Coven

Chapter 12

The Kraemer Library loomed against the backdrop of the mountain range to the west. Its two and a half stories of red brick spread out over half a city block. The entry's wide row of glass doors closed behind them like a space station's airlock sealing them into the hushed, bustling environment of the campus library. The smell of pine and wood-smoke ever present in the air outside was replaced by the precisely regulated and filtered air of the buildings huge compressors.

Sam blinked. Stanford had ingrained in him a Pavlovian-like response to libraries. But today, as the door clicked closed his breath hitched in his throat. The faintest sheen of sweat dampened the palm that clutched the pendants.

Dean's palms began to sweat too. Libraries always gave him the insurmountable urge to scream Pink Floydlyrics at the top of his lungs.

It was the damned noise.

Where was the muzak for God's sake? Even symphonic versions of Michael Jackson's greatest hits would be better than this clamorous silence. He puffed out a breath and crammed his hands into his pockets.

When Abby stepped up to the circulation desk and spoke Dean thought she was talking to herself, or casting a spell. It wasn't until he leaned past her and looked down that he saw a little person seated on a high stool smiling up at him. His oversized facial features were handsome; black, wavy hair and neatly trimmed moustache accentuated eyes bright with intelligence and pleasure.

"Ah, my favorite alumnus!" His voice piped clearly over the quiet babble in the library.

"Hello, Charles." Abby returned his smile.

"And you've brought new students with you?"

"No, no just friends. Charles, is Dr. Quartermaine in her office?"

He typed a short stream into his computer with child-sized fingers. "She should be. She's not scheduled to teach for another hour. Would you like me to call to be sure?"

"No thanks. We'll just wander up that way. Nice to see you again, Charles."

"You too Abigail," he said over his shoulder then turned efficiently back to the next student in line.

"One of the few people not a member of your coven, I take it," Dean asked.

Abby scowled at him. "No, just a nice guy and a very helpful librarian. He's probably wondered about my taste in books though."

"So who is this Dr. Quartermaine?" Dean asked as they passed long rows of computer terminals occupied by students, several pirates, a couple of aliens and a dead president.

"She's a unique person… a fabulous teacher. She worked with my grandparents... and your dad."

Sam's head came up at that. He bumped into Dean whose steps had faltered. Their dad's secret life in Colorado Springs continued to unsettle both of them.

"Dr. Q's run the library's Special Collections for almost fifteen years," Abby said in a whisper. "She's put together an awesome collection of occult texts. Your dad spent time with her whenever he came through town."

Abby led them to a heavy door at the back of the library letting them pass ahead of her into a wide stairwell. They headed up. The walls sponged up every whisper. Even their footsteps were reduced to quiet taps on hard rubberized flooring.

One floor up, they came to a row of wooden doors. Abby knocked at the first one, but didn't wait to be invited in, just pushed the door open. "Dr. Q?"

The woman seated at the large polished wood desk was just turning away from a panorama so brilliant that Dean barely resisted the urge to shade his eyes. Floor to ceiling windows framed the bustling streets and low buildings of Colorado Springs spreading up to the foot of the mountain range. Craggy, deep blue-on-blue peaks towered over the town like a hoard of titans.

Dean pulled his eyes away from the windows. The woman smiling at Abby was strikingly handsome; cappuccino skin, intelligent, eyes. Her short-cropped black hair was sprinkled with grey. Dean guessed her age at somewhere in her late forties.

"Abby! How nice of you to visit. It's been a month or two hasn't it?" Her voice was deep and silky like her blouse with just a hint of a Jamaican rhythm to the words.

"Since before school started up again, that's for sure." Abby flashed an excited smile. "Dr. Q, I'd like you to meet John's sons. This is Dean. And Sam's over there hypnotized by your view."

The warm smile on Dr. Quartermaine's face froze in a moment of surprise, but she reached across her desk to shake the hand Dean offered. "Dean, you have your father's eyes and the chin of course."

Abby's smile brightened. "That's just what I thought."

"Your father is quite proud of you," Dr. Quartermaine went on. "I'm very happy to finally meet you." She gave his hand one more firm squeeze then released it.

Dean felt his cheeks warm. The thought that the first thing out of this woman's mouth was how proud Dad was of him, as if Dean had been a frequent topic of their conversations was disconcerting on many levels. He found he didn't know how to respond. "Uh, good to meet you too."

"And Sam"

The sound of his name startled Sam out of his fixation on the mountain range; he turned to Dr. Q blinking. She extended her hand to him.

"Your father said that you were still away at Stanford the last time I spoke with him; earning your degree in criminal justice I believe. Have you finished then?"

