INSTEAD OF WARDING off an intruder, Damien found himself bringing his arm down to shield Elise's eyes, a purely protective gesture. Not that it mattered much, though. She'd already seen what was there, waiting for her.
Upon Elise's bedcovers, which had once been light slate blue but were now stained almost black, was the badly mutilated carcass of a sheep. It looked as if its throat had been cut wide open; its eyes had been gouged out as well, and its belly slit. Its legs were tied together, as if it had been made ready for slaughter--which it had. The blood splashed on the bed and on the floor and on the walls proved that much.
God, how did it get all over--?
He found his throat working convulsively, and he was surprised he didn't throw up. Instead he felt numbed, somehow. He couldn't understand that as gory situations tended to bring out the worst in him. There was already one situation he could attest to. He brought his arm down and turned the sobbing Elise around, leading her back out into the hallway, her hands still covering her face. Her shoulders were shaking. Several other people living in the building had appeared, wondering what was going on. An elderly woman in a hairnet approached. Damien didn't know if she and Elise knew each other or not, but she looked harmless enough. "Keep an eye on her for me," he said dully, guiding Elise in her direction. The older woman put her arm around Elise's shoulders and started murmuring something comfortingly in her ear. Damien went back into the room before anybody could protest and shut the door behind him.
Only now did everything begin to sink in. He looked around him again, horrified by the splashes of blood all over the room. How could so much gore come from one little sheep? It looked to be a lamb, for goodness' sake. He noticed one particularly gruesome splatter on the window and felt his throat start to burn. But he shook his head and forced the rational part of his mind to come back, at least momentarily. Better not start losing it now. He opened the door again and said quietly, to whoever might hear, "Please call the state police. Ask for an Officer Jones and tell him to come to this address," then shut the door again, not really caring if anybody had heard or not. Apparently, however, somebody did, for he heard thumping footsteps, and, from below, muffled talking. Elise's crying went on and on in the hallway.
Okay; now what? He was really starting to hate his mind; it would always pull these split-personality jokes on him, being cool and calm one minute, frantic and panicked the next. He couldn't understand it either. It was probably just one more sign that he was indeed going nuts. He looked up again at Elise's bedspread, and, steeling his nerves, forced himself to go over and investigate.
Pretend it's just a dead sheep, his head said, and while it sounded dumb, it was a dead sheep, it also served to calm him down--very slightly. Just a dead sheep, remember that. This is just a dead sheep, nothing more. Sheep are killed as a matter of routine every day.
Yeah, but are they sacrificed?
He shook his head, trying to clear it and force the rational part to come back. Luckily it did, and the suggestion it gave was simple.
See if you can find anything else to look at.
Okay; he glanced around the room. God, the blood from that thing was everywhere; it was even on the far side of the room, sprayed across Elise's closet like some gruesome Rorschach inkblot, just ready and waiting for interpretation. Gee, it looks just like--
See if you can find anything else to look at!
He turned back to the sheep. The thing's mouth was open and its tongue was hanging out. It was that minor detail that nearly made him lose it. He felt just about ready to go open the bloodied window and let it all go down on the sidewalk when he heard the faint wail of a siren approaching.
Right on time, Jonesy.
He swayed away from the window and back to the door, yanking it open so hard it squeaked on its hinges. The several people who had been in the hallway earlier were still there, and they now looked at him, wondering what was going on. Elise sat on the floor near the old woman's apartment, and the lady was trying to calm her down. She did seem to be somewhat calmer, but she was still crying. No wonder, Damien's mind said dully, and he looked around as if it had been spoken aloud.
After a moment there was a slam and a thumping on the stairs. "Somebody call?" Officer Jones's voice came up.
"Up here," Damien called down, surprised by the flatness of his voice. Am I really that out of it?
Officer Jones appeared around the corner of the stairway, and looked up at him, surprised as well. "Dami? What the hell? You gettin' yourself in trouble again?"
"Just come up here and see for yourself," Damien replied, still in that queer, flat voice, and he disappeared back into Elise's room.
