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©02 The Media Desk
The old disc made the computer clatter and whine for quite a while.
This time there wasn't anything on the screen but a rather lengthy WEB page address, followed by a name and password, and a single letter 'S'. It took awhile to hand copy the address onto a notecard and double check it.
I checked the disc three times to make sure that was it. There was only one file on the whole thing. That file contained just a tiny bit of information when compared to the capacity of the disc.
On a whim, I went to the UNDELETE command and scanned the disc to see if there was any other information on it.
I found a file that had been deleted. I tried to retrieve it. After a false start, the computer read the file and brought it up on the monitor. There was a picture of a chess piece with a caption under it.
"Not Bad. Bishop42." I read off the screen.
With a sigh I closed the file. Bishop42 seemed to be a jump ahead of me.
I erased the disc then broke it on the edge of the desk. Now I brought up the WEB browser and typed in the address.
To get to the indicated address took several minutes. There were warning screens galore, then the password protected page. Then a very complicated set of menus with blind allies and dead links. Finally, the location on my screen matched the address on the card.
"Oh, Lord have mercy." I said under my breath.
The page was obviously Satanic in its presentation. Pictograms abounded, and there were quotes from the Black Mass scrolling across the bottom. But the menu options were what got my attention. I keyed the 'S'.
The SACRIFICE PAGE, came up on the screen.
I knew what it was about but my sense of disbelief was very strong. I was from White Bread America. These things happened in Haiti or someplace. Not here.
Yet on the page were pictures of kids, women, dogs, an old man, and still more. Dozens of pictures, all thumb-nailed on the page, of those that had been 'given' to Satan, and some pictures of the sacrificial service itself. Then at the bottom there was a button to click on to bring a sacrifice to the high priest. I forced myself to click on it.
The page asked dozens of questions. I winged it as though I had an infant I wanted to give to the 'Light One'. Then it gave the information of where to bring the sacrifice to meet the priest and a password for identification.
As soon as I had down the information, my console beeped at me. Seems their computer was trying to leave a 'cookie' on our computer to identify who had been there. I used a misdirection block on the machine so not to alarm their server. The trace ended up on the marketing department's computer instead of the lab's. Let those guys sort it out later.
I had what I needed, but it was going to be a trip. I guess that was what the credit card and money was for.
The only thing I didn't have was a plan. I was going to walk into a satanic cults headquarters and 'DO' something. More than likely end up on their alter myself, I laughed nervously.
I decided that since it was out of town, I would go this weekend. One of the advantages to living in a small apartment in a huge building was nobody kept track of your whereabouts. There was nobody to leave a message with, nobody to worry. My female friend would simply call me at work and wonder why I hadn't been at our usual Saturday night haunt.
Thursday night I packed an overnight case and a few things I thought might be essential. One of them being my father's .38 special. Holding the old steel piece brought back memories I didn't welcome. But I also didn't break down in tears. His death was a fact of life. He had gone down in the line of duty for something he believed in.
Until now, I had wondered if I had believed in anything like that. Enough belief to die for something I felt was right. Maybe I had, now. Maybe not. There was one way to find out.
The gun still felt good in my hand. I ran through its smooth actions and rather stiff trigger. It was still the way he had adjusted it. The way he had taught me to shoot it.
Finally, the case was packed. Ready to check through.
I spent a restless night and went to work bleary-eyed. I'd sleep on the flight, I told myself.
The day was uneventful, and I got as much rest asleep in the break room over lunch as I had the night before.
One of my co-workers rousted me out and reminded me I had told them I had a plane to catch that afternoon. I made it to the airport with a few minutes to spare.
The only question was when they x-rayed my bag when I checked it in. Did I have a permit for the weapon? Yes, I did, and produced the card on the spot. Dad had taught me well.
I wasted no time sightseeing. I had my address and aimed my rental car at it.
For some reason I had expected it to be in the warehouse district, or at least in a run down abandoned factory. But this address was in a fairly decent residential neighborhood. Not the most exclusive section of town, but a nice subdivision not far from the country club estates. The indicated address was a small business office attached to a slightly larger house in a cul-de-sack.
The sign said for after hours business to ring the bell. I did.
An older woman with the face of a school marm appeared in the window in a few minutes. She invited me in without a word.
"May I help you?" A man said from a dark room down a small hallway from the reception area.
"I'm here about, ahhh, Southwill." I had left my paper in the car.
"That's it." I said. "Sorry, I wrote it down but forgot it."
"You have the item with you then?" The man was still in the dark.
"No. But it will be available tomorrow night."
"It's just as well." There was a silence from the room. I knew I was being judged. "There are certain formalities. And if you have a consideration in mind that must be discussed now."
My nerves evidently showed.
"Don't worry. This is a business relationship. Your own dealings with HIM are up to you. I function as facilitator only." His emphasis on the word 'him' left no doubt as to whom or what he was referring to.
The old woman brought out some papers. There were releases of liability, a statement that I was not any sort of law enforcement officer or a media representative. Then a long legal thing that was basically a statement saying that I was doing this of my own free will without duress or coercion. I signed away and let the old woman see my driver's license as evidence of my good faith. She didn't even seem to look at the ID and handed me a business card.
"Very well." The voice said. "Tomorrow at the appointed time bring the item to the address on the card, present it at the door. You and you alone. We will conduct our business, if you care to view the proceedings that is permitted. Most do stay, to ensure my part of the bargain is kept. You can go then without further interaction."
I assured him I wished to stay, as it was very important.
