things, I’d be happy to go over some of the evidence with you. It really pisses me off that we haven’t caught these assholes. The churches, and the animals,” he added, shaking his head.

“So the majority of the cases are desecrations?” Tom asked, and Aiden nodded. “And animal sacrifices?”

“Most of them had mutilated animals, but some of them were really bad,” Aiden said.

“That will help,” Tom said. “Thanks. I’d like to see some of the most recent crime scenes, soon.”

“Actually, one of the most recent is just a few miles away, Saint Bartholomew’s Catholic Church. It was just last night,” Aiden said.

“Could we go now?” Tom asked. “Residual magical energy fades fairly quickly.”

Aiden said, “Let’s go!”

A few minutes later they stepped out of the car and walked up to the church. “Where was the desecration? Inside?”

“No,” Aiden said, pointing to the church graveyard.

“Really?” Tom asked.

“You haven’t read any of the reports yet, have you?” Aiden asked.

“No, just marked the addresses on a map,” Tom replied. “Why?”

“A lot of the desecrations were graveyards,” Aiden replied

Tom opened the gate and stepped into the graveyard, asking Aiden to stay outside. Tom whispered and waved his hand all around, and suddenly he could see a lot that was invisible to Aiden. “The grave was the old parish priest, Father Sloane’s,” Tom said rather than asked, though Aiden confirmed. “My God, that’s dark,” Tom said as he could see tendrils of black fire all around him lingering on the churchyard. Over Sloane’s grave was a nearly solid black, hateful mass of pure, dark energy. “I need to get inside the church now,” Tom said urgently.

Aiden recalled that the rectory was just on the other side of the church and he went and pounded on the door. A priest in his thirties answered. “Can I help you?” the priest asked.

“I’m Officer O’Connell,” Aiden said, pulling out his badge. “I’m here following up with a special consultant, and I wonder if you have a moment?”

“Sure,” the man said with a soft smile. “Let me turn off the kettle and I’ll be right over,” he added, closing the door. Momentarily the priest returned and accompanied Aiden back to the graveyard.

“Father, uhm … I’m sorry Father, I forgot your name,” Aiden said.

“Tim Welch,” the man said, extending his hand to Tom.

“This is Professor Tom Corman, Father,” Aiden said. “He’s a specialist on the occult.”

“Tell me, Father,” Tom began hesitantly, “are you a member of an Order?”

“No, though I studied with the Dominicans in Rome,” the young man said.

“I’m sorry to beat around the bush here, Father, but this is rather delicate. I know many young priests have a different outlook on things than some of the traditionalists. What’s your take on what happened here?”

The priest regarded the even younger professor curiously for a moment and said, “You know, don’t you? You know what happened here wasn’t a teenager’s prank?”

Tom nodded. “I need a couple of bottles of holy water. More if you want to help?”

The priest unlocked the church, and led the men to the back, where he grabbed his stole and a few plastic holy water bottles.

He filled them from the holy water font before Tom could ask, “Did you bless the water yourself, Father?” The man shook his head, and Tom said, “We need fresh water and salt. We must begin clean, with an exorcism of the elements and blessing of the water,” he insisted. “It is absolutely essential that the blessings be performed by a man of faith.”

“I’m sure Father Fitzsimmons,” the man began, but Tom shook his head insistently.

“I don’t care if you’ve had your doubts Father,” Tom said, “but at least you believe in something. I’m not about to go out there and do what I’m about to do based on your hope that your colleague has more faith than you do!”

Seeing Tom’s intensity, the man got together the necessary elements. He poured out the salt and declared over it, “I exorcise you creature of salt,” but Tom saw him wavering.

Tom grabbed the man’s hand and caught his eye with a fiery gaze and said, “I exorcise you, creature of earth,” filling the man with confidence as he joined him for the blessings, until the priest was able to do it on his own. “Very good, Father. If you feel like you aren’t up to this, there is no dishonor in remaining outside the cemetery with Aiden.”

“I’m the priest! But shouldn’t I call the bishop or something?” the priest asked.

“For a major exorcism, an exorcism of a person, you’d need the permission of the Vatican through your bishop. This is land, and Church land at that, father, but you know that,” Tom said.

“I’m sorry, Tom! I … I’ll come out, but you can do it without me?” the priest asked, shaking. Tom smiled and nodded. “One day, maybe,” the man said softly.

