THE TEMPLE OF MAGGIE STONE
Chapter 14: The Final Interview
Pinkerton puffed on his green pipe, sending spiraling plumes of smoke down the hallway. So far, everything still seemed normal. Once in a while they’d pass another doctor or staff member who would regard the strange group with mild interest but seemed to have no idea things were falling apart.
They reached the observation room and Dr. Lane opened the door. Maggie stepped inside and saw what Adam and Eve had done to their Eden. Blood covered the walls in red streaks. Torn clothing lay scattered across the floor. Horace’s corpse lay in the center of the room. The limbs were twisted at odd angles. Entrails lay piled on either side of the body. The male and female sat beside these piles gnawing on bloody handfuls of gore. They saw the group come into the room and sprang up like children happy their parents were home. They stood to the right of the broken section of mirror where they were sure to be seen, smiling.
Maggie had half-expected them to be gone by the time they returned. Judging by the way the fractured section of mirror leaned inward, breaking through the window would have been easy. The fact they hadn’t escaped made Maggie nervous. Despite understanding that their prior threats had only been meant to frighten them, she was sure they would attack at some point. The only question was when.
“Pinkerton!” the girl chirped. I knew you’d come back! Curiosity got the better of you.” The girl looked at Maggie and blinked. When she opened her eye again, Maggie saw two black pits. The girl cocked her head like a puppy and smiled, revealing pointed, flat, serrated teeth. \ She looked like a happy shark. Maggie stared into those eyes, transfixed. None of the others seemed to notice the change. Was it all in her head? Maggie took a step forward, amazed.
“Maggie,” Pinkerton said quietly.
Maggie tore her eyes away from the girl’s gaze and was surprised at how hard it was to turn her head. She stumbled back when she realized her nose was almost pressing against the glass. Hadn’t she only taken one step toward the girl? Maggie looked away from Pinkerton and back at the Eve. Her face was normal, but she looked disappointed.
“Well, what can I say?” Pinkerton said mildly. “I guess, I really am curious.” He looked over at the female agent who was carrying the bag. She lowered the bag and pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and a box of shells. She handed the gun and shells to Pinkerton who addressed the girl once more. “Tell me, while I have you on the line, so to speak. I’ve often wondered if demons have always been inhuman spirits, fallen angels like the Good Book says, or were you human?” He leaned against the mirror and loaded the shot gun, looking straight into the girl’s eyes. “So, how about it? Do you feel like answering questions, or am I going to get the usual incoherent nonsense?”
“Depends,” the girl replied. “How’s the bulimia? Do you think you’re skinny enough? Do you think if you lose enough weight, girls won’t notice that twisted spine of yours? How does it feel to know there isn’t a girl alive who would take a modern hunchback?”
Pinkerton smiled. “Funny,” he said. “This shot gun just got a whole lot lighter.” The girl laughed cheerfully, but she took a few steps back. “Okay, I’ll say this.” She looked over at Dr. Lane. “Thank you. Thank you so much, Dr. Lane. You really have no idea how much work it is to get a body the old-fashioned way. Possessions take so much work! Especially serial killers, like Silas. First, you have to spend all this time pretending to care about their problems, being a friend in the dark, quietly bringing up the injustices they’ve suffered so they can stew on them for hours and hours, and all the while, you’re just sitting there, telling them over and over they have every right to be angry. Then you start knocking things over and disrupting their sleep with dreams. Not too much. You don’t want them to be sure you’re there. You just want them to suspect it, keep them on edge, wear them down. Then you start instigating fights with the people around them, making sure everyone is just a little tired. Once he’s good and on edge, you tell him he should do something about all these injustices. Then you add the hunger, the need for justice, the need to know what it feels like to be in control, to be the one inflicting pain instead of receiving it. Then there’s more waiting, more stewing, more validating him, more lack of sleep, more gentle torment. With any luck, those thoughts become impulses. You see, turning thoughts into impulses is like baking a cake. It takes ingredients and time. You provide the ingredients; he becomes the oven.”