Puzzled, the policeman climbed the steps to the second floor and followed him. He cast a look at Elise, her eyes red and puffy from crying, but said nothing; something about the tone of Damien's voice told him something wasn't right here. He ducked into Elise's room.
"Holy God!" he squawked as soon as he found out just why something wasn't right.
Damien stood off to the side, staring at him, as Jones gaped at the bloody scene before him. It was a full three minutes before the cop turned back to him, his eyes goggling.
"Jeez!" he breathed, throwing out his hands toward the sheep. "You found this?"
"I haven't touched anything. Are you going to search the place?"
"Holy--I guess I have to! Not that I want to, damn it!" But he pulled out his nightstick and started poking around anyway, as if afraid to touch anything. Damien didn't doubt he was.
Elise appeared in the doorway, her face a pale moon in the dimness of the hall.
"This--this your place, ma'am?" Officer Jones asked, glancing over at her and looking a trifle green.
Elise nodded, mute.
"You find this today?"
"Everything was okay when you left?"
"When was that?"
"They sure went to work fast!" He poked the side of the sheep; a gasp escaped him and he jerked away as its intestines slid out onto the bed. Elise immediately disappeared. Damien only stared at it as if fascinated.
"God, that's so sick," Jones muttered, looking ready to throw up, when his eyes widened and he noticed it. "Holy shit," he said, then reddened with some embarrassment. "Pardon my French."
A note had slid out of the sheep's abdomen, along with its innards.
"Oh, God, yuck," Officer Jones hissed, reaching out timidly and snatching up the note. He kept his mouth and nose covered as he did so; already the apartment was starting to smell bad. The note was written on paper, but the paper was done up in plastic wrap, probably to protect it from the blood. Thoughtful of them, Damien's mind murmured, though he still hadn't bothered admitting to himself who "they" were.
Jones spoke up again. "Guess we should--" a convulsive swallow "--guess we should see what this says." He gingerly pulled off the wrapping, trying to avoid getting his fingers too bloody, and unfolded the note. He stood there, looking at it for a moment or two, but his eyes clouded over and he looked even more confused than ever.
"Hey, whatever, I think maybe it's meant for you," he said finally, handing it over to Damien, not really knowing if it was or not, but wanting to know what it meant.
Damien reached out and took the note, also reading it. It was scrawled across the whole sheet of paper, in large, straggling block letters, almost as if the person writing it had been in a hurry, or anxious to make a point. Perhaps it had been both.
WHOSOEVER RUNNETH AWAY
HE SHALL BE PUNISHED BY THE GOAT
THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB
SLAY THE LAMB SLAY THE LAMB
SLAY THE FIRST-BORN
SLAY THE CHILDREN
SLAY THOSE WHO RUN AWAY
THEY SHALL BE MADE BLIND
AND THEIR BLOOD SHALL RUN ACROSS THE EARTH
AND HIS FOLLOWERS SHALL REJOICE
WITH PRAISE TO THEE WE SLAY THIS LAMB
WE MAKE THIS SACRIFICE
WE MAKE THOSE WHO WOULD RUN AWAY
TO BE BLIND AND TO BE
DO NOT APPROACH TOO CLOSELY
LEST THE EYES BE TORN OUT BY THE EAGLE
THE ANKLE BITTEN BY THE SNAKE AND
THE BLOOD POISONED BY THE SCORPION
FOR HE WILL
HE WILL KILL YOU.
Damien's own eyes started to cloud over as he lowered the note, his suddenly nerveless fingers letting it drop to the floor where Officer Jones quickly stooped and rescued it. It was almost a good thing he was numbed, or else he would be running out of the room screaming by now. Officer Jones was looking at him warily, the way one might look at a volcano getting ready to blow, or at a temporarily calmed lunatic who's contemplating his next insane move. But all Damien did was cover his eyes and let out his breath, and stand there, in shock.