Sam glanced at his brother. The look on Dean's face made him sorry he hadn't been paying more attention to the introductions. "Yeah. Uh, yes. I got my bachelor's degree a few months ago." He shook his head. "I didn't think Dad even knew what I was studying."

"Of course he knew!" Her generous lips pressed into a line and she delicately huffed out an exasperated breath. "How like him, not to let you know. He's a stubborn man; as I'm sure you're both aware. And more than a little obsessed with his work; to the detriment of the most important people in his life I'm afraid."

Something in her voice had Dean wondering if Dr. Quartermaine considered herself one of those people. He glanced over at his brother but Sam was turning back to the view again apparently not picking up the Mata Hari vibe from Dr. Q.

Dr. Q said quietly. "But, you shouldn’t be here. Obviously something has happened to bring you despite your father’s wishes."

"Our father’s missing,” Dean said, irritation rising at the look of surprise and worry on the woman's face. "We got here following leads in his journal. But look, what the hell does it matter how we got here?"

"Dean…" Abby began.

"No, Abby." The professor raised a hand. "Dean's right, of course." She looked at him, her eyes a little sad, but resigned. "You don’t need an excuse to finally be among us." She sighed. "All of you please sit down.” She gestured to the small sofa and leather chair that faced her desk as she again took her seat behind it. “Tell me how I can help you.”

"We need to know everything you can tell us about this place." Dean reached over to Sam's jacket pocket, pulled his drawing out of it and carefully unfolded it on the desk.

Dr. Q put on a pair of wire rimmed glasses. "This looks like the ruins of the morados in Piper's meadow."

"Morados?" Dean's brows drew down. "We thought it was a monastery or chapel, something like that."

"A morados is much the same thing.” Dr. Q leaned back into her leather chair and laced her fingers across her waist. "Three centuries ago…"

Dean let out the tiniest of impatient sighs. Dr. Q paused and raised one brow in his direction. "I'll be as succinct as possible, Dean."

He felt color rise in his cheeks. "I'm listening," he muttered.

"Thank you. Three centuries ago the rule of law stated that when a Spanish landowner died, his native slaves, known as genizaros, would be freed. This highly stratified society did considered the genizaros free, but also they also considered them dead along with their masters. Most of these walking dead joined an unorthodox arm of the holy Catholic Church called Los Hermanos Penitente Brotherhood. Their religious canon centered around the physical suffering of Christ as the path to salvation. Flagellation and other forms of self-inflicted punishments, even crucifixion were regularly practiced."

"But surely by the turn of the century,” Abby said. "There must have been laws against ritual torture even if the victims volunteered."

"Oh yes, the Brotherhood was thrust into the public spotlight. Priests were sent to intervene; to reassert the church's authority over the sect. They succeeded to a large extent. However, there were still those fanatically dedicated to torture as a path to salvation. They simply went into hiding and continued their rites in secret more remote locations."

"Like Piper's Meadow," Dean said grimly.

"Yes. This is where you believe the demon ritual will be held?”

Dean and Abby nodded.

“Silver and copper mines in the mountains would have sustained him with victims through the mid-20th century. Then he moved into town, changed with the times and established the cult. It attracted your grandfather's attention, Abby. That was thirty years ago."

"Thirty years, I had no idea Poppa'd been tracking it for that long.”

"Thirty years and nobody's been able to kill it?" Dean asked.

"He seems to be a creature of few ambitions. He delights in ruining the lives of the members of his cult, but doesn’t attract the attention of the conventional authorities. The real mystery is why he stays in this realm at all. It's very unusual for a demon to remain on the earthly plane for so long."

"In trouble at home maybe?" Dean speculated.

“Perhaps.”

“We know its name,” Abby said. Sam's eyes were locked on the window, but Dean gave her a nod. Abby pulled her little notebook out of the pocket of her purse, opened it and laid it on the desk.

As she read, the older woman's dark brown eyes widened. For the first time since they'd entered her office, she looked shaken. "Where did you get this?"

"Sam?" Abby prompted.

Sam felt a sharp bite of pain in his palm as the pointed end of one of the crystals he was clutching bit into it. He looked away from the windows to find Dr. Quartermaine studying him; waiting for him to speak. "I knew a girl…" He faltered, finding it impossible to pull his thoughts into even one coherent sentence. How to start; where to start; college, meeting Jess, her murder? "Today she…"

"I misspoke, Sam,” Dr. Q said. “Forgive me. My question should have been do you trust the source of this name?"

Sam looked up bristling."Yes, absolutely."

She studied him a few more moments, then stood quickly and headed for the door. "All of you follow me. This is a very useful piece of our demon's puzzle and we have the means to complete the picture."


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