With one foot in the window and ready to jump, Jake hesitated when he heard a loud knock on the door. It was just what was needed. He was ready to go in search of the girl and now he would have to improvise a coherent excuse for still being dressed and awake in the dead of night. He pretended to be asleep as he did not want to cause alarm. If Mark knew he had planned to search for Kate, he’d be in trouble. He quickly closed the blinds and said in a low voice, feigning sleepiness, “Just a minute!”
He quickly took off his leather jacket, shirt, and pants. He stuffed them all into the closet, tousled his hair, and messed up the bed. He hid the sword he carried behind his back under the covers.
The Guardian opened the door and was surprised to see the conductor. Clearing his throat, he secretly asked, “What is it, Mark? What brings you here at this hour?” Yawning, he added, “Thanks for waking me up!”
The conductor examined the boy and frowned. Jake lifted his head and with a hope shining in his eyes, he asked, “Has Kate been found?” Mark shook his head and looked at him suspiciously. “Did you want to go somewhere?” Pointing to the boots of the boy, he completed, “Do not lie to me. You were leaving, weren’t you? Nobody sleeps in boots, Jake!” Mark was amused and did not give scold him. He then asked, laughing, “My God, boy! How can you be so cheeky, pretending and lying to my face?” Pointing to Jake’s shoes, he added, “How do you plan to accomplish a feat like this?” Mark was laughing. “How did you take off your pants with your boots on? Did you use some magic trick?
Jake rolled his eyes and said, “Fuck you, Mark!” He turned his back on the conductor and slammed the door in his face. Mark was still laughing from the comic scene he had just witnessed. The boy was brave! Besides lying to his face, he intended to disobey orders and go sneaking behind his back to find the girl. “Jake! It’s serious. Pay attention! What I have to tell you is not about Kate, but it does not exclude the fact that it’s something very important,” he said.
Jake glared at the conductor who could not stop laughing. “Oh, yeah? You’re still grinning like a fool!”
Mark gestured towards him and said, “Either you put some clothes on or take those ridiculous boots off! How can we make a serious conversation with you dressed like that?”
He thought of a good answer to give to the conductor but preferred not to be rude and chose to remain silent. He was already in trouble enough. He went to his closet, took some clothes, and put them on.
“For the love of the Lord! What’s this, Jake? Don’t I pay you enough for you to buy an outfit for this season?” He pointed to the boy’s pants and laughed even more.
“Don’t force it, Mark!” He snorted and took a different pair of pants. Mark was taking the same course as the unbearable Olivia by being annoying and making a person’s life miserable. Without patience, he asked the conductor, “Tell me ... What’s so bad for you to come here in my room and toasting my patience in the dead of night?”
“Let’s do this.” Mark sat on the edge of the bed and crossed his legs. “I’ll pretend I have not seen this pathetic scene you tried to fool me with by escaping through the window in the dead of night looking for Kate.”
Jake looked at him seriously and crossed his arms saying, “And in return?”
Mark answered, “In return, I need you to perform an exorcism.”
“No way!” He pushed Mark to the side and took his sword which was under the covers. This week is was Lana. She was responsible for the shift.
“Jake, you do not understand! It’s the most extreme case and it is what we are accustomed to deal with,” Mark sighed tiredly. “A girl was possessed a few hours ago and is already in the final stage.” With an expression of dismay and sadness he added, “I failed a few hours before and cannot risk it. I need you to do this. You are our best exorcist.”
Jake dropped the sword and sat next to him. Placing his elbows on his knees, he rested his face in his hands. “Mark, I can’t do a dangerous ritual like this. A possession of this magnitude requires a lot of concentration and strength of spirit.” He ran his hands through his hair saying, “I can’t get Kate out of my head. I can’t think or concentrate on anything but her.”
The conductor shook his shoulder and said, “I know. I promise I’ll find her. She’s fine, trust me. When have I ever failed you?”
