16 The Cavalry

The following morning, cops swarmed the hospital to look in on their man, even as a team of CSI’s pored over the shooter’s house. Doreen stuck her head in and said, “TOM! Go home!”

“I’m fine, Doreen,” he said, rubbing his eyes. He’d been asleep for a couple of hours. “I want to stay!”

“Go check on the boys,” she said, appealing to his better sense. “Get showered, change, come back feeling fresh! I promise I’ll call if anything changes!”

Tom nodded and got up and wrote something on a piece of paper. “Here are my numbers. I need to ask you to do something that might seem strange,” he began.

“Anything, dear,” she said, putting a hand on his elbow.

“Call me, then immediately call Alasdair, if Aiden gets worse?” Tom asked. Seeing her questioning look, he added, “Please? I promise he can help!”

“Alright,” she said nodding, her worry for her son overriding any lingering questions.

Tom was weaving through the cops crowding the waiting room when he felt a strong hand grab his arm. “Professor Corman – Tom – is he alright?”

Tom recognized the desk sergeant, Buzz Gilroy, who had saved Aiden, and stopped. “He’s in trouble Buzz,” Tom said, shaking his head, “but he seems to be doing better. Keep your fingers crossed.”

Buzz squeezed Tom’s arm and said, “If you need anything, you let me know, doc!”

Tom patted the man on the shoulder with his other arm and said, “Thank you, Buzz! I really appreciate it. I’ve been up all night, though,” he added, apologetic.

“Go, go!” the man exclaimed. “Just remember me if you need anything!”

“Thanks,” Tom smiled and hurried through the rest of the crowd and drove back to the house. As he found the deadbolt engaged, he heard footsteps inside, some fast, some slow.

TOM? IS THAT YOU?” Peter called through the door.

“It’s okay, Peter. It’s me and I’m alone,” Tom called, smiling despite himself. The boy looked out the window before unbolting the door. Billy was staring at Peter like he was crazy, but Tom hugged him and whispered, “You did good!”

“Is Aiden okay?” Peter asked.

“Stable,” Tom said. “I needed to rest and change clothes, plus I wanted to check in!”

“Go take a shower, and lie down for a bit,” Peter said. “David and Sebastien are fine, everything’s under control here!”

“Guess you guys don’t need me at all?” Tom teased wearily.

Peter caught his eye seriously and said, “You know that isn’t true!”

“I know,” Tom said as he squeezed the young man one last time. “I will take that nap….”

Tom closed the door and stripped, tossing his stinky clothes in the hamper. After a hot shower, he crawled into bed. Only then did Tom realize how deep the ache in his muscles really was. “Aiden, hold on!” he sobbed into his pillow as he drifted into a fitful nap.

Suddenly Tom jerked. “Hello, my love,” Jamie, his beautiful Jamie said, sitting on the bed beside him. Tom could feel the familiar soft skin on his bare chest as Jamie stroked him.

“Jamie,” he whimpered. “I’m dreaming?”

“Yes, sweetheart, you’re dreaming,” Jamie replied. “You wrote down what I asked?”

“Of course! But what,” Tom began to ask, and Jamie raised a finger to his lips.

“Shhhh! I can’t say, but the time is coming,” Jamie said.

“What are you doing here?” Tom asked.

“Oh, Tom! I’m watching after you and the boys, and Aiden, always!” Jamie replied.

“Is he going to be alright?” Tom asked, tears in his eyes.

“Tom, that future is unclear still. He can still be alright, that’s the best I can say!” Jamie responded sadly.

“What should I do?” Tom asked.

“Seek comfort in faith, from a man of faith,” Jamie said mysteriously. “Dearest, the world is a narrow strait.” With a look over his shoulder, Jamie said, “Well, I must go.”

“Why?” Tom asked, grabbing his hand.

“Because, you have company,” Jamie said with a smile. Then he leaned in and kissed Tom on the cheek, before disappearing.

Tom inhaled deeply and opened his eyes. His blurry vision was filled with boys. “David? Sebastien? Is everything alright?”

