Gina sat by the window inside a diner across the street from the antique shop. Frequently, she peeked through the blinds, waiting over an hour for the Albuquerque police to finish their investigation. She had to talk to Wally. But, will he talk to her? Regardless, she refused to go home without any answers. Her jeep was safely parked behind the diner to avoid being recognized.
She was tired. Sore. Sweaty. Heaviest breathing she’s done in years. But she felt good. Vindicated. Accomplished. Veronica would’ve been screaming like a cheerleader if she watched her friend in action earlier. Although the crooks got away, this case was far from over.
On top of the table stood a cup of coffee and a slice of freshly baked apple pie. She sipped the hot beverage nice and slow to soothe her throat, providing the little pick-me-up she needed. But the pie remained untouched. Chunks
of apple filling oozed from its sides. Whipped cream on top. The old Gina
would’ve devoured it in seconds. Looking at it now made her stomach turn.
She looked out the window again. Seems like the cops were done with Wally for today as the three of them chatted in front of the store. Better to talk to him off the record to avoid circumstances that may endanger his business. However, she will report her discoveries to the police if she finds they’re too
much to handle. She had a town to think about and didn’t want to spread herself too thin.
What was the story with the knife? She took a glimpse of its handle sticking
out from her inside jacket pocket. How can something so beautifully crafted personify an essence of evil? Wally never showed it off before. Why now? Was business that bad for him? Or was he involved in another business she had no prior knowledge to?
Wally fiddled with his tie and wiped the sweat from his forehead as he stood by the door and watched the police take statements from nearby pedestrians. He was then told to lock up for the day and they’ll be back tomorrow to do another sweep. The anxious look on his face showed he couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Dodge. She had to move now.
As the squad cars drove away, Gina gulped down the last of her coffee and placed the check and a ten-dollar bill underneath the pie dish. She trotted across the street just as Wally started pulling down the store gates. “Wally?” she called out. His worry turned to joy. “Gina?!” he answered. “Is that you?”
She played it off as sheer coincidence. “Hiya Wally.” She gave a warm smile. “It’s been such a long time. How are you?”
“Much better now! Thank heavens I get to see a friendly face today!
Especially a beautiful one like yours.” He opened his arms wide wanting to
give her a great big hug. Gina was much taller than him, so she leaned over and slightly bent her knees, adding more pain to her already sore body. However, she held her breath and kept on smiling as Wally got his arms around her.
Besides being shorter, Wally was much older, approaching the golden age of seventy-five. White strands of hair sprouted from the sides of his head like Albert Einstein, but the top of his head shined like a cue ball. Massive wrinkles on his face showed he lived a hard life. But he was kind, sweet and very easy to talk to.
“What brings you to the big city?” he happily asked. “It couldn’t have only been just to come here and visit me - though I wouldn’t mind hearing you say that.” Gina laughed. “Gosh, I wish you would’ve called me earlier. I could’ve met you somewhere and treated you to breakfast or something.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. This was a bit of an unexpected trip. Had I planned this from the get-go you would’ve been the first person I called.”
“Aw, that’s okay. Well, as you can see, I’m closing up for the day. Wanna go out now and grab something to eat? I can use some healthy conversation after
the day I had.”
“Well - actually, that’s what I came to talk to you about.” “What’s on your mind?”
“Not to ruffle your feathers but...” Gina opened her jacket and revealed the dagger’s handle. “I found this outside of Robinson Park over an hour ago. Got into a tangle with a few bald guys in hoodies and they must’ve dropped it. Know anything about it?” Wally’s eyes bulged at the sight of its wicked skull handle. He rushed Gina inside the store and locked the door.
She looked around shocked at the store’s disheveled appearance. Knocked over display cases, books scattered across the floor, broken glass, cut phone lines and the alarm button behind the register was ripped from its base. This wasn’t a routine robbery. The thugs knew exactly what they wanted.
Gina placed the knife on the countertop. Wally was too scared to go near
it. His hands tremored as he picked it up and gazed at its unholy attractiveness. “And you said that you found this?” he whispered.
“Yes,” said Gina. “Can you tell me what’s the big deal about this thing, besides it being the ugliest knife I’ve ever seen?”
“Well – I, uh – how do I know? I just take whatever goods I can get and hope for some poor fool to buy it! I - I, uh - don’t ask questions about where it came from. Just buy and sell junk, that’s my business.”
“So, this is yours? Correct?” Wally stayed silent.
“I told you I found it, but I had no idea this belonged to you. Those goons I encountered stole it from you, didn’t they? And I assume they’re the same guys who destroyed this place, which is why you’re closing early. Am I right?”
Wally’s bottom lip quivered. He wanted to tell her the truth but was afraid it would put him under a different light. However, if these crazy kids would go to the lengths of attacking an officer then how far would they go to silence a store owner. He didn’t want to find out.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” he denied. “Maybe they were just demented fanatics, umm – who like stealing anything new to show off to their friends or sell it on the black market! How do I know what attracted them to this hideous-looking thing?”
“They’re a group of fanatics? Fanatics of what?”
“Oh, I-I-I didn’t mean fanatics. That was the wrong ch-ch- choice of words, Gina. I’m just saying that with all the cul, uh – I mean g-g-gangs that come to this area –”
“Wait a minute. Say what you were about to say again?”
