Discover more from Gary Paul Varner
THE TEMPLE OF MAGGIE STONE
Chapter 12: Delphin Part 1
Pinkerton and Maggie entered the elevator. As they began their ascent, Maggie turned to the young man who kept his eyes forward. “You don’t think there was another person in the lab, do you?”
“Occam’s Razor,” Pinkerton said. “Never assume more explanations than necessary.”
“So, do you think Dr. Lane helped Silas?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You’re sure someone couldn’t have gone in there with gloves?”
“I’m never sure about anything.”
Maggie sighed. “Really, young man. Why don’t you just tell us what you’re thinking. Things would be a whole lot easier.”
“If things keep escalating, I might have to.”
The elevator door opened, and they started down the hall toward Robert’s room. The door was open, and they found Robert sitting on the bed with a large black bag and several assault rifles scattered on the mattress.
“Holy crap!” Robert shouted at Pinkerton as soon as he saw him enter the room. “You had me to carry all of this stuff through the front door in broad daylight!”
“This place used to be a theater. I’m sure people assumed they were props,” Pinkerton said.
“Well, I grabbed as much as I could in one trip. I’m not stupid enough to make a second. Look, I know you’re a government…contract labor…guy, or whatever, but honestly, do you really think we’re going to need all of this?”
“Yes,” Pinkerton said.
Maggie stared at the guns wondering what they were for until a horrid thought flashed through her mind. Her eyes widened. “You’re planning to shoot Dr. Lane’s bodies! You…you can’t! It’s her life’s work!”
“Ideally, I won’t be shooting anything. I’m a terrible shot.”
Robert groaned. “Would you just tell us what’s going on!”
“Not yet. I have one more stop to make. Do you know where the janitor’s room is?”
Both Maggie and Robert nodded.
“Good. We need to pay him a visit, but first, we need to hide these weapons.”
Robert looked around the room, and after a few moments, he and Pinkerton moved the weapons into a closet by the bathroom. Once this was done, Pinkerton stepped back and eyed the closet. “That should do for now. This won’t take long, but, Robert, I want you to stand in the hall and keep an eye on your door. Maggie and I will speak with the janitor if he’s here.”
“And if he isn’t?” Maggie asked.
Pinkerton didn’t answer. He motioned for Maggie to follow him, and the two walked to Delphin’s room. He knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Pinkerton knocked a second time, but again, no answer. The young man reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of lock picks. He took out two metal rods and inserted them into the keyhole, pressing his ear against the door and biting his lip as he worked his instruments.
“You’re breaking in?”
Pinkerton didn’t respond. He kept working on the lock until something clicked, and the door cracked open. He pushed the door and stepped inside. Maggie followed.
As she looked around the old man’s room, she was amazed and horrified. The smell was something like a mixture of rotting meat and old food. Large, colorful masks decorated the room.
Odd jars filled with pickled parts like chicken feet and various kinds of eyes lined the shelves mounted to the walls. Other shelves contained books. Maggie didn’t understand most of the titles, but many of the books featured words like necromancy, resurrection and transfiguration. But what disturbed Maggie most was a collection of leather balls with tuffs of dry hair on the top of a coffee table by a messy bed. As she approached them, she quickly saw they weren’t balls at all. They were heads, little shrunken heads with tiny, closed eyes and open twisting mouths. They all looked surprised.
Pinkerton opened the refrigerator and started pulling out more of the disgusting pickled jars, placing them on a nearby table that was already filled with rotting takeout. Cockroaches scattered as he invaded their banquet. Once the table was absolutely filled with jars containing cow hooves, ears, tongues, chilled herbs and a variety of strange looking fruits, he went straight to the bookshelves and began pulling them out, scanning them quickly before throwing them on the floor and reaching for another.
“Pinkerton, what is this place?” Maggie asked.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Pinkerton asked.
“Please, just tell me.”
Pinkerton sighed and tossed the book he was scanning to the ground. He met her eyes and motioned around the room. “He’s a witch doctor, Maggie. Now, I want you to think. Don’t ignore this room. Accept it as a reality and ask yourself the next…obvious question. What is a scientist doing with a witch doctor?”
“What are you getting at?”