"Such matters are always important."
I left with a case of the sweats I had previously only known on the Stair Stepper in the gym.
I didn't even look at the card until I checked into a small motel near the airport.
The address was near the waterfront, I knew that, but where was an open question. I walked down to the travel shop and bought a map of the city, then I realized my cash was running low.
At the automatic teller machine I got a real shock. I had put the credit card I had gotten in the package in the machine on a whim and asked for the available balance for advance. The machine gave me a receipt with no numbers in the balance column. Figuring something was wrong with the machine I punched in I wanted a hundred bucks.
Five twenties were laying in the tray just like that.
"Cool." I said as I carefully put the credit card in my wallet. I looked over the receipt, it still showed no available balance.
Once again, I spent a restless night in bed. But now with visions of shadowy terror dancing on the edge of my mind.
The next day I had time to kill. I visited a museum, then went to a movie and dinner.
Finally, it was starting to get close to time to go to the waterfront.
At the motel I packed my bag. I had no intention of coming back here after whatever happened happened. My flight was first thing in the morning. If this went as planned I would spend the rest of the night in the bar trying to forget about it. If things went badly, it wouldn't matter.
Dad's .38 was one of the best concealing guns ever made according to him. He had taught me a dozen places to hide the hammerless revolver. I picked the one that was on the record as being the most uncomfortable and least drawable positions to carry a gun on the human body. Inside my boot, taped to my ankle. Even a fairly thorough search would bypass it, as I was sure they would search all newcomers as a matter of routine.
Later I found out why my father hated that position, even with an ankle holster. I felt as though the cylinder was becoming my leg's illicit lover, and the loaded gun felt like it weighed a ton down there. It was the most painful drive of my life.
But once at the waterfront, my pain evaporated.
The building was huge. A rambling wood frame affair that hugged a pier and a dilapidated railhead. I followed the small paper signs with the symbol from the WEB page on it. Still not having any clear plan. And also acutely aware that the priest expected me to arrive carrying a baby. With the apprehension that this might all get very ugly very quickly, I realized I was at least a full minute away from having dad's gun in hand and firing.
At the end of the current hallway stood a figure in a robe. All I had in my hand was the card with the address. The figure took it and ran its hands over me quickly and with little concern. I went on my way. The hall emptied into a courtyard open to the sky. It was lit with oil torches and a large wood fire in one corner.
I had expected at least some of the religious trappings from the WEB site. But there was nothing more than a simple alter of blocks and a couple of banners hanging from poles planted in the bare dirt.
I stayed in the background and slowly moved over to a small group of people standing nervously near a large broken window. Nobody was speaking and they didn't think it odd that I didn't either.
It was sometime later when the whole scene changed dramatically. A drumroll came from outside the courtyard. The people became apprehensive and fidgeted. I tried to blend into the wall and watch everything at once.
A procession appeared from the far wall's double doors. Several people carried large trays covered with black cloths. Another carried a huge wooden cross upside down. On the whole there must have been a dozen people in a semi-circle around the makeshift alter. The priest stood silently for a long moment. Then another figure moved out from the doorway, it was leading a colt.
The priest began chanting as one of the attendants threw something into the fire that immediately filled the courtyard with a thick foul smelling smoke.
Through watering eyes I watched as the colt was lead up to the priest and positioned near the alter. The priest's chanting reached a climax. Evidently the young horse belonged to one of the people in the group because he moved away from us and toward the semi-circle of robed figures. An assistant handed the priest a large sword. With no preamble or ceremony the priest plunged the blade through the animal's chest. It collapsed onto the alter. The priest withdrew the sword and then slit the animal's throat while still chanting.
I couldn't breathe. In the doorway behind the alter stood another robed figure, but this one was leading a bound and blindfolded partially nude human. From where I stood I couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl. It didn't matter. I knew that what had happened to the horse, now being dragged toward the bonfire, was going to happen to them.
"I'll be right back." I whispered to the nearest observer who didn't seem to hear.
I slipped into the building. Half-blinded by smoke and terrified by what was happening, I staggered through several rooms, not sure what I was looking for.
Then I found something. A case of paint thinner. Even in the twilight of the cavernous building the label about keep away from fire was evident. I ripped the top off the box and smashed open several of the cans with a short piece of pipe lying nearby. Without any clear plan in mind, I picked up the case and ran back toward the courtyard.
The robed figure was leading the young person toward the alter when I ran from the side door. Evidently the others were caught completely unawares when I threw the case of thinner on the bonfire and charged the priest like a madman. Without a thought, I grabbed the bloody sword off the alter and swung wildly at the priest. I felt the sword hit him, but didn't see what damage I had done, watching instead what the others were doing.
A huge ball of flame erupted from the bonfire as the dozen cans of paint thinner exploded. The figures in the circle scattered, with two of them coming my way. I hadn't come to fight. With a halfhearted swipe of the sword I rushed toward the nearest door. I saw the priest lying near the alter, blood running from where his throat used to be.
I was in my rental car driving through the district heading out the back way before I actually took a whole breath.
Dad's gun was still taped to my ankle, and it felt like it had tried to make a sacrifice of my leg the whole time.
Fire trucks were heading into the district as I got on the highway. Then I saw two police cars rolling in as well.
At the rental car turn in, I untaped the gun, unloaded it and wiped off my blood, then packed it carefully in my bag.
Later in the bar, I watched the coverage of the fire and sipped airport drinks until my flight left.
Wondering about big black computer discs.
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