Driving down the desert, middle of the day, the sun high overhead, he felt a certain calm spreading over him. It was a nice day out, things were going according to plan, and now he could conceivably guarantee himself a near free ride. There was little that could be done to stop him, he simply had one last thing to check on before he completed the final step, and secured his last victim. Of course things could still go wrong, but why should he ever prevent that possibility, where would the sense of adventure be, where would the excitement reside?
Of course some would call him a stupid idiot for not covering all his bases, he liked to live on the edge, for only then could he ever possibly truly appreciate what he was doing. If it became a guarantee, there would be no passion in it any more, and that simply felt to him like a one-lip kiss, not worth anything in the world. He hoped that they all could appreciate what he was doing, certainly they had discovered the pentagram in the way he arranged the bodies. Only a blind man would have missed that, maybe they would note the intricacy with which he laid them out, maybe they would notice just what he had done.
Suddenly, he heard his phone ring. He pulled the car to a stop, no need to let them know he was on the road after all, and answered the phone, "This is your first call, you have only two more now."
"What did you do to Ted?" he heard. In the background he could here a dog growling.
"Who is this? I don't answer questions to people I don't know." he called back.
"This is Joe Beall." Joe said. "I'm here with Rick White and Joey Vermiclin."
"Who's the dog?" he asked.
There was a bit of hesitation and he could hear some muffled voices coming form over the line. Then Joe's voice returned. "It's Will Bryant."
"I see, so what was your question again?" he asked, now feeling more at ease. He wondered if this was Will's first time, he couldn't ever remember whether he heard if he had changed before.
"What have you done with Ted?" Joe asked.
"Ted? I don't know who you're talking about." he replied. What were they talking about? He hadn't heard of any Ted entering the scene.
"You know what I'm talking about, the guy who was at your pentagram." Joe shot back.
"Oh, yes, him." he replied, trying to sound convincing. Whoever Ted was, his partner must have taken care of the situation. Just pretend as if he knew what they were talking about. However the fact that somebody had figured out how to get to his place scared him a little, and he enjoyed it. He wondered whether the location had been passed along to the others or not. He hoped that his partner had kept the pentagram intact, it would be very bad if the lines had been mussed up.
"So what did you do to him?" Joe asked again, his voice frustrated.
"Oh, he's off feeding the rats now, don't you fret about him." he remarked. "Is that all your going to ask? You know you have only two calls left."
He heard the muffled voices again, and this time he heard a lot of background noise. Will, the dog seemed to be trying to frantically say something, or communicate something, he couldn't tell what though. "Is Ted dead?" he heard Joe's voice ask.
"Quite possibly, I don't know, I haven't checked his pulse." he replied, really wondering what had happened now.
"What sort of ritual are you going to perform?" Joe asked, his voice calmer now.
"Oh, just something I cooked up myself." he replied, now confident again.
"What do you mean cooked up yourself?"
"Oh, it's just a little compilation of several different rituals, I'm sure you could appreciate it's purpose."
"What's its purpose?"
"Now, now, now, I can't tell you that until it's all over, that's my secret." he reminded them.
"What's your name then?" Joe asked, hoping maybe he'd be crazy enough to tell them that.
"Oh, you can just call me Old Saint Nick. I'm gonna bring Christmas early to you all. Only I'm giving all the presents." he then laughed a moment, and then he got a devilish thought. "That's enough questions for now, I'll answer some more later."
He heard Joe protest, but he hung up the phone anyway. Now, he had to find out just what his partner had done with Ted.
Ted tried to move beneath the heavy weight upon him, but was immediately rewarded for his efforts by another crushing stomp on his groin. He couldn't see who his assaulter was, or what he looked like, but he could tell that it most certainly wasn't human. It simply reeked of stagnation, and he could feel that the 'hand' that was pushing his face into the dirt had claws, and he could vaguely feel the shape of pads on the ends of each digit. It was more paw-like really than a hand, as he really couldn't tell where it's thumb was.
Whatever it was, it was holding him down, face-first into the cold concrete of the floor. He could hear it's heavy breathing just overtop of him, and he could feel it's saliva drip onto his neck, as it sat there, panting it seemed. In its own harsh tones, almost guttural as if coming from a throat not designed with speech in mind, it spoke to him.
"Who are you?" it asked, the hostile intent quite clear.
"Ted Obermeyer." he said into the concrete.
"How did you find us here?" the voice returned, it's head now closer to his ear. He could feel its breath upon him, and as it wafted past his nose, he felt a wave of revulsion come over him.
"I followed the clues in the map. You all left a roadmap to your location by how you positioned the bodies.
He felt the hand crush him closer to the concrete, and he let out an audible moan because of it. "You shouldn't have come here!"