“We just thought we’d come check on you,” David replied from his perch on the edge of the bed. Sebastien stood by the nightstand nervously.

Tom smiled and laughed, “It’s okay, Sebastien, I’m decent!” The boy smiled and sat next to David. “I’m sorry, Sebastien, this weekend must have been very scary for you!”

The boy threw his arms around Tom’s neck and fell over on the man. “I’m so sorry….”

“Oh you dear, sweet boy,” Tom whispered as David put an arm around Sebastien. “Aiden is going to be alright, and one day this is just going to be a wild memory!”

Tom then gave the boy one last squeeze before propping himself up. As the sheet slid down revealing his bare chest, Sebastien’s eyes widened perceptibly, and Tom tried not to chuckle. Then he sat up on the edge of the bed between the boys, putting an arm around each of them. “Run along and let me change! Then I’ll see about something for lunch!”

David got up and the young Sebastien followed bit reluctantly, taking one last glance at the sexy man. When they were gone, Tom laughed softly to himself and got dressed. The phone rang on his way to the kitchen so he picked it up. “Corman residence,” he said wearily.

“Oh, Tom! How is he?” Martha asked.

“He’s stable, Martha,” Tom said. “I’m just home for a rest and to look after the boys, then I’ll be back at the hospital.”

“Would you like me to come stay with the boys?” Martha offered.

Tom thought for a minute, and though he trusted Peter, he thought it might be best if, when Sebastien’s parents arrived, a mature adult was present. “Would you mind?”

“Anything for you, dear! I’m on my way,” she said, fishing for keys.

“Martha, before you leave, could you ask Walt to email my classes letting them know class will be canceled tomorrow?” Tom asked.

“Of course, dear. See you in a bit,” the woman said, hanging up the phone.

Then Tom went to find Peter. He knocked on the boy’s door, and after a few moments, Peter stuck his head out blushing. “Yeah?”

“Peter, Martha offered to come over and look after the boys. I would have said no, but I thought when Sebastien’s parents come, given all that’s happened, maybe someone older should,” Tom said, rushing through his explanation.

“It’s okay, Tom. I understand,” Peter said. “Thanks for telling me.” Then he added with a shy look, “I … uh….”

“Get back to work,” Tom said, turning the young man pink before heading to the kitchen.

Tom got out a pot and began browning some ground beef and onions. When it was cooked, he emptied a couple of cans of tomatoes, a couple of cans of water, and a bag of frozen vegetables into the pot. Then he put the lid on, leaving the soup to cook. Then he ran up to his office and looked up a number.

“Rabbi Steinmetz,” an older man answered more quickly that Tom had expected. “How can I help you?”

“I’m sorry, rabbi, I was expecting an assistant. We’ve never met,” Tom said, nervously.

“Never mind that,” the man said good-naturedly. “Why don’t you begin by introducing yourself?”

“Oh, of course. Tom Corman, from the philosophy department at Windsor University,” Tom answered.

“I’ve been there,” the man said. “Lovely campus. What can I do for you, professor?”

“A dear friend of mine was shot yesterday, and,” Tom said, his voice breaking, “a number of friends suggested I call you. Not by name of course, but that I call ‘the rabbi’….”

“You’re Jewish?” the rabbi asked.

“It’s complicated,” Tom responded, smiling to himself.

“I’ll meet you at the hospital in two hours,” Steinmetz said, after a long thought.

“Rabbi, I couldn’t ask you to do that,” Tom said.

“Lovely day for a drive, and you’ve intrigued me,” the rabbi answered. “How will I find you?”

“Ask for me. There’ll be plenty of cops around who know me,” Tom said.

“Your friend is that young officer? I’m very sorry! I’ll see you soon,” Steinmetz replied.

“Thank you,” Tom answered.

Tom looked up another number, but hesitated. Then he dialed again. The connection was scratchier, but an alluring, masculine voice answered, “Allo, oui?”

“Avram? It’s Tom. It’s urgent so I have no time for French banter!”

