23 The Enemy of My Enemy

Peter and Billy dressed for the evening’s event on campus. Since Tom would be accompanying them, there was little danger.

“Do you have any idea what she has planned?” Tom asked Peter, somewhat grumpily, as he joined them in the living room in a nice sport coat and tie.

“Maggie wouldn’t say,” Peter said, worried but smiling. “Ready for the star treatment?”

“Oh God!” Tom exclaimed.

“It’s a small group,” Peter encouraged, “but they’re very interested.”

“It’s normally a small group,” Billy corrected. “After the article Maggie wrote, there … might be more than usual. Curiosity….”

“Thanks for that,” Tom smirked, rolling his eyes.

“Don’t dawdle,” Judah scowled as he fluttered about like a hen. “You shouldn’t be….”

I’LL BE FINE, JUDAH!” Tom said again. The man meant well, Tom knew, but enough was enough. “We can’t live in an eternal state of siege!”

“I know,” Judah sighed. “But you should let some of us come with you.”

“I need you here protecting David and the others. They aren’t powerful enough to hold them off,” Tom said.

“Call at the first sign of trouble?” Judah asked, persistent.

“Of course,” Tom said. “But there will be no trouble. Malphas is still holding out hope I’ll ultimately let him be.”

“Not much hope after today, I imagine,” Judah said darkly.

Malphas stood alone in a wooded clearing. The place was secluded, and warded with demonic magic. Nothing living would wander anywhere near this site. From feet away, it could not be seen, and whoever – man, angel or demon – stumbled that close would feel an overpowering sense of inexplicable aversion.

The stench of rotting flesh and old blood was overwhelming. To Malphas, the smell rivaled the finest perfumes. It represented the aftermath of his sacrifices. Even a demon as powerful as he still lacked the native power to access some places in the universe.

Pieces of corpses littered the ground, cut with devices unimaginable to a merely human intellect. And in front of Malphas stood a quartz crystal bowl, clear and unoccluded, on a stand. Blood and gore filled it, and the ancient demon stared long into its horror, before touching the surface with his finger.

“Master,” he whispered. A wind whipped up around him, a vortex of air that made him feel small and insignificant. The demon he sought could manage this from the deepest prison ever constructed. If hell was a halfway house, Malphas’s master was in Alcatraz.

“Malphas,” came a voice from the whirlwind. “Soon?”

“Soon, my master,” Malphas replied, looking at the ground as fear swelled up in him, a fear that rivaled what he felt when he had awakened after the fall of the angels. That was the last time he had seen this vile serpent. Malphas was part of the second group to awaken, and he was first among them. Satan was very first, followed by the one Malphas now sought: by the time Malphas had awakened, Beelzebub, Moloch, Lilith, and a few others had already acted, had already torn mankind from its pedestal and introduced evil into its heart.

Malphas had watched from the ground as Satan and Beelzebub struggled to restrain the lone figure – struggled and failed. Only with the help of Belial and Azag-thoth were they able to drive him to the ground as the others conjured his prison. In a moment of inattention on their part, however, the creature had broken away from the four of them and grabbed hold of Satan himself. Malphas had watched in fascination as flesh of the Lord of the Fallen darkened and sizzled beneath the hands of the escapee. None could touch him, none could drag him off, and they dared not strike out at him with magic, for fear of doing further damage to Satan.

And then nothing. Malphas could recall the world going painfully white, blindingly light, and when he could see again, the creature was gone and Satan lay motionless upon the earth. In the devil’s hand was a book. For eons, Satan recuperated outside of space and time, collecting energy from the corruption of the universe as his loyal Beelzebub oversaw the infernal realm.

“Are you sure you want this?” the voice whispered. “Nothing will be as you expect!”

“Things have to change,” Malphas declared. “We’ve been at this since the beginning and never make any ground!”

“We did once,” the voice danced gaily.

“You did, once,” Malphas corrected.

“Have you found the book?” the voice asked.

“Yes, my Lord!” Malphas said.