"Okay, folks," Officer Jones said finally to the people gathered outside, who were by now peering into the apartment with fascinated horror. "Move on. This's none of your business. Just go on with what you were doing. Ma'am, if you'd stay here, please," he said to Elise.
"S-sure," Elise stammered, her voice faint. She was even paler than usual.
Everybody else started filing away, still shaking their heads and murmuring to themselves. Damien heard somebody say, "...some kind of witch or something..." and glared in the direction it had come from, but the dimness of the hallway prevented him from telling who'd said it. Officer Jones motioned to them both and they went further back in the apartment, shutting the door behind them.
"Okay," Officer Jones said again, taking a deep breath and letting it out. He took out a pad of paper and a pen. "Gotta get this all straight. Uh, do you have--uh, anywhere you'd like to sit down or anything?"
Damien made his way to the other side of the room, where a couple of foldup chairs were sitting against the wall. He unfolded them and presented one to Elise, who took it gratefully, sinking down into it and running her hands down her face. Officer Jones shook his head, so Damien took the second one, while the policeman leaned against Elise's bureau. Damien noticed his writing hand was jiggling slightly, and he still looked a little sick. He smiled grimly.
"Chill out, Jonesy," he said. No use starting off on the wrong foot. "Not like you haven't seen this kind of stuff before, huh?"
Jones didn't even have the heart to glare at him that time. "Okay," he said a third time, taking another breath and peering at Elise, "you said you left this morning, and found this when you got back?"
"Yeah," Elise said in a small voice, her hands trembling in her lap.
"When was that?"
"Just before--just before we called you."
"You haven't touched anything besides this--" He motioned to the note, which he'd set upon the bureau beside him.
"No," Elise said. "I didn't touch anything."
"Do you have any idea who might've wanted to--I dunno, play some kind of really sick joke on you or something?"
"This isn't a joke," Damien said, his anger, long subdued, at last flaring up. His eyes flashed and Officer Jones actually tried to back away a little. "Does it look even remotely like a joke to you?"
"No, of course not," Jones was quick to reply. "It's just that some people, y'know, have a pretty sick sense of humor--"
"This has nothing to do with humor, but it is sick," Damien said. "Do you remember when my uncle and I visited the station and asked about a file on a Derrick Grant?"
Jones looked confused. "Yeah, we only had Amelia Grant. You said something about a cult?"
"Yes. That's what this is."
"Holy crow! A cult? What gives you that ide--" He cut himself off, and again glanced at the sheep, as if to convince himself the singer must be right. Damien could just about guess what must be going through his head. Yeah, looks pretty culty to me.
"I'm sure you remember my sister," he said suddenly, startling the policeman. Officer Jones looked at him warily, uncertain of what to say. "You remember what happened to her."
A slight nod. "Yeah."
Elise was looking at him, obviously confused. What about his sister--? And Derrick Grant? Why did that name sound familiar to her?--
"And I'm sure you must have some kind of files on something that's been going on around here. Maybe something called Scorpio?"
Jones frowned, but it wasn't a frown of either outright recognition or confusion. It seemed to be a mixture of the two. The singer felt his heart start to thump harder.
"Yyyeah, that sounds familiar," Jones murmured. "We had a couple guys working on a Scorpio file. But I think it's shut down now. The file's locked up. I wasn't involved in that case."
A light came into Damien's eyes and he sat up straighter. "You mean you've heard of them?"
Officer Jones held up his hands. "Hey, only barely. We had a couple--uh--incidents--a few years ago," he said, flushing. "I can't go into any details here, that's how hush-hush it was--and still is, mind you--with something--some kind of Scorpion or something. At least that's what they called themselves. A guy named Alec Bodine."
"He's dead now," Elise said, and Officer Jones nodded, peering at her as if wondering how she knew.
"Yeah, that's true. Shot in the head's what I heard. And somebody else took over. But I can't go into all that; like I said, it wasn't my assignment. We had a couple other guys on it, but they never got anything conclusive as far as I know. It's like, the leads they were getting when Bodine was in charge started dropping off after that."