“Tom?” the man asked, his English only lightly accented by an exotic mix of Israeli Hebrew and French. “Are you alright?”

“There’s trouble here, Avram, and I’m … overwhelmed,” Tom admitted with a deep sigh.

“Tell me,” the man said soothingly.

“It’s demonolatry, Avram, a huge coven. They’re … it’s terrible. Children have been murdered over the course of years, sexually abused. Desecrations, rituals! I exorcised a demon from a fucking churchyard, Avram! A churchyard!”

“Sound’s serious, Tom,” the man said with concern. “Was it the priest who was possessed?”

“I’m not talking about a possessed person,” Tom said. “There was a demon in the church cemetery!”

“Tom, that’s next to impossible,” Avram said, suddenly agitated.

“You think I’d call you with a haunting, Avram. This is some serious shit!” Tom complained. “Yesterday, a demon possessed a man and tried to kill my friend, my … lover….”

“Tom!” the man gasped. “Are you … alright?”

“I’m fine. I’ve got the boys to think about, so I can’t lose it this time,” Tom sighed.

“Boys?” Avram asked, confused. “I think it’s been too long since we talked! I’ll book the earliest flight I can, Tom!”

“Thank you,” Tom said, relieved. “Bring as many as you can. I’ll cover the costs.”

“I’ll see who can come, but you know no one will take your money, Tom!” Avram said. “Now I have plans to make. I’ll send you our itineraries. Be safe, my brother. Shalom!”

“Shalom, my brother,” Tom replied. Then he trudged downstairs to find Martha serving soup to waiting boys. Then she grabbed a bowl for Tom and one for herself.

“I’m not hungry, Martha,” Tom said, apologetic.

“You have to keep your strength up!” she insisted, motherly, making him smile.

“Thanks, mom,” he said, giving her a little squeeze.

After eating as much as he could stomach, Tom started cleaning the kitchen. “I’ll handle that, Tom!” Martha called like the doting mother she was. “Now either go rest, or go to the hospital!”

Tom grumbled but picked up the phone and called the hospital. Eventually he got through to Doreen. “How is he?” Tom asked when the woman answered.

“No change, but that’s good, they say,” she said wearily.

“Doreen, I’m gonna get some rest and then I’m coming down to the hospital. Why don’t you and Micky come back to the house and get some rest while I’m there?” Tom asked.

“We haven’t made any arrangements yet, but we couldn’t impose. We barely know each other!” she laughed.

“But we share something special,” he said with a smile. “I insist. One of the boys can show you an empty room.”

“Well, if it’s that big,” she said with a laugh. “Thank you, Tom. I wish we’d met under happier circumstances.”

“Me too!” he said, before hanging up and collapsing on the couch. Then he remembered! “Oh, shit! Martha, I gotta go. I’m meeting someone at the hospital in a bit. If I sit here too long I’ll be gone!” With that he kissed the woman and got hugs from Peter, David, and Sebastien and a shy wave from Billy before heading out to his car.

At the hospital, Tom gave Doreen a key, and she and Mickey headed back to the house, giving him privacy with Aiden. Tom was holding Aiden’s hand, leaning against the bed wearily when an unfamiliar voice jolted him. “Professor Corman? We spoke on the phone…”

Tom looked up. “Rabbi?”

“Judah Steinmetz,” the man stated, extending a hand with a warm smile. “The Catholics have it easier. The collar is an all-access pass,” he joked as Tom shook his hand.

“Call me Tom, please. Thank you for coming. I didn’t really expect,” Tom began.

“Not at all,” the man said with a gentle wave and pulled a chair over next to Tom’s. “How long have you two been together?”

“Long enough,” Tom said, and the man nodded. “He lives with me, along with a young man I took in and his little brother. The parents were abusing them, and the father was a….”

“Serial killer?” the rabbi asked with raised eyebrows. “You do have a way of attracting newsworthy people into your life, don’t you?”