“Goooood,” the voice replied with what sounded like a laugh.

“There is a problem,” Malphas added with hesitation. “Corman has it….”

“Make them give it to you,” the voice said without concern.

“Corman won’t break,” Malphas said with certainty.

“They all break, every last one! That is the secret!” the voice howled. Then it calmly added. “Nevertheless, if this is beyond your imagination, make one of his bring it to you!”

Malphas smiled and nodded. “Thank you, my Lord!”

“I’ll see you soon,” the voice added with a sneering laugh, and the whirlwind receded. But before Malphas left his circle, he felt a distant rumbling. Hell had felt his contact, and was protesting impotently. Malphas laughed and projected his thoughts into the pit: ‘SOON!’

“I want to go to Catherine’s,” David whined.

ABSOLUTELY NOT!” Avram declared paternalistically.

“I never get to see her anymore!” he moaned.

“This is why I never want children,” Cho declared with a smile. “Not that the men are lining up to impregnate me!”

“Just because you don’t notice them doesn’t mean they aren’t lining up,” Avram shot back with a wink. “Now, no more of this!” he added, turning back to David.

BUT,” David began.

BOTH OF YOU HUSH!” Judah yelled, entering the living room. “I’m trying to work!”

“I just,” David started up again.

“I know what you want,” Judah sighed. “You’re a teenage boy!” Then he looked at Avram and said, “Why didn’t you invite the children over? Give Elise and Shirit a break!” Avram shrugged and nodded, though he was embarrassed not to have thought of it.

“Children are not so different from us,” Judah said when the boy was gone. “They want to be happy.”

“Well it’s been a long time since I had to deal with hormonal teens,” Avram replied grumpily.

“Your sister was FAR worse than David!” Judah laughed.

But I was younger,” Avram smiled. “I remembered where she was coming from!”

“And you shared a great loss,” Judah said sadly, referring to the event that orphaned the siblings in their teens. Avram, 19, had taken full responsibility for his little sister, keeping her out of the system at great cost to himself.

“They’re both coming,” David said bounding back into the room.

“The resilience of youth!” Judah said with a smile. “Now can I get back to work?”

“Thank you!” David said, hugging the man. Avram, meanwhile, informed his sister of the plan.

Maggie was waiting for Tom and the boys outside the building where the mixer was being held. “I’m so glad you came,” she said, taking Tom’s hand with a big grin.

What have you done, Maggie?” Tom asked heavily, not really sure he wanted to know.

“Well,” she smiled sweetly, “everyone loves a hero!” Tom frowned and she hurried, “Plus people want to meet the new faculty advisor of the GSA….”

“But mostly they want to meet the guy who caught the killers and saved the teenage boys,” Billy mused, rolling his eyes.

“Well, there is that!” Maggie smiled brightly. “You are a celebrity!”

“I wasn’t, Maggie! Thanks for that, it’s just what I need right now,” Tom mumbled.

“What?” she asked confused.

“Nothing,” Tom replied slightly less grumpily. “Let’s get this show on the road then!”

Maggie led the little group inside. As she opened the door they were all in for a surprise – there seemed to be nearly a hundred people waiting. On Tom’s appearance there was a general applause.

“Maggie,” he whispered challengingly.

“Sorry, sir,” she whispered without an ounce of sincerity. Tom just snorted and shook his head as she led him toward a small podium emblazoned with the university logo.

“Thank you all for coming to this Gay-Straight Alliance mixer. This is by far our biggest turnout,” Maggie said with a smile at Tom, who tried not to glower. “Many of you, I am sure, read my recent article about Professor Corman, who kindly agreed to speak with us!”

Tom took the podium with one last glare at the young woman. “Agreed to speak with you is a bit of an exaggeration. I was invited to come down and make an appearance, so I’m afraid I don’t have any comments prepared.”

A young man stood and asked, “Is what she wrote about you true, professor?”

“Maggie’s article is factually accurate,” Tom allowed carefully, “though I do not agree at all with her interpretations.”

“I’m entitled to my opinion,” Maggie called from the crowd.