Tom led the way outside and up to the gate. “Do not, under ANY circumstances, come inside this gate!” The priest nodded, but Aiden frowned. “Aiden, you aren’t prepared. If I have to worry about you, it could hurt my concentration.” That got Aiden’s attention and he nodded.

Tom entered and began at the near left corner, shaking holy water and reciting a hallowing prayer, working his way clockwise around the perimeter of the cemetery.

Father Welch turned to Aiden and said, “You two don’t just work together?”

“Tom is a professor at the University, and I’m a cop. This is a nearly unique case,” Aiden explained, “with the exception of the Dawson case, which Tom broke.”

The priest nodded, and looked impressed. “He was very worried you’d be drawn inside. You, not me. I’m a priest; you’re a cop,” the man said, letting the question hang.

“He knows I’d walk through hell for him, Father. Sorry if that bothers you,” Aiden said, watching Tom the whole time he spoke.

“Not at all,” the young priest said softly. “You’re lucky to have each other.”

Now it was Aiden’s turn to be surprised. “Are you?”

“No,” the man smiled. “My baby brother is, though. He’s been with a nice man for about five years. I did a little ceremony for them in my parents’ back yard. Secret of course.” The man smiled again, wistfully, and said, “It’s hard to believe any narrow doctrine, even a church teaching, when someone you love benefits from such a wholesome relationship….”

Aiden wiped his eyes a little and felt the man’s hand on his shoulder. “You’re Catholic?” Aiden nodded. Father Welch said, “You and Tom, or just you, are welcome here any time.”

“Thank you, father,” Aiden said, and both men fell silent about the time Tom closed the circle. The air crackled with energy, and Aiden gasped.

“I felt it too,” the priest confirmed.

As Tom walked over to the grave and began to chant a minor exorcism, noises began to burst out from dark places: caws and screeches of night birds, though there were none, growls and snarls from invisible beasts, voices crying out in languages unknown or long forgotten. Aiden and the priest looked for the source, but Tom was unmoved.

As he slashed the air with holy water, shadows around the cemetery began to move and congeal, clumping and consolidating and rolling toward the grave in a heavy cloud that collected over the priest’s plot into a form of darkness so deep you could lose yourself in it – the abyss made manifest.

Addressing the form directly, Tom called out distinctly, “Unclean spirit, I bind you by the Name of Heaven! Tell me your name and depart to the Pit!”

Growling and snarling, the cloud elongated and began to take humanoid form. The figure was huge, about 8 feet tall and solid black except for eyes which showed fire. “How dare you, mortal?” it snapped. Just its words were enough to knock Tom on his ass. When the figure stepped forward, Aiden made for the gate, but the priest grabbed his arm.

“That thing will destroy you,” he barked. “On your knees!”

The priest knelt down just outside the gate and Aiden joined him. “OUR FATHER,” the priest began, drawing the demon’s ire. “WHO ART IN HEAVEN!” As Aiden joined him, the demon charged for the two men, only to find itself repelled at the fence by Tom circle. “HALLOWED BE THY NAME!”

“I’ll tear your bodies limb from limb, you cockroaches,” the demon barked.

The priest squeezed Aiden’s hand and they moved on as if they paid him no attention. “THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN! GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD, AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESSPASSES AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESSPASS AGAINST US, AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION!” By this point, the demon was going mad, and the priest demanded, “Don’t stop!” and they began again.

“You have nowhere to go, unclean spirit,” Tom called, reminding it he was there. “TELL ME YOUR NAME AND DEPART,” he yelled, splashing holy water on the thing. Its cry, deep and furious, echoed fiercely, and both the men outside looked up now.

“You may put me down, but when we come, I’ll come for you. Dozens of us will, faggot,” the demon snarled. “We’ll rape that boy, David until he dies and then pick up in hell where we left off. We’ll keep him with Jamie.”

Tom felt anger, furious wrath, fill his whole being as he put the holy water in his pocket. The demon charged, predictably, and Tom raised his hands, channeling all the energy of that deep righteous anger into words of prayer, “The Light of GOD surround thee, a thousand holy sparks around thee!” As he spoke, the anguish in his heart spilled over. At first it was like hundreds of lightening bugs poured into the cemetery and swarmed the demon, but slowly and steadily they grew brighter and brighter, with a purity that dispelled all darkness without overwhelming sight. The demon began to scream in pure animal terror. He dared not even swat at the lights lest they penetrate the darkness that was his form.