“Do you want me to answer you?” Jake asked bullshitting.
Mark gave a cough. “Uhm ... No ...”
Jake looked askance, giving him a half smile. “All right. I will perform the ritual but you need to know that it will not be easy.” He stared at the conductor with a serious expression. “I can do it the traditional way. At this point, the girl’s body must be very weak, making it even more complicated to expel the entity. The demon must have sucked much of her life and spirit. He will resist all the more to leave her body.”
The regent nodded to him. “Okay. Do whatever it takes to save her. Lana and I are going with you.”
He nodded. “It will be of great help. Maybe I alone cannot end the ritual.” Jake got up and went to his dresser, opened a drawer, and pulled out a black bag lined with velvet. He started poking around in another drawer and got a wooden box, a bible, handcuffs, a large crucifix, some scarves, and a glass containing a dense, viscous liquid. He threw everything on the bed. Turning to Mark, he asked, narrowing his eyes and scratching his head suspiciously, “Refresh my memory. How did this entity cross the portal and we did not sense it?”
“Ah! I just forgot to tell you the weirdest part.” Mark got up from the bed, gathered the objects that were scattered on top of the sheet, and kept them inside the velvet pouch. He stopped when he saw the handcuffs and stared at the boy for a moment. He then continued, “Actually, this invasion is not part of our jurisdiction,” he motioned for Jake to be quiet. “The organization went through the portal of the nearby town and migrated to Alcantes. Soon after, the ruler of Longaile gave me a desperate warning of what had happened and how it cannot work in our region. He asked for my help.” The conductor looked at the Guardian. “To be more exact, he begged me!”
“Of course he pleaded. It was a major ﬂaw for them, hesitating and allowing a demon to transit from one city to another. How did they let that happen? They, who are considered the best psychics in the country?” Jake closed his fists, widened his eyes, and yelled angrily, “So, I have to clean up the mess of others?”
Mark said, “It’s because you are and will always be the best. You fear nothing and always put your life in front of everything and everyone. You should be proud. Your name is respected and commented on all gatherings that I frequent. Why do you think so many Guardians have something against you? Surely it is not because of your beautiful green eyes.”
“Do not give me ﬂattery nor dare to manipulate me like that. At least you’re carrying my bag as I carry this ritual. I’ll do it. Just be aware that it is not for you or that bunch of hypocrites, but for humanity. I’ll save the poor girl. After all, she is a victim.” He let out a long sigh. Jake was tense and exhausted. Surely, this week was the most torturous of the last decade. Still facing the conductor, he asked. “What will we say to the girl’s family? Are we just going to their house saying, “Hello, are you all right? We’re here to expel a demon that inhabits the body of your daughter!” he asked the conductor. “Has someone mentioned our nice little visit to them?”
“Yes. Once the ruler of Longaile knew the entity possessed the body, he contacted the girl’s mother and sent an undercover Guardian priest to examine the girl. He then sent a message to send over an exorcist to perform the ritual,” Mark said.
“That makes sense. At least we will not be stoned,” he spoke to the conductor who was still standing with the handcuffs in his hand. Crossing his arms, Jake asked, “What now, huh?”
“What are you going to do with this? Are we making some kind of orgy with this entity?” the conductor spoke, shaking the cuffs.
“Stop being stupid, Mark! That’s why the rituals that you and the other Guardians do almost always end up in shit!” He threw a naughty look at the conductor. “We need to be bold and some demons appreciate the creativity and entertainment. Now, come.” He grabbed his jacket and put the handcuffs inside the bag along with other accessories. He narrowed his lips saying, “Let’s get this cheeky devil over with!”
The house where the family lived was located a few blocks away from the congregation. They were alarmed by the proximity in which the entity was staying. The creatures of darkness were surpassing every day. Lately, it was they who gave the letters and surprised humans. The Guardians could not risk anything. It would be necessary to pay more attention and not underestimate their intelligence.