“Why don’t you consider yourself a hero?” the boy followed up.

“First,” Tom said with a heavy sigh, “I am a coward. I was a shut-in by the time I came across the young man on the street. Second, I was driven by an immediate reaction, and that reaction was fueled by a personal tragedy.”

Seeing the expectant faces, Tom sighed again and gave the crowd a moment to settle in before continuing, “A few of you may know that, when I came here as a 24-year-old professor, I fell madly in love with a young man. Jamie Moore, Walt Moore’s son, changed my life. I went from being a reclusive, introverted, scared young man to a confident, and somewhat social, person. It was a charmed life. But then the most terrible thing happened….” Tom coughed and wiped his eyes.

Then he continued, “I lost my mother as a child, and my father and grandparents in college, but losing Jamie was … incomparable. I wished I had died. Why couldn’t it have been me? Why couldn’t I have gone with him? These things haunted me as I recovered. And I recovered more slowly than I should have, because a large part of me had no desire to recover. It’s with great shame that I say it now, but I REALLY wanted to die then. Nothing would have been more welcome to me at the time, but – and I want to be very clear about this – I was wrong! Nothing is ever lost forever: my memories of Jamie will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Sniffles filled the room, as people busied themselves wiping their eyes. “I closed myself off, and yet, that day, I felt drawn to the street. As I walked I saw what could have been a child leaning on a tree. But it was so cold outside; he shouldn’t have been lying there like that! Then I saw the blood, and it all came flooding back to me, the attack on Jamie and me and what I’d lost. I stayed with him while we waited for help to come, and I couldn’t stop praying. Watching another young man die, I couldn’t have borne it,” Tom paused. “Thank God, he recovered, and when I spoke with him, I couldn’t help but feel I found him for a reason. He was sent to me! I vowed I’d do whatever I could to give him the life he deserved. Little did I realize that this set me on a course that would involve bringing a slew of teenagers, and nosey college students, into my otherwise quiet and secretive existence. And it also brought a new love into my life! And the rest of the facts you know.”

A young woman raised her hand and asked, “So … you’re dating the cop who helped you break the serial case?”

“Yes, and he was recently nearly killed in a shooting,” Tom said, shaking his head. “It really is a lot for one man to bear,” he added with a weak laugh.

There were a lot of other questions related to specifics of the cases, most of which he couldn’t answer in the interests of justice. Eventually Peter joined Tom to talk some about his experiences and what life had been like since he and his brother had lived with Tom.

Then Maggie returned and said, “Thank you all for coming out. There are plenty of refreshments in the back, and I hope Professor Corman and Peter will stay and chat more informally. We should all offer Professor Corman our deep thanks for agreeing to accept the job of advisor for the GSA!” Everyone applauded and stood to get food or drink, though Tom noticed no one seemed to be leaving, dashing his hopes for a quick escape. He was going to grab a cola when he saw two young men still seated, speaking with each other in earnest. One kept gesturing in Tom’s direction, while the other shook his head.

Tom approached them unseen and cleared his throat. “Good evening, gentlemen. I think you know me!”

The young athletes looked at him with deep blushes on their cheeks. “Professor Corman, I’m Vincent diMarco,” the taller of the two, who had been gesturing at Tom, said softly. His dark skin and darker hair, as well as his facial features, made it fairly obvious that the boy was the son of Italian parents.

“diMarco,” Tom mused. Then he recognized the other boy. “And you’re Dustin Travers?”

“How did you know?” the shorter, ruddy-cheeked boy, with crystal blue eyes and hair as black as night, asked. “Do people know about us?”

“Know what, dear boy? I recognized you from the newspaper. I follow sports. I was manager for the college football team in my day. We’re not all total queens you know?” Tom teased, assuming the boys were fulfilling an awareness requirement for a frat or their team.

“We know, sir,” Vincent said quietly, averting his eyes.

VINCE!” Dustin said sharply, under his breath.

“I see,” Tom said, driving his hands deep into his pockets. “So how long have you boys been together?”