"Didn't it ever occur to you that Amelia Grant could be tied in to any of this?" Damien demanded.
Officer Jones shrugged. "That was before my time, remember? Besides, we--" and by it he meant the police "--only started investigating these mur--incidents--in the early Eighties. Not the Sixties. Jeez, I didn't even know they'd go back that far."
Seems that one caught us both by surprise, eh? "Well, apparently, they do," Damien replied icily. "And I think you believe my sister was involved somehow."
"Hey, listen!" Jones nearly shouted. He waved his hands, still holding the pen and paper. "Maybe if somebody'd just tell me what's going on here--!"
"My birth records are on file in the hospital," Damien started. Jones shut up, baffled. "But I wasn't born there. You know that?"
"Hell, no. What's this all about?"
"It's about two people taking a really big chance delivering those records to the hospital. So maybe someday I could have a chance at a normal life. Because I wasn't born in the hospital. I was born into that cult, Jones."
Jones's face drained, and he gaped at Damien in disbelief.
Damien only nodded. "I suppose that you find that hard to believe, but I was in it until I was about six years old. Elise here was, too. Only she was in it much longer. So were my parents. They still are. And I think maybe this Amelia Grant--and Derrick, if he's in fact her son--are involved, too."
"Hold on!" Jones cried. "You're losin' me, Dami! What the hell are you talking about?"
"Jonesy, whatever the heck these 'incidents' of yours are, both those, and my sister, and then there's this--these are all tied together. Scorpio's the key. Scorpio's what ties these all together." He didn't bother explaining why he believed that was true. It was more intuition than anything else. "Both my sister and me were involved with the cult. See what happened to her? When my uncle tried to get us out of the cult, he was shot. All this time I thought he was dead. He didn't want to contact me because of the danger. Elise was kicked out of the cult, but now that she's involved with me, they did this." He motioned vaguely toward the stained bed and its gruesome occupant. "And Amelia Grant disappeared in 1967--you remember?"
"She was found out in this field with swaddling clothes, in 1969. The same year I was born. She was shot and left there. The baby was gone."
"Yeah, I remember that. Go on."
"Recently I was contacted by Derrick Grant. He's about my age, which means he was born around 1969. He was wearing a symbol around his neck." Damien traced the outline of the spiked M in the air; Jones paled again and nodded, looking ready to pass out.
"That's it, all right," he stammered. "What they were investigating. I remember that too. Go on."
"So far this Derrick guy's been acting pretty weird. I get the feeling he's hiding something from me. He admitted that Amelia was his mother--which means he must be in the cult, too, because they apparently killed her. Which means he is hiding something. And I believe that something has to do with my parents."
"You said they're still in the cult?"
"That's right. They didn't make it out when we escaped. That means they're still with Scorpio. I've been trying to find a way to get them out, and it seems this Derrick guy is blocking me at every turn. No doubt he's been getting help from his friends in the cult, too."
"Has this Derrick guy told you anything specific about this cult--this Scorpio?"
Damien shrugged. "A few things, yeah."
Jones let out his breath. He put away his pen and pad of paper. "Okay, I want you and your uncle--you too, ma'am--to come down to the station immediately. I want to make out a full report on this. That Scorpio file may be locked up but we can sure as hell start another one, if that's what it takes." He peered at Damien again. "You feelin' up to that, Dami?"
Damien nodded, unwilling to show the slight relief he felt that maybe at last something was going to get done. It was certainly too soon to tell. "Best idea I've heard all week."
Elise sniffed and shrugged. "Sure, I guess. If it'll help."
"Believe me, it will. We don't want these guys to try anything else even remotely like this." He nodded at the sheep splayed upon the bed. Damien didn't say what he was thinking--It's not this that I'm worried about. "Well, you two c'mon. I saw your car out there, Dami? Do either of you need a lift?"
"Elise can go with you," Damien said, not bothering to say why. Elise glanced at him briefly but nodded at the policeman, who tipped his hat at Damien and left the room. Damien turned to look at the dead sheep one last time, then followed them out and down the stairs.
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