Tom smiled and said, “Until Aiden and the boys came along, I’d basically been a shut-in, rabbi. My first partner was killed in a stabbing. Now this!”

“Tom, there are a lot of things I could say to you now. Lame excuses. But you’ve had some terrible things happen around you and to you. Anything I could say would be weak and a little insulting,” the rabbi said, sitting back and patting Tom on the shoulder.

“Why do these things happen?” Tom asked without looking at him.

“You’re just baiting me now, professor,” Steinmetz joked, causing Tom to look at him and smile. “Tom, you know as well as I do that God isn’t punishing you, or testing you or anything else. The world is a narrow strait, and we all have choices to make.”

“But my choices get people hurt,” Tom said.

“You saved those boys’ lives and have, no doubt, brought this man great happiness,” the rabbi countered.

“But he wouldn’t be lying here if it wasn’t for me,” Tom said.

“I don’t understand,” Steinmetz interjected. “Being a policeman is a dangerous job….”

“Aiden was targeted because I refused to step back from something,” Tom said.

“Related to the boys?” the rabbi asked, and Tom nodded. “And how do you think Aiden would feel if he knew you’d turned your back on those boys because of a threat?”

Tom looked down at his feet and nodded. “Yeah…. I suppose so,” he said.

“Tom, let’s take a walk. Ask one of your friends to stay with him?” the rabbi suggested.

Tom nodded and stuck his head out into the waiting room and found Jim. “Would you mind sitting with him for a bit, Jim? I need to take a walk….”

“No problem, Tom. Anything!” the man said and folded up his paper.

With Jim watching over Aiden, Tom led the rabbi out of the hospital toward campus. “It is beautiful here, away from the city, Tom,” the man said.

“Yeah,” Tom replied. They walked in silence for a while before Tom asked, “Do you believe in God, rabbi?”

Tom was surprised when the man did not react with shock at the question but opened with, “Judah is fine, if you don’t mind.” After a considered silence, he said, “If I understand what you mean by believe, then yes, I believe in God.”

“Do you believe in the devil?” Tom asked.

Now the man examined Tom very carefully. “That is a peculiar question, young man!”

“What if I told you that the man who shot Aiden had black eyes? Completely black without any color or whites at all?” Tom said. “What if I told you that this town may be the epicenter of a major cult?”

The rabbi stopped him and looked deep into his eyes, reciting in Hebrew: “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day….”

A moment later, Tom took it up: “nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.”

“You’re serious?” the rabbi asked.

“Judah, you don’t know the half of it,” Tom said. “Care to take a ride? There’s someone I’d like you to meet.” The rabbi nodded gravely.

Twenty minutes later, Tom pulled up in front of Saint Bartholomew’s Catholic Church. Tom led the rabbi around to the rectory door and knocked. When Tim Welch appeared, he looked older than he had before.

“Tom!” the man said.

“Father Welch, this is Rabbi Judah Steinmetz,” Tom introduced the men.

“Judah, please,” the rabbi said with a nod as he shook the man’s hand.

“Tim,” Father Welch said, and invited the men inside. “Have a seat,” he said, indicating the table in the kitchen. “Tea?”

“That would be lovely,” Judah said with a smile.

“You haven’t been sleeping?” Tom asked, as the man put the kettle on to boil.

“Not well,” the man said with a weak smile and a nervous glance at the rabbi.

“Judah’s visiting because of Aiden,” Tom said.

“Aiden? But,” the man fell silent. The name of the officer shot had not been released. “Oh, Tom!” the priest said. “How is he?”

Tom smiled and repeated his now customary answer. “Stable.”

“Christ!” Father Welch declared. “Sorry….” Both men laughed, and each shook his head.

“I brought Judah here to talk about the other night, in the cemetery,” Tom said, and the man nodded. But they waited until he had served the tea and joined them at the table. Then Welch narrated the events as he understood them, including his conversation with Aiden, which surprised Tom. They’d never really had the time to discuss that night privately.

“I know this must sound insane, Rabbi Judah,” Father Welch concluded. “I wouldn’t have believed it myself until I saw it.”