Dustin glared at Vincent, who blushed deeper and shrugged. In the end Dustin answered. “Three years,” he revealed in a hushed whisper.

Tom nodded and gave a careful look at Vincent, who had first seemed the more stable of the two. But clearly something was weighing on him, and Dustin was his rock. Sullen, but strong. “Come by my office some time to talk. We shouldn’t be seen talking too long. Have a good night!”

Tom turned and walked away, but he heard Vincent call, “Thank you!” Tom smiled over his shoulder and nodded.

“What was that all about?” Maggie asked him first thing.

Tom didn’t even blink as he lied, “They asked me to certify their attendance for frat-boy sensitivity or something.”

“Figures,” she said, urging him into the fray, where Peter and Billy were laughing and talking with people.

Sebastien and Catherine walked inside, as David locked the door. Catherine wrapped her arms around the young hunk, while Sebastien asked, “Where’s Tom?”

“Down, horn dog,” Catherine teased her brother.

The boy blushed and said, “It isn’t like that! Well, he is pretty hot….”

David laughed and ruffled the boy’s hair. “Tom’s out, but they’ll be home soon!”

Then Sebastien looked around and asked quietly, “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?”

“Friends of Tom’s,” David said cryptically. Then, pulling Sebastien aside, David whispered, “I’m sorry, but would you mind giving me and your sister time alone?”

Sebastien gave him a momentarily cross look, but nodded. “Is Peter here, at least?”

“Sorry, buddy, but he’s with Tom,” David replied, cringing a little. “If they’re not home soon, you and me’ll play some video games, I promise!”

“Alright,” Sebastien said, grudgingly. “I’ll be in the library….”

As the boy trudged upstairs, David watched with a sense of regret, but Catherine’s hands around his waist soon rubbed that feeling away. Avram, too, watched the boy go, and Judah watched to see what he’d do. He waited a minute and walked up to the library.

“It is disappointing to have to share your friend with his significant other, no?” Avram asked from the door as the small boy plopped himself down in a chair with a big book.

“Whatever,” Sebastien said, forgetting his manners.

“Save that for your sister,” Avram said, leaning against the doorpost.

“Sorry,” the boy said with a shrug and a sad look.

“My name is Avram,” the man responded.

“My name is Sebastien,” the boy said in French.

“You speak French?” Avram responded in his native tongue. From this point on, they’d converse in that language unless Sebastien needed clarification.

“A bit,” the boy said too modestly. “I’ve studied it for five years, but … I don’t practice much.”

“Why not?” Avram asked. “You’re very good.”

“I’m shy,” the boy answered, looking away.

“You should come to France,” Avram teased, “I’m quite sure some young Frenchwoman would be glad to teach you a thing or two!”

Sebastien blushed and sputtered. “I … uhm … well, no I don’t think … I’m, you see….”

“Say it!” Avram said with a pleasant smile. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of, certainly not in this house, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

“I’m gay,” Sebastien replied simply.

“Very good! Now as I was saying, I’m sure some young Frenchman would be glad to teach you a thing or two!” Avram said, clapping his hands together.

Sebastien laughed and asked, “Are … you?”

“Don’t be so bashful about it! As I said, NOTHING to be ashamed of!” Avram corrected.

“Are you gay?” Sebastien asked.

“Yes,” the man said, crossing the room to sit across from the boy. “I used to say bisexual, but I meet fewer and fewer women who attract me at all!”

Sebastien nodded and said, “I never met a girl I liked!”

“Then that’s part of who you are, no way around it,” Avram said. “See, it isn’t so bad to talk about, is it?”

“It’s … weird to talk to anyone but Tom about it,” the boy blushed. “My parents are trying, but,” he paused and laughed, “they are out of their depth!”

“I suppose so,” Avram laughed. “Why Tom?”

“I don’t know,” the boy blushed. “He’s like me…. And he’s hot.”

Avram laughed heartily and said, “I suppose he is. And Aiden isn’t half bad either.”