Pinkerton shook his head and picked up the next book. He began scanning it. “I’ve dropped all the hints I can. Maggie, let your mind go there. This isn’t a complicated mystery. The answer just offends your sensibilities. Ignore your sentiments. Ignore what you think is true and accept what’s in front of you. Tell me about the bodies downstairs. What’s inside them?”
He looked up from his book and met her eyes again. Maggie stepped back, frowning. She recognized that gaze. She’d seen the look he was giving her in the mirror. Pinkerton was tired, but not physically tired. It was the bone deep exhaustion caused by only one thing, age. Before the cancer, she’d been so bored with her life. She’d been ready to go. In a way, she’d felt full. Then she got sick, and life became precious to her again. But before then, she could remember feeling the weight of her years. What could cause such a young man to feel so old? Maggie could only think of one answer, experience. This young man had seen things. He’d seen far too much too fast. Life had already saturated him, filled him to the brink, and this overexposure had broken him down. His limp, his slouch, had more to do with his of mind rather than his failed surgery. He wasn’t hobbling around like a cripple; he was hobbling around like an old man.
You poor child. Maggie thought. What’s happened to you?
Pinkerton saw something in her eyes. His frown deepened, contorting his expression into a wrinkled…even elderly scowl. “You already know. You’ve known for a while. Everyone has known.”
Maggie closed her eyes, and thought, really thought, about the situation, and despite the young man’s impatience, she discovered Pinkerton was right. Once she ignored her sentiments, her excuses, and accepted everything she’d seen as a cold reality, the answer came quickly. She uttered one word and was amazed at how easily it came out. Perhaps, she really had known all along. “Demons.”
She opened her eyes. Pinkerton nodded.
Her brain immediately tried to reject the idea, to reassert her understanding of reality, to rationalize what was happening, but it was too late. She’d opened her mind, and all the events of the proceeding months fell into place with a neat click. She saw the whole picture, in one brilliant revelation, and now, the damage couldn’t be undone.
Between the strange feelings she’d gotten every time she stepped inside the observation room, the way the girl and the man knew everybody’s names, the way they looked at the one-way mirror, through the one-way mirror. They weren’t just sensing everyone on the other side. They saw everyone on the other side. She remembered Dr. Blake’s words when the girl attacked him. “She took something from me.” Maggie finally knew what he meant. The girl, the demon, had been tormenting him, and his fear was somehow feeding her. And in the process, she was draining him. Of what, Maggie couldn’t be sure, but she knew one thing. Their fear had been giving the demons strength. That was why the bodies weren’t waking up at once. Whatever they were doing to indwell the bodies took some kind of juice. Something had provided the energy to allow the first demon to indwell the girl, but they’d needed more, so the girl had put on an eerie show and waited until rumors had spread through the whole complex and the fear had grown. But no, that wasn’t right. The complex wasn’t afraid. It was excited. Dr. Lane was afraid, and she was the only one who’d been watching the girl the entire time, which meant Dr. Lane was the battery. The demon was using her fear the most. Dr. Blake was just for fun. The theory made sense. Dr. Lane had done the surgery, but it wasn’t a surgery; it was a ceremony, and this ceremony had opened Dr. Lane to the demons, enabled them to feed off her, so they could use whatever negative energy she felt. Then they’d all entered the observation room, and the demon had established a link with each one of them as she put on her bizarre show. Now, she could feed on all their fear…and give it the others, which was why another demon had found the energy to jump into the man. Then that man had killed Horace and terrified the rest of them all the more. That was why they hadn’t really tried to break into the room. If the man had wanted, he could’ve broken through the glass and killed them, but that wasn’t the goal. The two demons were tormenting them and feeding on their fear. And the more fear they accumulated, the more energy they’d have to wake the other bodies up. In fact, they may have been saving up that fear the entire time…perhaps, to wake all the bodies up at once.
Maggie fell to her knees. “No,” she gasped. “This can’t be.”
Certain things didn’t make sense. Why hadn’t they awakened sooner? Why hadn’t the demons tormented her? That was the flaw in Pinkerton’s original theory. He’d assumed the demons would be attached to those who were moved inside the new bodies, but they weren’t. They’d attached to Dr. Lane which meant she’d been present for the ceremony. The only question left for Pinkerton was how much did the janitor know? It was possible that Dr. Lane could have been doing the ceremony herself, but it seemed unlikely, so they were inside this room, confirming that Delphin was involved with the scheme.