Jake parked his Toyota in front of a large two-story house with a fine old architecture, reminiscent of those haunted houses in horror movies. Jake got out accompanied by Mark and Lana. The other Guardians were at home on call and would inform them if there were any illegal crossings.
While Jake held the bag, he rang the doorbell. No one opened the door. He did it again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Lana rubbed her hands together to chase away the chills that went up her spine. She loathed the ritual of exorcism. Actually, no Guardian greatly appreciated this work. It was not easy dealing with a possessed person. It was very necessary to remain cautious during the evictions so as not to hurt the body of the victim. Some bodies were so persistent that the Guardian needed to be aware and be careful as it can cause permanent damage and the unintended death of the victim. The human body is very fragile and delicate. Often, it could not resist these violent rituals. For this reason, Jake was always called on; he was the best. The chances of success when he managed a session of exorcism were always encouraging. In most cases, regardless of the stage of possession, he could always purge instead of eradicating the demon from the victim’s body without causing further damage.
“Is there anyone at home?” Lana asked, somewhat apprehensive.
“Of course, there is! They must be at the top, probably trying to calm the girl down.” Mark indicated a light coming from a second ﬂoor window. Nosy as ever, Jake shrugged and left to go behind the house. “Where are you going?” Mark asked impatiently, gesturing with hands and motioning for him to return.
Jake said, “I’ll try the back door. Perhaps there’s someone in the kitchen.”
Lana wasted no time and ran after him. There was no way she would be left alone with Mark. “Lana, you coward! Come back here!” the conductor called out to her.
Without looking back, she replied, “Mark, it’s not like I’m scared! I just think Jake’s right. There must be someone in the kitchen.”
Mark rolled his eyes and followed the Guardians. Jake walked to the back door of the house, followed by the others. He noticed a faint light coming from inside. He leaned his forehead against the glass. Narrowing his eyes and his hands cupped around his face, he peered into the kitchen. He knocked on the door several times but no one appeared. Lana hugged herself and observed. Everything remained cold and silent; the black of the night covered everything, blinding everyone with an immense darkness. The house was surrounded by gigantic trees and was frightening. Due to possible wind gusts, a huge branch of a tree that stood near the wall of the house dragged at the glass, causing terrifying noises.
“Let’s do this!” Lana said hurriedly. “But that week of hell!” she swore, dissatisfied.
“I know. I’m trying,” Jake said. He slammed on the glass door but nobody answered.
Suddenly, there was a horrific and deafening scream that came from inside the house. Taking the scare, Mark took a leap so high that he hit his head on a light fixture hanging from the ceiling. Lana fearful as ever, yelled and clung to Jake. He stared at the two with a reproachful look and said, “For God’s sake! What behavior is that?” He looked indignant.
“Lana! What does that mean? It doesn’t seem that you’ve been a Guardian for fifty years!”
“Do not exaggerate, Constantine!” After the scare, she said, “You love to play the bully and know everything. You must be enjoying all of this. Now, you’re mocking me just because it scared me a little bit?”
“A little bit?” Narrowing his lips, he continued, “Miss, could you let go of me now? Don’t look at me with a scowl. If I’m not mistaken, the last time we worked together you made it very clear to me never to offer you any help. Go away!”
“What are you talking about?” asked the regent.
“Nothing, Jake is just bragging, as always,” she said, casting a menacing look at him.
After Lana unglued from Jake, she pointed an accusing finger at Mark.
“Do you want to know? We do not have time to talk. If you don’t have the stomach to witnessing what I’m going to face now, then get out of here!” Jake knocked again on the door to see if someone would open it. Since no one came, he began to scream until he was almost hoarse. “Hello! Anybody home? Damn, are these people deaf?” he snapped irritably. He was tired and fed up; he was at the edge of his boundary. Like any mortal thug, he gave the biggest kick in the door, ﬂinging it open. Lana and Mark looked at each other with wide eyes and followed the boy.