Judah took a sip of his tea, as if to postpone the obvious, before saying, “I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t know it was true.” That actually shocked both men. He took a moment before continuing, “My father, of blessed memory, was a great rabbi from Warsaw. He was a young rabbi when the anti-Semites came to power, and unlike most he joined the resistance when war came, fighting the Nazis and offering spiritual guidance to people whose faith was destroyed. To make a long story short, some of the things he saw among the peasants inspired in him an abiding interest in the darker side of the spiritual. As an academic he followed a path not unlike yours I imagine, Tom….” Tom nodded.

“Well, growing up, I saw a lot of things in our home, including some spiritual cleansings. My father’s students came from far and wide to study with him, and I met a lot of people who had seen a lot of things. In the end, I followed in his footsteps, to a degree. I do counsel those whose lives bring them to the darkness, and I’ve assisted in cleansings as a specialist in mental health.”

“So a priest, a rabbi, and a Kabbalist walk into a bar,” Tom said, trying to raise the mood, and both men laughed. “Right now, we’re the cavalry gentlemen, presuming of course that you’re willing, Judah?” The man nodded heavily. “But I’ve called in reinforcements,” he said, earning expectant looks. “I made a call to my good friend Avram ben-Ami, and he’s going to round up some world-class practitioners and get them here.”

Judah smiled and sat back. “Is Avram still as intense as he was when he was a kid?”

Tom smiled, “I only knew him as a sort of big brother, so I wouldn’t know. But pretty intense!”

“He was one of my father’s pupils,” Judah said. “Spent a lot of time around the house, a lot of time hounding me. I was older, more experienced. He was insistent.”

“Are you?” Tom asked.

“No,” Judah said without conviction, “no…. But I couldn’t convince him of that. Or perhaps I did, but he felt like that shouldn’t stand between two people who are so close!”

“I know what you mean,” Tom laughed.

“I thought you might,” Judah answered.

The men chatted, getting to know each other, until Tom felt like he had to get back to the hospital. “Tim, come by the hospital if you have a chance. I’m sure Aiden’s parents would love a visit, and I’d love it if it was by a priest who didn’t think I was an abomination.”

“Of course,” Tim said. “I’ll come by in the morning! Judah, a pleasure!”

“Father,” Judah nodded. “I look forward to being in touch.” The men exchanged cards and parted. In the car, he asked, “Had a bit of a baptism by fire then, did he?”

“A bit,” Tom said.

“An incorporeal entity of that power, Tom,” Judah said with hesitance.

“I know,” Tom sighed.

“Can I see the cemetery?” the rabbi asked.

Tom reached for the door to get out and the man corrected, “Not this cemetery. Our cemetery, where Aiden was shot….”

“Sure,” Tom said, turning his key. “I haven’t been yet. The crew has probably cleaned it up by now to keep the parasites away, but that probably hasn’t diminished any energy lurking there.” When they arrived, crime scene tape still cordoned the area off, and a patrol car sat feet from the gate. Tom pulled up behind the officers and pulled out his identification. Then he got out of the car and walked toward the gates with Judah on his heel.

“Can we help you, sir?” the older officer called, getting out of the patrol car.

Tom turned and held up his card. “Tom Corman. I’m a special adviser on this case, working for Chief Pryce!”

The younger officer took off his hat and said, “Dr. Corman! I’m real sorry. Aiden’s a great guy.” Tom shook his hand, getting only a nod from the older officer, grudging but respectful.

“Thank you, officer. The rabbi and I’d like to view the crime scene,” Tom said.

“Chief said he wanted the place locked down tight,” the older officer replied.

“Would you mind asking him? The rabbi’s driven a long way for this,” Tom insisted.

The older man looked like he would complain, but the younger officer pulled out his radio and asked to be put through to the chief. The dispatcher responded, “It’s Sunday, Officer Collins. Chief Pryce is home with his family.”

“I know, but I’ve got Tom Corman here, and he’d like to inspect the Jewish cemetery,” Collins replied.

