26 Demon Trap

The wizards sat around the living area staring at each other. There were members of two very different covens present now, and the newcomers had no attachment to the boys, no frame of reference. “How can you allow that boy back into this house?” one of the newcomers demanded.

Alasdair glared at him witheringly, but Tom understood. “He’s just a boy,” Tom said patiently.

“He’s betrayed his friends, his family, the whole human race,” the young wizard replied.

“He’s no traitor,” Tom said. “He knew what he was doing, yes, but he was trying to save Sebastien! You can’t fault him for….”

“Perhaps you can’t fault him,” the young man began.

ENOUGH!” Alasdair said, silencing the young man. “What’s done is done! The question is, where do we go from here?”

“We know next to nothing about our enemy,” Avram shook his head. “Malphas is bad enough but we could perhaps handle him over the next couple of years. But he’s now backed by a coven of demons and soon to raise who knows what.”

“We could revisit Tom’s decision,” Dietrich said softly, surprising everyone. “Honestly, how could accepting information from Beelzebub worsen our situation at this point?”

Everyone suddenly looked to Tom, and to his surprise no one was arguing with Dietrich. “I can’t,” Tom said simply. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Tom,” Alasdair said with a sigh, “in case you hadn’t noticed, we’re at the end of Malphas’s game, whatever it is. How can we face something so scary that BEELZEBUB HIMSELF came to offer the good guys help?” Tom looked like he was going to respond, but Alasdair interrupted. “Tom, you know I’d follow you anywhere, as far as I could, but think of Sarah, the baby!”

Tom stormed out of the room to the front door, which slammed behind him. Everyone sat silently for a moment, before Judah looked out the window to see Tom standing in the dusky street talking to a looming shadow man. “God forgive us,” he whispered.

Malphas stepped up to the edge of the volcano, his eyes glowing to match the coursing lava flow. When the moon reached its apex in the night sky, the demon threw a bouquet of herbs and minerals onto the molten rock at his feet, sending up a perfumed cloud of smoke. Then he dropped the ore which caught fire as its impurities burned away. At last, the demon poured fresh blood onto the silvery liquid metal, cooling it dramatically but releasing a coppery smell. Then Malphas reached down and plucked the superheated metal from the lava before it could fully re-melt. He looked with curiosity at the substance in his hand. It didn’t look special in the least. But Malphas had full faith in his master’s art.

Peter burst into the library to find his brother holding a sleeping Sebastien. David was looking at the boy no longer like a little brother, and this made Peter blush deeply.

“What?” David whispered, blushing at being caught examining the boy in his arms.

“It’s just, I … this is kind of surprising,” Peter said with a confused smile. “I was pretty sure you were straight….”

“So was I,” David said. “Maybe the abuse just made me ignore the truth.”

“Maybe,” Peter nodded. “It was hard imagining being with a guy after what happened to me. Or maybe you’re just in love with him as an individual? Are you sure? He’s so fragile!”

David whispered, “I didn’t risk the universe just to hurt him myself.”

“What do you mean risk the universe?” Peter asked.

David looked deeply disturbed. “I figured you’d heard.” David explained, “They kidnapped Sebastien. I traded the book to get him back. They have what they need now….”

“Oh David,” Peter said, his face falling. But he knelt next to his brother and hugged him, before stroking Sebastien’s cheek and saying, “He is cute,” with a wink.

“It’s not that,” David blushed. “Not just that anyway.”

“I know, little bro,” Peter said. “Carry him to bed so he gets a good night’s sleep.”

David scooped the smaller boy up, and Sebastien barely stirred, hugging him loosely and nuzzling his neck sweetly. David smiled as his brother rolled his eyes. When he had deposited Sebastien in his bed, David slipped the boy’s shoes off and helped him out of his pants and shirt, leaving him in his boxers, which clung loosely to his slender body. Then David turned out the lights, stripped down and slipped in next to him. Soon Sebastien rolled over and cuddled him, lulling David to sleep.

Avram searched for Judah, and found him in the back yard, standing near the far corner with Tom talking quietly. He closed the door loudly to announce his arrival.

“Are you alright, Tom?” Avram asked apologetically.

“No,” Tom said. “There are things in the world no one should know! And I already knew plenty of them!”