"What are you going to do to me?" Ted asked. He was then rewarded with another crushing stomp on his groin. He cried out in pain, but was the silenced when he felt the claws on the paw over his face sink into his skin. He felt the blood trickle over his eyes, and down around his nose. He snorted some of it in by accident, and proceeded to snuffle for a bit before he regained his composure.
"What were you going to tell them?" he heard the voice ask.
"I was going to tell them what the ritual would do." Ted replied honestly, there was no point in lying, he was probably dead either way.
"Which is?" the voice probed. "I want to know just how smart you really are."
"The ritual is a doubling ritual. He was going to twice double the area of the curses effect." Ted replied.
"What do you mean?" the voice sounded surprised, and Ted fancied that he wasn't expecting that to be his answer.
"Everybody living within a pentagram drawn from the south-eastern corner of the present one, only about twenty one times bigger, will fall under the curse of Barken. He's going to make practically all of Texas like Barken." Ted replied.
"You're lying!" the harsh voice came back, biting his ear, and tearing at it. Ted cried out in pain, and now he was beginning to actually sob as well as bleed.
"God help me, I'm telling the truth." Ted came back.
"No, you're not!" the voice was now shouting at him, and Ted wondered juts exactly what he thought the ritual would do.
"What will the ritual do then?" Ted asked, hoping that in his rage, he would talk, some did others didn't.
"The ritual will free me of my unearthly bonds, and make me once again a man." the voice came back.
"Who told you this?" Ted asked. "You aren't the only one involved in this I take it? Well, your partner whoever he is lied to you, this won't free you at all."
"Let me guess, he was going to have you lie in the centre chanting over you, to free you?"
"I said be silent!"
"He's not going to free you, he's going to sacrifice you!" Ted screamed back, trying ever so hard to get a glimpse of his captor.
"I warned you!" the voice roared now, and Ted felt himself lifted up off the ground, and in a fit of fury the creature threw him across the room, towards one of the walls. Ted felt himself hit one of the timbers hard, and it splintered under his weight. Suddenly he felt extremely light-headed, and as he looked back into the room, he saw what had been his captor. It stood on its hind legs, and it's general outline was definitely that of a Barkenite in median, but it's appearance was gruesome.
The first thing he noticed was the long nearly hairless whip-like tail dangling between its legs, swaying back and forth as he stood there looking at him. It's whole body was built upwards, covered completely by long spiky black fur, reminiscent of otters trapped in oil spills. It's face was vaguely canine and slightly human, the grey diseased looking tongue hanging from out the side of its muzzle, and the yellowish teeth looking slightly decayed. It's eyes were a fierce red, glowering orbs that held only hate. Atop its head were two ears that tapered to the end, but even they were of a twisted nature, the inner ear being clearly visible, and a pulpy red too. The hands only vaguely resembled them, the thumb being entirely too small, not much more than an extra claw. In his study of the figure before him, he could not help but notice it's complete nakedness, and the large leathery sheath hanging from its nether regions was nearly at the centre of the picture before him, and it was the last thing he looked at, before he returned his attention to himself.
Looking down at his chest, Ted saw that his shirt had a hole ripped into it, which was covered in blood, and from out which protruded a large section of the timber he had crashed through. He reached up to feel it, slick with blood, his own blood. He felt around the edges of it, felt how it had punctured right through his own chest completely, probably destroying his heart in the process. This knowledge didn't seem to phase him too much, and he sat there staring at the chunk off wood that had pierced him through, and with that image, everything descended into an inky blackness.
Oh great, he died, I have to get rid of the body, he mustn't know that I've killed somebody.
After they hung up the phone, Joe sat frustrated, cradling his cast again, while Rick sat down, thinking. Will paced the room, getting used to being a quadruped. He really found it quite disconcerting, because it limited his communicative abilities. This was mostly the case because he had just realized the significance of All For You. Their killer had called himself St. Nick. That was another name for Santa Claus, and in that one moment, he remembered his friend Fred Wilbeshire, who's case involved the stealing of toys from all over the US. That thief had left the words All For You at the crime scene. Why, he didn't know, but this was the same person, and somehow, that had to be significant.
Joey on the other hand had decided that this would be a good time to use the computer. He had logged on as a guest, and pulled up a file that he knew existed. Rick and Joe came over to see what he was doing. It was obvious that Joey had just gotten some idea, and they were all interested in seeing what it was.
"What are you doing?" Rick asked.
"I'm checking out that phone number." Joey replied. "It's a cell phone number, that much is obvious, so we should be able to check in on AT&T's listings on-line. I want to see who owns this number."
Rick and Joe looked at each other, both impressed. Will scrambled up behind Joey to see what was going on, wagging his tail, glad to see that somebody had a good idea. It took only Joey a few minutes to track down the number, and he then clicked on it, and found the information listing it gave.
56 Newton St.
Status: Yet to be deactivated
"That's odd." Rick noted.
"Elaine Smith." Joey said to himself. "I know that name." he thought out loud to himself.