“And Peter and David and … who’s the Asian guy?” Sebastien asked, grinning impishly.

“Cho is nice, and clueless as they come!” Avram laughed. “But not my type….”

“Oh?” Sebastien asked, leaning in.

“I prefer a distinguished older gentleman,” Avram said, perceiving Judah was nearby listening. “Even when they’re nosey old birds!”

Judah stepped in and laughed. “Caught! Well, I’ll leave you gentlemen to it after I retrieve the books I require!”

“Stay,” Sebastien said. “I’m just reading….”

“Would you like to play a game of chess with me?” Avram asked.

“SURE!” the boy said, running to grab Tom’s board from the shelf. Sebastien set the board in front of the man, and the two of them played a few games, as Judah worked at Tom’s desk and the whole house waited somewhat nervously for Tom’s return.

After a long evening, Tom, Peter and Billy were wiped out. “Maggie, guys, we have got to get out of here,” he said to the small remaining crowd.

“We’re going out for drinks,” Maggie said to Peter and Billy, suggesting that they were welcome to join if they like.

Peter shook his head and grabbed Billy’s arm. “I’m really tired!”

“Alright,” she smiled. “Thanks for everything professor. Thanks guys!”

Thus dismissed, they exited as fast as they could. As they stepped out into the cool night air, however, Tom stopped abruptly. “What is it?” Peter asked.

“Nothing,” Tom whispered in a way that told Peter something.

The car was parked some distance away, and Tom led them at a brisk pace. Using his remote, Tom unlocked the car and the boys hopped in. Then Tom noticed exactly what bothered him. The world was absolutely silent.

Tom turned the ignition key and practically burned rubber driving off in haste. “What’s wrong?” Peter whispered.

“Something’s coming,” Tom said. “When we get to the house … run inside!”

“Tom?” Billy asked.

“No questions,” Tom said sharply. “When we stop, RUN and don’t look back, don’t wait for me!” Then he called Judah. “Judah, it’s Tom. Something’s here. When we get there, the boys are running for the house…. No, Judah! Keep everyone inside and defend the children and Aiden’s parents!” Judah could be heard protesting and Tom said, “DON’T COME OUT!” Then he slammed the phone.

When they were three blocks from the house, however, the car’s electrical system began to flutter, then the car began to die. Soon they were simply coasting. “RUN FAST!” Tom warned. When the car came to a rest nearly two blocks from the house, he yelled, “GO!”

TOM!” Peter cried.

NOW!” Tom yelled, and Billy grabbed Peter and dragged him from the car.

As the boys ran they heard Tom step from the car and begin to yell, “I invoke thee, choirs and dominions of the high heavens, protect us. Stand before our foes and bow them down! LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, expel my enemies!”

All Peter and Billy could see was a bright blue-white light shine from behind them as they ran up the street. Soon they were beating on the door and Judah dragged them inside into his arms, hugging them tight.

“What is it?” he asked Peter.

“Bad,” Peter said.

“What the HELL was that?” Billy demanded.

“That, my boy, is fairly close to the truth, I’m afraid,” Judah said. “Everyone into the basement!” Their captive would require some explaining, but it was the most secure place.

Meanwhile, outside, Tom stood at ready, slowly backing up toward his house.

“Good evening, Professor Corman,” a man with a smooth voice and a slight British accent said, stepping into the light. “Impressive show of force.” The figure was wearing an exquisite suit, and his grey hair shined in the light. For a man his age, he was well-built, and he would have been sexy in any light. But his eyes were as dark as deepest night.

Tom raised his hand and said, “I cast you down, fell spirit!”

“Enough of that, young man,” the figure said, slipping forward gracefully. “As humorous as it is, and as much as it would amuse me to toy with you now, we do not have the time!” Tom’s eyes narrowed and the figured smiled and nodded. “Excellent. In any case, I am not really here. This form is merely a projection onto your earthly plane, so there is nothing to banish. And I pose no danger to you.”

“No physical danger perhaps,” Corman replied, suspicious. “What do you want, demon?”