“Did he tell you anything that could help?” Avram followed up his question.

“He put some powerful magic in my mind, Avram,” Tom said. “Secrets of angels and demons, the most powerful blood rites. I’m not interested in the mass murder of innocents, not even to save the world.”

Avram looked as if he were going to say something he would regret, so Judah intervened, “From what we may gather about the Bearded Demon, he will have no doubt anticipated whatever Beelzebub has offered you and much worse.”

“He doesn’t know you know,” Avram interjected. “You’d have one chance to surprise him.”

“That,” Tom said, “is true. And Malphas is weaker still. He has the book, but he doesn’t know its contents well enough to counter me. But Avram … I just can’t.”

“Tell us about the ritual,” Avram said.

Tom described in detail the most promising ritual Beelzebub had taught him. Both men were white as snow when he finished describing the sacrifices.

“I was going to offer to do it,” Avram said weakly, “but babies?”

Tom nodded and said, “I didn’t make my decision lightly, Avram. Our only choice, as I see it, is to summon Malphas somewhere, trap him, and exorcise him to the pit.”

“Is that all?” Judah laughed.

Avram asked, “Do we even know exorcisms strong enough?” He skipped the bigger question of how they would hold a demon as powerful as Malphas. No reason to bother unless they had something to do with him once he was caught.

“It’s not the exorcism,” Judah said, “it’s the exorcist! My father always said a child of perfect faith could banish Satan with a smile. Hyperbole, but the principle is sound.”

“Good enough for me,” Avram said. He’d been the old man’s closest student after all. “But Tom, how’s your faith these days?”

“He won’t be alone,” Judah said. “It’ll take the lot of us. Where our faiths are weak, the others are our strength.”

Tom nodded. “Now to the difficult part: summoning Malphas.”

Now Avram did interrupt, “And holding him!”

“I hadn’t forgotten,” Tom nodded. “But I have a thought about that….”

“And I have a thought about summoning, or rather luring, Malphas to us,” Avram said. As the men shared their plans, a glimmer of hope surfaced.

Malphas stood before a simple forge. Building the little rock oven was no problem: humans had been doing it for thousands of years. Building the perfect ritual fire required more preparations and had Malphas traveling all over the world for special ingredients. The blood of a virgin monk was the hardest to acquire: such creatures are as rare as a demon might expect. In the end he’d had to settle for a Buddhist boy monk.

As the metal softened, Malphas shaped it with his claws before hammering on it and shaping it into a knife suitable for the sacrifices he would have to make – a sacrifice distasteful even to him. Nothing in his long existence could have prepared him for this. It didn’t create doubt, just a dull sense of outraged surprise.

“It will be worth the cost, my son,” a raspy voice came to him across the night breeze.

“Yes, my master,” Malphas responded, somewhat alarmed by the spirit’s insight into his thoughts. If the other demon lords had such access, they would certainly have stopped him long ago.

“You have no idea of the limits of my power, Malphas,” the voice whispered. “Nothing so terrible beneath heaven!”

“Good,” Malphas said with a dark smile, and kept hammering.

“Surely we can find just one damned demon,” Alasdair said to his young wizards, whose eyes were all red as the first light of dawn appeared in the sky. The world was waking up to perhaps its last beautiful Saturday. “Scrying for fallen angels can’t be that hard!”

“They’re under protection,” Tom said.

Alasdair thought and said, “Look for the cloaking spells, not for what they cloak. It’s a different kind of magic.”

“Brilliant,” Tom said, smiling.

“You don’t have to sound so bloody surprised,” Alasdair smiled, slinging an arm across Tom’s shoulder.

Tom laughed and hugged him close. “There’s nothing like the trenches, is there?”

“One day we’ll look back at this and talk about our badges of honor,” Alasdair nodded reassuringly.

“I still don’t get why we’re just trying to hold back the tide and not striking out at Malphas,” one of the young wizards grumbled.

“I don’t recall asking what you think of our plan,” Alasdair said. “I do recall that your master placed you at my disposal with orders that you should follow my direction without question. Or is my memory fuzzy?”

“No sir,” the young man replied. “Very sorry, sir.”

“Back to work then,” Alasdair nodded benevolently. Then he dragged Tom away by his elbow and asked, “What are we doing, Tom?”

