Chapter Four Dark Times.
The room was full of shadows as the smoke of the incense candles drifted pungently to the ceiling.
Manny entered and crossed to his habitual seat overlooking the beautiful rose garden.
“I think we can begin.” A husky Hispanic voice said from the shadows between two incense burners. “Tell us what worries you Israel?”
“It paid me a visit Monday morning. I lost fifteen minutes off my life clock.” Manny explained. “And there is a residue of something left behind.”
He looked around at the strange group of people around him.
But there was one he could not see.
A figure in a red skin tight circus leotard with a high open collar with a black ‘D’ on his breast. His skin was white as bone and was accentuated by the hairless face and head.
Boston Brand the famous circus aerialist ‘The Deadman’ lent forward and touched Manny’s temple.
“Do we have any idea as to what it did while there.” Manny spoke Deadman’s words.
“No. No idea I’m afraid.” Manny replied in his own voice as the ghost of Boston sat back.
“You should have called me.” Manny’s brother-in-law Jakob complained.
Like Manny he was sensitive to ghosts and other things of the dark plains of Hell and the Inferno.
But there was only one person present who could see the ghost that was Boston Brand and he, the Phantom Stranger, was keeping his thoughts to himself.
The owner of the husky voice lent forward to reveal itself to be a stunning woman in her late twenties. Her Latin good looks would make many a young man weak at the knees.
And then they would see her eyes, milky white and blind.
“We believe he is connected to the disappearance of a petty mafia war lord called Bruno Carlotto.”
“Madam Xanadu we can not be sure of its gender at the moment.”
The evangelist and immortal Jason Blood, was a handsome man with saturnine good looks that made him look the very antithesis of what he was.
As the receptacle of the demon Ertigan he was well experienced at sharing his life with a malevolent force, having had to carry the burden since Roman times.
Against the wall lolled a powerfully built blue skinned devil called appropriately enough the Blue Devil.
He was a film stunt man and was dressed in the Blue Devil costume for a film when an accident trapped him, the leading lady and two starlets under a prefabricated film building.
As life slipped away he prayed that he had the real strength of the fictional Blue Devil to save the women.
An Angel heard his cry and appeared before him.
The Angel fused the costume to his body and gave him all the powers of the fictional creature.
He saved the women but became the Blue Devil in reality.
The Blue Devil, David Daniel Cassidy, was the most impetuous of the group.
“Why are we sitting here then, come on lets get over to Manny’s place and team handed trap it.”
“You can not trap it as if it was some rabbit in a field!” Jason snapped.
“Stranger can you hold it?” Xanadu asked.
“We are the same and yet opposites. The Spectre is the Spirit of Vengeance while I am the Spirit of Reconciliation.” You could hear the capital letters.
“Yes I could hold him for a time as he could hold me. If we have a host I can hold it long enough, with your help, till it is bound to them.”
“We must find a host for it soon.” Jason cautioned. “Without a host it is free to destroy all in its path!”
“At least it can’t touch anyone, unlike before.” Cassidy said.
“It doesn’t have to.” The Phantom Stranger reminded them, putting an evilly twisted figurine of a nude woman on the table before them.
He passed his hand over it and she screamed in heart wrenching agony as her body twisted further to the sound of tearing muscles and popping bones.
He passed a hand over it again and it became still.
“Who is she?” Xanadu asked.
“A prostitute, the first stepping stone on the route to anarchy.”
“Ah the first card, ‘The Wheel of Fortune’.” She tapped the card that was on the small side table with the others. It was showing a naked young woman under the stars being stretched on a wheel.
“I have a possible candidate in mind, a lonely woman with death in her eyes.” Manny said.
“Tell us about her Manny. What makes you think she is suitable?” Madam Xanadu lent forward her clear startlingly blue green eyes sparkling in the candle light. “Tell us more.”
Later in the darken room another card was turned over to reveal a female priest swinging a scented censer. ‘The High Priestess’.
The park was the verdant green lungs of the city running down the centre of the city touching nearly all the boroughs. It was a place were the denizens of New Amsterdam came to walk, sit, eat and play. A place where tennis and badminton courts rub shoulders with bandstands, gardens and little café’s.
It was where black magic festivals were often performed in the dead of night.
The Green and White screeched to a halt and sat for a moment rocking on its springs before the two police officers clambered out in a hurry.
“Which way Julie?” Steffi yelled franticly. “Come on come on!”
“It looks so different in the dark.” Julie yelled back as she turned round to get her bearings. “This way Sergeant.”
Julie led Steffi at a fast trot.
Soon the sight of the brightly coloured rowing boats bobbed into view.
“The bridge is further down.” Julie pointed ahead.
The series of Italian Venetian style bridges linked little islands in a romantic pathway loved by many a beau and his girl.
As they clattered over the nearest they could see in the shadows on the other side a figure with its arms outstretched from its sides.
Laura Cantrell hung there crucified.
Muscles, sinews and blood vessels were exposed to the elements as the skinned body hung their.
An eye opened and swivelled to look at them making both officers step back in shock.
She couldn’t be still alive surely.
The lips parted and a hoarse but recognisable voice spoke to them.
“To late for me.” Laura said with an asthmatic wheeze. “He’s going for the Murphy’s and going to make them pay one by one.”
“Do you know where and when?” Steffi asked.
“No.” She wheezed once again. “Sorry I killed your husband Stephen, sergeant. He was a good man. It was nothing personal, just a job.”
“What?!!” Steffi exclaimed.
She stood there her mouth open in shock not wanting to hear the rest.
Laura’s body shivered and then became still.
Steffi grabbed the body getting her hands smeared with blood in the process, and tried to shake the woman.
“Who contracted you, who?!!!” She screamed in anguish.
Julie took her shoulders and pulled her away.
Steffi’s feet seemed to be tangled up for a moment in what was at the bottom of the cross.
Julie saw the explosives lying there and tried to drag Steffi further back.
“Steffi no!” She yelled in her Sergeants ear. “It’s a booby trap.”
Steffi looked down at where Julie pointed and reacted automatically. Bundling Julie to the floor and dropping over her.
And not a moment too soon as the devices exploded with a roar.
Magnesium flares ignited with blinding white light. Phosphor sprayed the victim and cross with burning hot fragments that stuck to the flesh before igniting.
The figure on the cross screamed and writhed as the fires took hold.
The incendiary devices had done their job well. Turning a living breathing woman into a Roman Candle.
She screamed as her body was consumed. She was being kept alive so she could suffer the full horror of it.
There was nothing the officers could do, save watch in horror.
The Lieutenant and two of their group pounded up to where the women lay.
Without a word they helped the women to their feet.
“I take it that was …” The Lieutenant didn’t finish what he was saying. He watched as the charred remains of the torso fell apart and the woman’s screaming skull rolled to his feet.
“Julie take Steffi back to the precinct, the pair of you have done enough today.”
He wasn’t one to call officers by their first names but he knew when to make an exception. “If you can do a first draft of today’s events before you go home. But go home.”