“One moment,” the dispatcher answered. They had instructions that anything concerning Aiden’s shooting should be referred to the chief. A few minutes later, Pryce approved the request.

The officers cut the crime scene tape and let the men inside, waiting outside but watching carefully. Tom and Judah walked around, examining the symbols, as well as the threat directed at Tom. “Tom,” Judah began, “I wonder what you’re feeling, because other than disgust, I’m not getting a strong negative impression in the place.”

“I know,” Tom said. “But … there’s something here.” Looking to see if the policemen were still watching, and finding their attention had wondered, Tom held out his hand and said, “Let the secrets of this place be revealed,” in an ancient tongue.

Suddenly the ground beneath their feet trembled, and a small crack opened up. Tom looked at Judah, before kneeling and reaching inside and pulling out a box, ancient, ornately carved and unharmed by the elements. Tom looked confused and handed the box to Judah, who examined it closely. “What is this doing here” Tom asked.

The rabbi helped him to his feet, saying, “Very good question. I’d like to see inside.”

“Me too,” Tom said.

“Me three,” came a woman’s voice, as she stepped from behind a tree, raising her hand at them. Judah clutched the box to his chest to keep her from ripping it away magically as they ducked behind a monument.

“Tom, come out and let’s talk about this,” she yelled.

“Put your hands up,” the young officer, Collins, called from the gate.

Tom yelled at him, “GET DOWN AND CALL FOR BACKUP!” Luckily, Collins did as he was told and barely missed a very dangerous stunning spell. “Who are you?” Tom then called out to the woman.

“Name’s Helen,” she answered. “Now that we’re on a first name basis, why not come on out?”

“I think I’ll wait for the SWAT Team,” Tom replied.

“Give me the book or I’ll kill them all,” Helen snarled.

“Book,” Judah whispered.

“Can you open it?” Tom asked.

“Given time,” the man answered, causing Tom to stand up and raise his hand to face off with the woman and buy him some time.

“Well, Ms. Demopoulis, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that,” Tom said, beginning to circle her slowly.

“Oh, so you know of me then,” the woman’s vicious grin widened.

“Yes, Mary told me all about you,” Tom said without pity for his source. He was satisfied by the surprise and fury on his opponent’s face.

“How?” she growled.

“PAIN!” Tom answered, jumping out of the way even as she struck. “Do you really intend on dying here today, Helen? Over a book you’ll never get?”

The woman raised her hands to the sky and said, “I call upon you darkest spirits, shades of night and noonday demons, arise! Arise and do my bidding!”

A swirling black cloud of energy appeared around her hands, but before she could direct it at Tom, Judah stood and in a deep voice boomed, “Shine a new light on Zion that we all may swiftly merit its radiance.”

Suddenly, light flooded Helen, scattering the dark spirits around her and leaving her defenseless. Tom immediately struck the dazed woman with a stunning blow. “SHE’S DOWN!” he called to the officers outside, who rushed in without waiting on their backup. They’d only seen the woman’s side of the battle, and neither them relished writing that report. Both officers gave Tom and Judah scared looks as they put cuffs on the woman and waited for an ambulance.

Tom looked at Judah as the man surreptitiously slipped the box in his pockets to avoid the unwanted questions of the police until they could see what was inside. Neither of the officers on the scene seemed inclined to begin taking their statements, so Judah and Tom stood off to the side talking.

“When will she be able to move?” Judah asked.

“A day or two. I didn’t pull my punches,” he replied.

“Well, if she’s at the hospital you’ll have easy access to ward her room. Wouldn’t want her using her power there,” Judah said.

“Will do,” Tom replied. “You know, when these people act in force, it’s gonna be trouble. Especially if they are raising an army of demons.”

“So far, the demons seem location bound. The thing to do is find them while that’s still the case and exorcise them one by one,” Judah said. “Less dangerous with a team….”

“Thank you, Judah,” Tom said, nodding.

“Let’s see what Avram has to say about that,” Judah replied with a smile.