Tom looked around and explained, “We need to capture Malphas to exorcise him. Summoning him would take extraordinary powers and, best I can tell, black magic. However, on the premise that today is important, that it needs to be tonight, he can’t afford to lose a member of his demon coven. If we can find, corner, and pose a real threat to said demon, Malphas will come….”

“So we’d be ready to capture him,” Alasdair nodded. “Brilliant!”

“You don’t have to sound so bloody surprised,” Tom winked at him cheekily. “Call your wife. She’ll be worried!”

Later, Tom was sitting in his office drinking yet another cup of strong tea when he heard loud yelling from downstairs and something break. He ran downstairs with a spell on his lips to find two young wizards holding back one of their friends, bleeding from his nose, while Alasdair had his arms around the waist of a thrashing Peter and Judah had his hand on a very angry looking David’s chest.

“What’s going on here?” Tom asked with a deep sigh.

“Tom,” Judah said, “it’s nothing. The stress of the situation….”

Tom looked at his furious children and the hostile faces of Alasdair’s young wizards and sighed again. “Gentlemen,” he said heavily, “my office, now!”

Alasdair’s wizards began following him immediately and Tom added, “You three as well,” summoning his boys, including the teary-eyed Sebastien.

Leaving them standing, he sat behind his desk like a schoolmaster and demanded, “Explain.” The three young wizards, along with Peter and David, began to speak all at once in a flurry of accusations and protests, until Tom yelled, “Enough!” Then more calmly he looked to Sebastien and said, “Please, Sebastien, tell me the simple story?”

The boy looked at his feet and said, “David and I came downstairs looking for food. We were getting something out of the refrigerator when we heard them,” he said, nodding at the wizards, “whispering about us.”

“What were they saying?” Tom asked, giving an evil eye to one of the wizards who was about to speak out of turn.

“We couldn’t tell at first. I figured they were making fun of us being … you know,” Sebastien said with the cutest blush. “David could tell it bothered me, so he asked them what their problem was. They said David should have let me die.”

Tom sat back and asked softly, “Do you think David should have let you die?”

Even the wizards winced when the boy looked dejectedly at his feet and said, “Yes.” But then he added, “But I’m glad he didn’t.”

“You must understand, Sebastien, that none of this is your fault,” Tom said, leaning forward. “Nor,” he began again with a long look at the young wizards, “is it yours, David. Malphas is a demon old as time, whose cunning knows no bounds. All of us have a weak spot: he just chose you. Now, tell me the rest of this story.”

Sebastien looked at his shoes and said, “David told them he couldn’t let Pryce hurt me like he had hurt David.” Sebastien took a long pause and said, “And the one with the bloody nose said, ‘I thought you were fags.’”

Tom’s glare was dark. “By which you meant?” he asked the wizard.

The young wizard sputtered and said, “It was stupid and I was angry!”

I KNOW IT WAS STUPID,” Tom growled. “But what did you mean by it?”

“I meant,” the young man said with shame, “that because they were gay, they would have enjoyed it…. But I didn’t mean it!”

“For fuck’s sake, man, we’re wizards. Words have real power! So why is it so hard for you to remember they have psychological power too?” Tom asked, the teacher taking over where the fury left off. “How could you say such a thing to children?”

“I’m sorry, sir. There is no excuse,” the young wizard answered him, dejectedly.

“What’s your name, son?” Tom asked more gently now.

“Dylan, sir,” the young man said, “Dylan Pettyfer.”

“Dylan, I understand that these are trying times, and you may not understand the decisions that I’m making. Unfortunately they are mine to make. Please don’t take it out on my boys,” Tom said, and the young man nodded sadly. “I think David’s punch is all the lesson you’ll need,” he added with a sly smile.

“David didn’t hit him,” Sebastien said, and Tom looked surprised. “That was Peter!”

One of Dylan’s friends smirked, as if to say, ‘And you got yours too.’

“I see,” Tom said, resting his chin in his hands to obscure the smile spreading across his face. It wouldn’t be nice to laugh at Dylan now. “Gentlemen, back to work,” Tom said, dismissing the young wizards.

“Boys,” Tom said when they were alone, “I’m sorry, for everything. I wanted to shield you from what’s coming, and I certainly didn’t want you to have this kind of experience.” Taking a moment, he added, “Now, what to do?”