Maggie looked around the room and regarded the pagan artifacts around her. She shook and bowed her head. It looked like they’d gotten their answer. Now, only two questions remained. What was the inciting incident which gave the demons enough energy to enter the first body, and how long before the rest of the bodies woke up?
Maggie looked up at Pinkerton. In that moment, he seemed like the elderly man and she the little girl. “I didn’t know.”
“I know,” Pinkerton said. “It’s not your fault. You believed in science.”
He knelt beside her and met her eyes. His expression softened. “I’m sorry, but the truth is it was never science, it was witchcraft, but she didn’t use witchcraft on those two bodies, which means the process is happening on its own.”
“I know,” Maggie said. “That means something must have happened after the ceremony which gave the first demon the ability to enter one of the bodies, but you don’t know what.”
Pinkerton raised an eyebrow. “Really? You’ve put that much together. I was just wanting you to accept the supernatural.”
“It all came to me so fast,” Maggie whispered. “Once I let the idea in, everything else came quickly. How could I know?”
“It’s intuitive,” Pinkerton said. “You know the rules the same way a child knows to pull the sheets over his head when there’s a ghost in the room. It doesn’t make sense in the natural, but your spirit knows that evil feeds off fear. If you can find a way to calm yourself, you rob them of their energy.”
Maggie nodded and the two rose to their feet. She felt dizzy. The semi-divine revelation, or really, the experience of opening her mind and following a chain of logic she never would have admitted existed five minutes before, was too much.
I really did cheat, she thought.
But she didn’t have time for regret. She didn’t have time to debate whether or not she was crazy, or whether Pinkerton was crazy. For the moment, she had to treat everything she’d discovered as if it were absolutely true. She didn’t have another explanation, and even if she were somehow wrong, the end result would be the same. She knew, simply knew, the other bodies were going to wake up, and when they did, they’d be violent. They’d kill her, and they’d kill her son. This awakening, if not supernatural, was automatic, and even if the ceremony Dr. Lane and Delphin had done didn’t really work, something was happening to those bodies nobody could explain. Since Pinkerton’s theory and her own reasoning matched, and it was all they had to go on, the best thing she could do was treat the theory as if it were true, even if she couldn’t bring herself to fully accept it.
“So, what happens now?” she asked.
Pinkerton smiled and looked down at the book he was holding. He opened it. “First, we figure out the details.” He pointed to the top of one of the pages. The heading said, “The Transfer of Souls.” Below the words was a picture of a poorly drawn human body; a glowing orb hovered over it. Beside the body was a curved arrow. Maggie’s eyes followed the arrow which led to a jar.
“Certain sects of Voodoo believe they can capture souls and store them. Looks like our witch doctor is using a similar spell. And Dr. Lane has managed to create a more refined clay jar. Look closer at this drawing and tell me what you see.”
Maggie looked down at the crudely drawn jar, and her heart sank. “Symbols,” she muttered.
A ring of strange letters lined the top of the jar. Lower on the page, was a collection of symbols, and in the paragraph below that, was a detailed explanation of what the symbols meant.
Pinkerton sighed and closed the book. “When someone wants to become a vampire without being bit, Satanists have a high-level occult ceremony. It’s a long series of incantations followed by committing a number of terrible deeds. Then the person who is trying to turn must construct their own coffin. This coffin must be filled with an elixir and a series of symbols must be written around the ring of the coffin. The belief is that demons will indwell this person and transform the subject over the course of a few days.”
“Dr. Lane’s devices are based on these coffins?” Maggie asked.
“What the hell?!” Robert cried. Maggie turned around to see Robert standing in the doorway looking up at the masks which lined the walls. “Delphin, what is all of this?” Robert said this without looking at the janitor. It took Maggie and Pinkerton a moment to even see the little old man standing behind him. Delphin was raising a knife.
“Robert, watch out!” Maggie cried.
Robert looked at his mother, confused. Then there was a sickening thud.