Wally gulped. “Uh, whatcha talkin’ about. I’m just shaken up from the robbery and I don’t know what I’m saying, that’s all. My brother told me that this line of work would even stress out a Buddhist monk and -”
“It sounded like you were about to say ‘cult.’ Are you saying those guys are part of a cult?” Wally remained silent. “That would explain the pentagrams on their clothes, matching the ones on this knife. And you’re involved with them, aren’t you?”
“What?! That’s ludicrous! How in the blue heaven could you believe that I
can be –?”
“You’re going to play this game with me Wally? Seriously? Do I have to remind you who I used to be before being a broken-down sheriff?” She sighed. “I’m not asking you as an officer. I’m talking to you as a friend. Please tell me what you know and it’ll stay between us. Besides, we both know I’m going to find out the truth eventually. Tell me something.”
Wally had enough stress on his plate. The last thing he wanted to do was confess his sins to a woman he dearly trusted, an act that may cost him his life. Still, who else can he go to? He believed that Gina had his best interest at heart. He grabbed handfuls of white strands and took a deep breath.
“You’re right,” he admitted. “Those guys are members of a satanic group. The biggest one in New Mexico: The Spawns of Satan.”
“The Spawns of Satan? How the hell did you get mixed up with something
so evil, Wally?!”
“I didn’t! I swear! These two guys came to my shop a few weeks ago and started asking me questions about performing sacrificial rituals. I mentioned that I had some books about learning the art of black magic and its main topics were about sacrifices. Are you familiar with these ceremonies?”
“Yes. Fools believe that by spilling innocent blood in the name of Satan their loyalty will be rewarded with unearthly powers, am I right?”
“You’re spot on, sheriff. I wish to God I never told them anything.” “Go on.”
“While I was ringing them up for the books, they saw the knife under the display case, staring at it like a shrine. They asked me how much it cost. Heh... you know as well as I do that artifacts don’t have a price tag. That’s why I opened this shop in the first place, hoping to find that million-dollar customer who’ll drop me a huge chunk of cash that’ll set me up for the rest of my life.”
“How did you get this knife in the first place?”
“I’ve had it for years. My brother Ron and I traveled to Arkansas one time and we met an antique seller who was going out of business. He unloaded his junk on us for half its value and this knife was a part of the merchandise. One look at it and I knew he didn’t know what he had. Ron thought I was nuts for taking it, but I thought people would’ve clamored for this thing. Never had I imagined it would go to such lengths of obsession.”
“This is bad, Wally. I took on two of those guys and they’re anything but new kids on the block or little boys from the hood. They’re going to come back for you, might even try to kill you to get this thing back.”
“I agree, Gina. That’s why I suggest that you head back to Eagle Nest and
forget about this whole ordeal.”
“Don’t worry about me, Wally. I can take care of myself.”
“You don’t understand. The Spawns of Satan have dozens of members! Not all have symbols drawn on their clothing. They’re college students. Businessmen. Construction workers. Cops.” Wally ran behind the register
and desperately searched through the counter drawers. Sweat rolled down his
seasoned face while breathing heavily. “They’ll recruit anyone in these parts.
And in this dismal county, any young punk would love to try anything new just for the pure excitement of doing something different. Remember, they’re plenty of places to hide out here in the desert.”
“What’s got my antennas buzzing is how you know so much about a group you claim to have never dealt with,” she speculated. “You said these guys came in randomly from the street. How do you go from random guys to a cult with members in the police force?”
“Uhh – well...they told me, Gina. They asked if I was interested in attending one of their meetings, but I immediately said no. I only collect antiques and estimate their value. Nothing more. What they do with the pieces once it leaves my store is their business. That may sound insensitive, but that’s how I survived for so long.”
“Did they tell you what their intentions were with this knife? They had to
have mentioned it since they invited you to their meeting.”
“No! No, no, not at all! It’s just that I’ve dealt with cult members before. Pretty much they all operate the same way.” Wally hurried back to her with a dirt brown rag. He wiped the knife down and wrapped it up like a Christmas present. “Take this.” He handed the knife to Gina. “Take it and get rid of it.”
“I can’t do that, Wally.”
“Please, Gina! If they decide to come back tonight, I can’t have this thing anywhere near me. Just hold it for me and I’ll meet you later on.”
“You’re coming back to Eagle Nest?”
“Yes. I just need to go home first and pack a few things. I’ll meet you at
your place. From there, I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”
“Why don’t we just go to your house together and I can escort you to Eagle
“They saw you, Gina. Other members may have spotted you coming here to
talk to me right now. You’re not safe here. You need to leave now.” “But I can’t leave you alone, Wally.”
“The knife is all they care about. The further away it is the more powerless
they are. Go. Please. Don’t worry. I’ll follow along shortly.”
Wally was right. She had to leave, but not for the reason he gave. There was more to this story that wasn’t being mentioned. She needed to get back to the station and investigate the Spawns of Satan further.
“Fine,” she said. “Meet me at the station house instead. I need to get my staff involved to ensure your protection.”
“Thank you, Gina. Bless you.”
While exiting the shop, Gina couldn’t wrap her mind around the surreal events currently progressing. Was this the beginning of another life-altering event? If so, how will it end this time?