“What do you mean?” Peter asked.

“I have to figure out what to do with you boys. You’re a real distraction,” he said, and seeing their faces he laughed. “Protecting you, worrying about you, distracts me from my main cause, which is disrupting Malphas’s plan.”

“Can they track us?” Peter asked.

“Perhaps they could, but there are wards that could protect you from tracking spells,” Tom said. “Why?”

“Well, we could just leave. Drive and drive. You can call us when it’s all over, but we could hide until then,” Peter said. “We could take Billy’s car.”

Tom looked at Sebastien and said, “Your parents might have some questions….”

“I’m not going without him,” David warned.

“I know,” Tom sighed.

“What if,” Sebastien began hesitantly, “I was in police protection, because of the cult problem with David and Peter’s family?”

“It won’t hold up under scrutiny but I’m guessing the police are in chaos with the disappearance of their chief and his number two guy,” Tom said. “I’ll have Aiden call them. In the meantime, I’ll prepare cloaking spells and amulets for each of you!”

David looked like he wanted to refuse to go, but then he just ran to Tom and threw his large form into the man’s arms. “Tom,” he sobbed, and Peter looked away. Sebastien let David have his moment with the man who was his father in every way that mattered.

“You be strong,” Tom whispered, “no matter what. Understand?”

NO!” David cried, tears falling on Tom’s neck as he shook his head, demanding that this was not happening.

“You look after Sebastien,” Tom whispered. “The world could become a much scarier place soon. He won’t have anyone else.”

David hugged him tightly, almost painfully, and nodded. Tom kissed the side of his head and held him at arm’s length. Then Tom smiled sadly at Peter and joked, “And I’m glad to know you have a nice right hook, Peter.” Peter laughed and blushed. “Go tell Billy, and you all get packed now!” Almost against their will, the boys left a dazed Tom alone in his office.

Lincoln Pryce drove a car stolen from police impound out to a farm on the outskirts of town. Pryce and Fuller had secured the place months before, killing the owners but making sure the bills got paid, in anticipation of this very occasion, the darkest of dark masses.

Pryce parked the nondescript car in the barn and covered it with a tarp, taking no chances. “You’re early,” Malphas said from the shadows. “You shouldn’t have come yet.”

“I didn’t want to risk picking up a tail,” Pryce said, and Malphas nodded.

“Very well,” the demon said. “It is best not to draw attention.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Pryce said, bowing his head subtly.

Malphas turned, his robe rustling sinisterly on the ground like a snake in brittle leaves. “Come, there is yet work to do,” Malphas said. Pryce followed the demon toward the flat, open field which was the main reason they had chosen this farm. All the stars needed to orient the ritual were visible from the pasture. And no one would hear anything.

“We’ve got something,” Dylan announced to Alasdair, who was in tense conversation with Avram. More precisely, they were yelling at each other in strained whispers. “Sir,” Dylan said more loudly now.

WHAT?” Alasdair snapped at the young wizard, making him wince.

“I’m sorry, but we located one,” Dylan said softly, gun-shy after Tom’s rebuke.

“Oh,” Alasdair said. “Where?” He glared at Avram again for good measure, and Avram shrugged nonchalantly to infuriate Alasdair.

“A park near First Presbyterian Church,” Dylan said. “Dryden Woods.”

“I’ll get Tom,” Avram said, hurrying off.

“Have you been able to determine what it is we’re talking about?” Alasdair asked Dylan.

“How would we even go about that?” Dylan asked.

Alasdair smiled and patted Dylan’s shoulder. “Now I can teach you something!”

Avram found Tom staring down the driveway. “Tom, Alasdair’s wizards think they have found a demon….”

“Hmmm?” Tom asked, as if he hadn’t heard a word. Tom’s face was sad, and his eyes were full of tears.

“They’ve found one,” Avram said, putting a hand on his arm. “What’s wrong Tom?”

“I sent them away,” Tom whispered softly, rubbing his eyes.

“Sent who away?” Avram asked, confused.

“The boys,” Tom said. “Billy and Peter, David and Sebastien: I sent them away.”

“Where are they going?” Avram asked, surprised.

“I have no idea,” Tom said. “I gave them cash and a car, and told them to drive.”