"Where from?" Joe asked. "Work, home, school?"
"Oh gosh." Joey said, his face lighting up, I remember her now."
"What about her?" Joe asked.
"I have her body in my lab. I had my interns do an autopsy on her just before I came over here." Joey replied, the memory quite vivid in his mind.
"What happened to her?" Joe asked, probing further, thinking that somehow this may have been significant.
"She was strangled to death while intoxicated. Right outside the place where she worked. She was a psychiatrist in a mental ward."
"What happened to the mental ward?" Rick asked.
"Burned to the ground the same night. All the inmates died in the blaze."
"Oh, isn't that convenient..." Joe blurted.
"So I say we find out just who her patients have been." the voice came from behind them. They all turned and Randy was there standing in the doorway. "Sorry I'm late, I had something important to do."
"You think our killer might have killed her too?" Joey asked.
"Of course he did, that's how he got the cell-phone. I say he is definitely one of her patients. I guarantee that if we look at her list of patients that one of them will have been from Barken." Randy told them.
"How are we going to be able to do that? Hospital records are confidential." Rick reminded them.
Will then barked at them, and they all saw that he was prancing about. "What is it, Will?" Joes asked. "Do you know a way?"
Will ran to the door, and pointed motioned with his head for them all to follow him. They all got up and followed after Will, who ran right up to Jenny's desk, and put his forepaws nearly in her lap. Randy positioned himself between them, and looked at Will darkly. Will caught the scent of displeasure exuding from Randy, and a bit of jealousy. He knew that Jenny was Randy's girl, and he was not ever going to make an attempt like what Randy was thinking.
"Can Jenny get in?" Joey asked, looking at the receptionist a bit sceptically. However Will nodded, and Jenny looked completely shocked. "Get into what?" she asked them all.
"Will here seems to think that you can break into hospital security." Joey told her.
Jenny blushed, and they all knew from the way she lowered her eyes that it was indeed true. How in the world had Will known? Joey took it all in stride though, and continued. "We need you to find out all the patients of Dr. Elaine Smith of the Bangor Municipal Hospital. She worked in the mental ward of that hospital which was burned to the ground about a month ago. We think that our killer might be one of her former patients."
"I'll take care of it." Jenny replied, pulling up her computer terminal. "I don't know how long it will take though."
"That's fine." Randy told her. "I'm sure you can handle it."
"Thank you.", she hugged his hand on her shoulder, and then focused intently on her computer screen. The others looked to each other as to what to do next, but their attention was once again grabbed by Will, who barked from near the front of the police station.
"You want to go somewhere else, Will?" Joey asked.
Will wagged his tail, and motioned for them to head out. They all followed, wondering where they were being lead now.
He stepped into the inner chamber, sniffing the air. The first thing that smelled was defecation. Obviously the figure that was strutting about in the darkness had just recently taken a dump again. He hated walking in on that, he wished he would use one of the rooms for that, it was such an offensive smell. However, there was supposed to be somebody named Ted that had come here.
He walked straight up to the figure, who watched him coming like a hawk. "Where is Ted?" he asked.
"Ted? Who is Ted?" the figure called back, it's voice nearly one of mocking.
"You damn well know who Ted is." he told him, his voice nearly threatening. "I know he was here, and he was calling his buddies back in Barken, telling all about this place, when suddenly the connection was cut. I know you had something to do with it."
"Oh, him, Well, he won't be bothering us any more."
"Did you kill him?"
"No." he lied.
"Don't lie to me!" the man told the hunched figure that never strayed from the dark..
"Oh, and I suppose that you haven't lied to me, is that true, then what are we really trying to do?" the figure stood up to full hieght, dwarfing the man.
"We breaking your curse. I told you that from day one." he replied quickly, not intimidated by the large figure before him in the least.
"Then explain to me why that man claimed you were doing otherwise, in fact just the opposite."
"What was he claiming?" he asked.
"That you intend to curse the entire Texas area just like Barken has been cursed." the figure told him, ready to pounce if his answer was not satisfactory.
"What?!?" he asked, completely baffled by the answer. "What in the world was he thinking? He made that up, or he no idea what he was talking about. Are you going to take the word of a person you've never before seen over mine? If so then you are more a fool than he is."
The figure didn't respond, but simply slipped back into the shadows, disappearing into the darkness. He could see it's faint outline crouch together, huddling in one corner. He then heard it's voice again, much quieter this time, more subdued. "They can find us now. We still have five days before we can even begin the ritual."
"That's what they think. The night after I collect the last skin we can begin. The date on the bottle of Chardonnay was to throw them off. I will collect the skin tonight, and we shall begin tomorrow night."
The figure nodded, though he knew that it was still mulling over something that had been told to him by this Ted. Somehow, he knew that Ted was indeed quite dead, and he wondered just how that would affect the ritual.