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DAVIES PACED BACK and forth nervously, staring around and taking mental notes of every object in sight, and of the seven Sisters garbed in crimson silk garments who took positions at different points on the Star of David and the boy lying within it.

They paused tentatively to light the red candles they each had in hand, and then they held the lit candles upward, staring intently at nothing in particular as they chanted some words of prayer in the ancient Latin tongue. Then they paused again, set the candles firmly on the floor on the several points whilst yet muttering the prayer.

Davies watched curiously as the women walked further into the midst of the Star and proceeded to relieve Alan Prince of his clothing, leaving him completely unclad. His brows furrowed suspiciously, and he shot a quick, curious glance at Samantha to get an idea of what was running through her mind then. She appeared deeply anxious and yet docile at the same time.

Then the Sisters of Light got a bowl of water and clean towel with which they slowly yet delicately cleaned Alan’s body, from head to foot, the way a corpse is given its final wash. They were unhurried, meticulous and solemn in their countenance. The atmosphere seemed morbid. With the wash done, one of them got a white marker and drew out a cross on the boy’s forehead and chest; they worked in grim, eerie silence all through, never even uttering a word or exchanging eye contact with one another.

The time was nearly eight o’clock, and the underground temple was quite dim at this point, except for the shimmering flames of the candlelight that cast a sordid ambience in the Sanctuary.

When they finished cleaning Alan, the Sisters got a robe similar to the type they were wearing and wore it on him. Then they left the hall quietly in a single file without turning to look in the direction of Samantha or the police detective who both stood at the edge of the great circle.

Samantha sighed anxiously and glanced over at Detective Davies as she stepped over the marker into the circle with a look of apprehension about her. Yet she walked on, got to where her son lay and quietly sat beside him. She lifted his head a little and set it to rest on her thigh. Then she began to stroke his short hair backward with one hand while laying her other hand upon his chest to feel his heart beating so slowly.

Lee Davies watched her from his corner, feeling overwhelmed and utterly sorry for her.

It seemed like a very long time, until the large doors opened again and Sister Agatha Tronnel returned, walked over to Samantha where she sat and bowed her head courteously. The look in her eyes seemed grave as she spoke to Samantha and Detective Davies.

“At this point, I have to ask you, Mrs. Prince,” she said, “you may choose to excuse yourself if you do not wish to witness the process.”

Samantha shook her head. “No, I’ll stay.”

The Sister looked at her calmly. “Have you ever seen an exorcism being performed before?”

Samantha shook her head again. “No.”

Agatha sighed, and then took a step forward deliberately. “It can sometimes be emotionally gripping and difficult for close relatives who are present, Mrs. Prince. You may see things that will cause your nerves to shatter to bits.”

Samantha nodded. “I’ll stay.”

Agatha looked at her. “You must also understand, Mrs. Prince, that no matter what you see, you’re forbidden from interrupting the ritual,” she said pointedly. “If you speak or step out of line, you endanger all our lives here, you expose yourself and the evil spirit may transfer.”

Samantha paused for a moment, contemplating the graveness of the situation. “I understand, Sister Agatha. But I’m staying.”

“Very well, then.” She turned to Davies. “What about you, Detective; would you like to excuse yourself?”

Davies shrugged, with an indifferent grin. “I’ve always liked seeing things for myself.”

Agatha simply stared at him blankly.

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