Aiden was cut to the bone being unable to go to Tom, but the priest squeezed Aiden’s hand ever harder to remind him what he had to do. Even the priest was overwhelmed by the display of holy light before him, “Holy Mary mother of God!” he whispered.

TELL … ME … YOUR … NAME!” Tom demanded again.

The circle of light closed around the demon, impinging ever further on the darkness, and the thing’s cries were becoming hard to make out. Finally though, Tom heard a name from the tumult: Daragon.

“In the name of the most high GOD, I cast you out you unclean spirit, Daragon,” Tom began again. Each time he spoke the name, the entity’s cries became more irate and pronounced. It was his true name. Over the next ten minutes, the chaotic din subsided gradually, and at last quiet fell across the land.

When Tom opened the gate, he was drained to the point of collapse. The two men quickly went to his side. Tim instructed, “Bring him back to the rectory. A moment’s rest and something in the stomach should get him back on his feet.” They helped Tom back to the small residence and settled Tom into a comfortable chair. Then the priest put water on for tea and got out a few cookies and put them on a tray with some mugs

Aiden joined him as he was preparing the tea, and the priest asked, “Who’s Jamie?”

“Jamie was Tom’s first love, the boy who brought Tom out of a very deep shell. Should have been the love of his life,” Aiden said.

“What happened?” Father Welch asked. Aiden filled him in and the man declared, “Sweet Jesus, how much this man has been through!”

“You don’t know a tenth of it, Father,” Aiden declared before they returned to find Tom still a little spacey. A little caffeine and sugar did go a long way to reviving him.

As the men sat around, Father Welch leaned in and said, “You know he was lying, Tom? About your Jamie, I mean.”

Tom nodded, “I know.”

“But then, why did you lose your temper so?” the man asked.

Tom shook his head. “I, it just pissed me off! That these things could threaten Peter and David, that that thing dared speak Jamie’s, should not be allowed!”

“Evil seeks to destroy the good most of all. What’s gained by destroying the corrupt?” Father Welch asked. Tom nodded and the man continued, “Tom, I…. Could you help me?”

“I thought I already had?” Tom teased, his good humor returning.

“True enough,” the man smiled. “Could you help me prepare? I mean, I studied this stuff in Rome, but nothing like this. What happened tonight was real.”

“I don’t know, father. You were better off never having seen this,” Tom said, guiltily.

“It confirmed what I’ve always known,” the priest said. “As a boy, I had a ‘disturbed’ uncle. But I once heard him talking to himself secretly in the barn.”

“That’s common enough with the deranged,” Tom smiled.

“But the voice that spoke back to him wasn’t his, and it wasn’t coming from inside him,” the priest replied. “I wrote it off as overactive imagination, because I was afraid.”

“And are you afraid now?” Tom asked.

“Terrified,” the man said, “but if I believe in what I saw, then I believe in the power that repelled it,” the man said.

“Good answer. Give me a call, but for now, I’m bushed!” Aiden helped Tom up and the men exchanged email and phone contact information before parting.

As they drove, Aiden said, “You sure know how to show a guy a good time,” and they both laughed. When they got home, Tom pulled out his notebook and wrote down two words: Sloane and Daragon. Then he went straight to bed, even though it was still early. He never even stirred when Aiden got in next to him. In fact, when Friday morning came, Aiden had to work to get Tom out of bed so the man wouldn’t miss class.

At the end of his second class, Tom announced, “I won’t be having office hours this afternoon. I’m feeling sick. If you need me, email me, otherwise I’ll see you Monday. Maggie, could you stay for a moment?” After class cleared, he said, “Aiden agreed I should do it, so I’ll advise the GSA, starting as soon as possible. How’s your research coming?”

She smiled slyly and said, “Fascinating!”

After his next class, Tom left campus and got dinner started before laying down for a nap. He only woke when David, arriving with Sebastien, yelled, “TOM?”

Tom wandered out groggily and said, “Hey guys! Do you need a snack before dinner?”