“Oh, Tom,” Avram said. After a few moments of silence, he added, “You did the right thing. It might give them a few extra days.”

“I know,” Tom whispered. “But I already miss them. I can’t bear the thought of what they’ll face if we don’t succeed today.”

“Good,” Avram said. “You’ll work harder not to fail. Let’s go inside and get to work, Tom.” Tom nodded and followed Avram.

“What do you have?” Tom asked Alasdair.

“Nothing special,” Alasdair said. “Just another demon, best I can tell.”

“This still doesn’t make any sense. Why’s Malphas using his human minions to raise a cadre of common demons,” Tom said. “I just am not getting it!”

Alasdair nodded. “It does seem like something else has to be going on….”

“No time to worry about that now,” Avram interjected. “We need to get the trap set.”

“Alright,” Tom said. “Let’s make sure everyone understands their jobs.” After everyone was briefed on their roles, they set out in various cars for their posts, a few stopping for some simple ingredients along the way.

Billy took an exit and pulled into a gas station. Peter was squeezing Billy’s hand almost painfully, and in the backseat David was crying again, though now his head lay in Sebastien’s lap. Sebastien fingered David’s fine blond hair, occasionally whispering to him.

“Where are we going?” Billy asked.

“Just drive,” Peter said. “Don’t even think about it. Just drive.”

“Alright,” Billy said nervously. “I need gas….”

“Okay,” Peter said. “I’ll run get some drinks and food, then we can get back on the road.” Billy pulled up to the pump closest to the station, and Peter ran inside.

“David,” Sebastien said when they were alone, “we’re gonna be in the car for a long time. We should go to the bathroom.” David nodded in his lap, but made little effort to move. “Come on,” the small teen said, squeezing David’s shoulder and opening his door.

David followed dutifully, and, as they entered the store, Peter told them to hurry. There was no wait, and the boys hurried back to the car. Peter passed them drinks and snacks as Billy pulled onto a local highway. “I’m gonna take local roads for a while,” Billy said.

 “Sounds good, baby,” Peter said. “Just let me know when you need me to take over.”

Tom and Alasdair walked into the park together from the south, as Avram and Judah entered from the north. All four could sense some vast evil residing in the public space. Keeping in touch via cell phone, they gradually converged on the center of the dark energy, the edge of the woods near a large play structure.

When they converged, they all looked to Tom, who made a quick call to Tim. The priest notified the others that the demon had been located. Tom then raised a hand full of light toward the shadowy tree line. “I exorcise you in the name of the Most High God!” he began, the light growing ever brighter. Suddenly a wind kicked up and clouds gathered above them. As the darkness deepened an obscure figure became more visible – a tall, dark form wearing black robes and a hood, pale yellow eyes illuminating a skeletal face.

“Tom Corman,” the being stepped forward, pained but not deterred by the light.

“My reputation precedes me,” Tom said with a serious, unsmiling face.

“Of course,” the demon smiled. “You’ve been dispatching demons left and right the last few days. Never mind that Hell has a longstanding interest in your career!”

Ignoring the information the demon was dangling in front of him, Tom asked, “And what’s your name? I always like to know who I’m talking to….”

“Does that ever work, exorcist?” the demon laughed menacingly.

“It’s always worth a try,” Tom shrugged. “You never know when you’re going to meet a truly stupid demon.”

“You can’t taunt me,” the demon replied. “I know you know better.”

Tom smiled grimly and nodded, then he began to recite the 91st Psalm: “O thou that dwell in the shelter of the Most High, and abide in the shadow of the Almighty; I will say of the LORD, who is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust….”

The demon winced and snarled but soldiered forward, stepping closer to Tom, the fire in his hellish eyes raging. “I trust in only one god,” the demon growled.

“Satan isn’t coming to your rescue today, demon,” Tom smiled.

Before Tom could continue, the demon responded, “Satan is weak! The One Who Is Coming is a dark Elyon!”

“Where is Malphas?” Tom asked, trying to hide his inner panic.

“Safe. Waiting,” the demon smiled.

“But he needs you,” Tom countered. Suddenly the demon looked less sure of himself, and Tom knew his bait would work. Judah was ready to send a message to the waiting wizards. They might yet pull it off.