The figure smiled again, and a distant humming filled the night. “You and I have a mutual acquaintance whom we both have an interest in foiling….”

“Why would you want to stop Malphas?” Tom asked suspiciously.

“The thing he seeks is ill advised. The abomination he seeks to awaken is,” the figure began, but Tom cut him off.

“Awaken?” Tom asked.

“He has not been awakened since time immemorial,” the demon said, his eyes bearing the faraway look of one remembering the distant past. “It was a mistake then, and it would be disastrous now, not only for your world but for mine as well.” As he spoke, the distant hum gained power and intensity. The air was vibrating.

“So what do you want?” Tom asked.

“Help us stop him, of course,” the demon grinned as the first few flies landed on his face. He flicked them away with an almost graceful motion.

“I suppose you are going to suggest I summon you to help?” Tom snorted dismissively.

“No, mortal, I wouldn’t dream of it! You lack the skill or the power to summon me. It took Malphas’s coven of bumblers a decade to call him out of the pit! Now, if you wanted to summon a few of my lower henchmen, that would be divine!”

“No deal,” Tom said. “Fuck off!”

“Professor, such language! You understand, I must ask! It’s pro forma,” the demon said with a smile. “Now, let’s get down to business! Like it or not, you’re on our side. We can help you.”

“How?” Tom asked. “And at what cost?” The demon smiled, and Tom demanded, “WHO ARE YOU?”

The demon laughed and again flicked away a few flies. “Just listen!”

The distant hum drew nearer and Tom recognized the buzzing swarm. “YOU?” Tom asked, eyes wide.

“Me,” the demon smiled and nodded with pleasure. “My Lord sends his regards, but he will not express himself on this plane of existence … yet.” Tom took one step back, though he knew the demon wasn’t really there. “Now, will you accept my assistance?”

“Give me information,” Tom said. “Who is Malphas trying to awaken?”

“That, Professor Corman, is a very dangerous piece of knowledge,” Beelzebub said. “You know by now he is after the book you call the Azazel Codex?”

“I am aware of it, and of the location of the codex,” Tom said. “Can it be destroyed?”

“Moloch tried for centuries,” Beelzebub revealed. “No, the wisdom of its author has made it impervious to all our powers!”

“If you can’t tell me who he is, tell me what he is,” Tom demanded.

Beelzebub smiled. “People have correctly identified him in one aspect, but have divided off another aspect and ascribed it to another figure. We have misled you, so that no one got too close to the truth. He is the so-called ‘bearded demon’ whose name is hidden from sorcerers. He is a source of great wisdom, and thus power. But it is a perverse and chaotic wisdom.”

“What else? Who is he … in terms of his station I mean? What is his rank?” Tom asked.

“He is beyond rank,” Beelzebub said simply. “He is a singular being, unlike any creature. What the bearded demon is – and I would that you never have to learn his name, because if you do it means the end for us all – can only be understood by an analogy. According to the Christian story, God is a Trinity. The Son is the Incarnation of the Logos,” Beelzebub explained calmly.

“I don’t need a theology lesson from the devil,” Tom said.

“But I do so enjoy giving them, Tom. I spent twenty years teaching theology in Tubingen once,” the demon laughed. “The logos, the word, the idea, the plan … the Divine Order, Tom. The bearded demon isn’t going to incarnate … that isn’t the problem. We aren’t speaking of an ‘anti-Christ’ here. The reality is more horrible. We are speaking of an anti-Logos, a dark logic … the logic of chaos, Tom. Our Lord Satan contained his mind in the book, even as we imprisoned his essence.”

“But chaos is what you’re all about,” Tom countered.

Beelzebub shook his head. “Not the kind of contagious chaos that will swallow the whole world. There are many things we hope to accomplish still,” he added with a smile.

“What do the words, ‘Et puer parvulus minabit eos,’ mean to you?” Tom demanded.

“Clever,” the Lord of the Flies declared, clapping his hands with pleasure. “The messianic prophecy of Isaiah too has its perversions. Now let me help you!”