“I’ll grab us something,” David offered, laughing. “You should get ready! Your hair would make a straight guy cringe!”

Sebastien giggled cutely and Tom waved them off until he caught sight of his wild hair in the mirror. He murmured, “Hell! I’m going to just take a shower!”

“Can I come?” Sebastien asked, blushing and giggling at his own joke.

Tom wagged a finger at him. “I think I’ve let a monster genii out of the bottle! David, don’t let this one alone unless everyone’s decent!”

The boys laughed as Tom closed the door. “Pretty cute for an old dude, though,” Sebastien whispered, not intending for David to hear. But the big smile on the David’s face revealed he had heard, and Sebastien turned purple with embarrassment.

“Don’t worry, dude. Even I know you speak the truth,” David said without embarrassment, trying to make Sebastien feel more comfortable. “Look, I’m not as good as an skinny-jean wearing, emo, but you can talk to me about this stuff. It’s got to be terrible to feel like there’s nobody to talk to about guys and shit!”

Sebastien blushed and nodded. “You’re way better than that guy,” Sebastien said honestly, and got a rush – not sexual, but intimate – when David wrapped a muscular arm around him and led him off to the kitchen. “Except….”

EXCEPT?” David said exaggeratedly, teasing the boy.

“Well, an emo dude would make out with me. But that would be weird since you’re my sister’s boyfriend, I guess,” the boy laughed.

“You’ve gotten way funnier since you pranced out of the closet, soul sister,” David teased, grabbing a drink for Sebastien and himself. “You hungry?”

Sebastien shook his head. “Want to play Wii?” Sebastien suggested.

“Sure!” David replied, and they zoned out in front of the TV.

When Tom returned, he was refreshed and looking immaculate. The boys barely acknowledged him as he got the house ready, setting the table and the like. He tossed the salad and put some bread out.

A few minutes after Aiden hurried in and headed for the shower, the bell rang, and Tom met Walt and Martha at the door. “Come in,” he said, giving each of them a hug.

“Sorry we’re early,” Walt said, noticing Aiden’s absence.

“No worry! Aiden’s just freshening up. He’ll be out in a minute,” Tom reported.

“I was just so looking forward to seeing you. The last couple of visits have been so nice,” Martha said, wringing her hands.

Tom gave her a big hug. “Mom,” he whispered, “I’m so sorry for pulling away,” he said with tears in his eyes. She stroked his hair gently as his tears fell on her shoulder.

“Oh, sweet boy, I do understand. But I’m glad it’s over,” she replied.

He coughed and wiped his eyes, finding Walt had wandered away to give them some time alone. “If I’m here, you just come on over when you like. You don’t have to call.”

“You’re too sweet,” she said, forgiving him his words.

“No, mom, I mean it. I’ve really missed you!” Mistaking the look in her eyes, he said, “You don’t mind if I call you that, do you?”

Grabbing his hand, she said, “You always did, and I’d be hurt if you didn’t!”

Arm-in-arm, they joined Walt in the living room, where he was chatting with the boys, telling them about the cabin. “Walt, Martha, you know David! You remember his future brother-in-law, Sebastien?”

They’d met the boy at the picnic, but he’d been so quiet and subdued they barely noticed him. Walt had even forgotten they’d met. “You joke, but Martha and I were dating in high school,” Walt said.

Tom laughed but noticed Martha staring. “Mom?” he asked. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “Nice to see you again, Sebastien.”

Tom watched her closely, but said, “Sebastien is spending the weekend with us.” Walt returned to his conversation with the boys, but Martha followed Tom into the kitchen.

“Tom,” she said quietly, “do you have that album of photos I sent after Jamie died?”

Tom said, “It’s in my desk. I must admit, I haven’t really looked at it much. It’s hard….”

“Could I see it?” she asked, and followed him upstairs after he nodded.

“Martha, are you,” he began to ask.

She raised a hand and said, “You wouldn’t see it, of course,” as she flipped through the little book. Then she handed it back to Tom, open to a picture of Jamie at about thirteen, smiling brightly.

Tom had to sit down. “He had changed so much,” Tom said.

“No, it just seems that way because you only knew him as a grown man! That’s why my breath was simply taken away. I just don’t see how Walt can sit there and not see it!” she said with a laugh. Tom had to really examine the picture to be sure it wasn’t Sebastien.