“Then one day, if you’re lucky, the right person comes along at the right moment, and you plant the idea. Then he forms the fantasy, the fantasy becomes a plan. From there, you keep bringing the plan up. You can use dreams, or you can just make sure he’s always around when she is. You can let him see her over and over again until it seems like the hand of God is validating his plan. It’s destiny. It’s fate. Then, with even more luck, he does it. He performs his fantasy. He regains control of his life. Then he tastes it and is hungry for it all on his own. That’s when you withdraw all the opportunity. That’s when you’re quiet for a while so he’ll start looking for another one, one like her. He needs to feel in control again. He needs to receive more justice. From that point, it’s almost a guarantee he’ll do it again, and when he does, that’s when you start showing up in a big way. You torment him, one-way or another until, either consciously or unconsciously, he knows you’re there. Then he’ll accept you. He’s gone too far to accept anything else. That’s when you take him. That’s when you indwell him. Slowly, you take more and more of him. As he kills, little does he know, you’re in him, feeding off the pleasure he once enjoyed. He starts to feel unfulfilled. He thinks it’s because he’s acclimated himself to the killing, but really, it’s because you’re taking his pleasure for your own. So, he kills all the more, and you’re there, feeding and taking him over, little by little, until he barely remembers the killings at all. He starts to lose track of how many he’s killed because during those times, you’ve completely taken over and are murdering the poor girl yourself, robbing him of his little sense of justice.”
“Eventually, he gets caught, and the anger and confusion start to boil, and all the while, you’re feeding off every glorious bit of it. You feed on him until there is nothing left, or they kill him, whichever comes first.” She laughed. It was heinous and cruel. “But that is so much work!” She hugged herself. “This body, it’s like…well, it’s like putting on a glove. Thank you.”
“Shut up,” Dr. Lane hissed.
The girl laughed again. “Well, Pinkerton. Was that useful to you? Or was that just more nonsense? Can you even tell?” Pinkerton said nothing; no one did. She looked at Albertson.
“What about you, Honey?” Her voice softened. There was no mockery, no contempt. For the first time, she sounded sincere. “You know, if you come in here, we won’t kill you. We don’t need to. In fact, you can have me. Would you like that? I know how much you love this body. It’s okay. I love it, too, and I don’t blame you. I would’ve done the same.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Albertson said.
“Don’t talk to it,” Pinkerton warned.
“Why, you are?” Albertson asked.
“I’ve delt with them before. I can’t explain everything, but she’s looking for a way in. Don’t acknowledge her.”
The girl moaned. “I’m hungry. Albertson, feed me.”
Albertson looked over at Dr. Blake who was also staring at the girl intently. Maggie’s mind went back to how the doctor had said she’d taken something.
The girl also looked at the Dr, Blake and jutted her lower lip out, making a childish pout. “I tried to feed off poor Dr. Blake, but I didn’t get much. He loves his wife, and that ruined it. He kept thinking about her. No fun. I feed off lust, Albertson, and you have lots of it. I like that. I would never kill someone who could feed me so completely. I protect them. I protect them the way a farmer protects his cow. I know that sounds horrible, but you can believe me when I say no matter what happens here, you’ll live.” There was a long pause. No one spoke. The girl smiled, and it was the most serene child-like smile Maggie had ever seen. She felt sick. “You’re thinking about me,” The girl said to the bureaucrat.
“You really need to leave,” Pinkerton said sternly. Albertson didn’t move.
“I won’t hurt your friends,” the girl went on. “While were inside, neither me nor my companion will hurt them. It wouldn’t do for you to feel too guilty. It would taint the taste, you see? I’m just hungry. I just want to feed. You can do that for me, can’t you? I promise you’ll love it.” The girl stepped forward and placed her hand on the mirror. Her voice became airy and filled with longing. “Please, make me feel better.”
Albertson took one step forward, then another. His mouth was open, his face pale.
Pinkerton moved toward the mirror as well. He reached for Alberton’s arm. “Enough. Surely, you’re not stupid…” Everything happened at once. The lights flickered and the girl’s body went limp. Her head thumped against the mirror. Her eyes suddenly looked empty, staring at nothing. Pinkerton fired the first barrel of his shotgun at her head. It shattered like a melon. Glass cascaded off the frame like a glistening waterfall. The girl’s corpse spun through the air and landed in front of the metal table. Pinkerton aimed the gun at the big man just as he began moving toward them. Then Maggie heard a bloody scream. She turned and saw Albertson who’d drove his own thumbs into his eye sockets. Blood seeped down his cheeks.
“Get her out!” Albertson was screaming. “Get her out!”
“Priest!” Pinkerton screamed. He fired the second barrel. Maggie didn’t see whether or not Pinkerton hit the large man. The lights went out. Glass crunched throughout the room. Maggie couldn’t tell who was where. She pressed her hands over her mouth to keep from screaming.
“Randolf, grab him!” a voice screamed. The next second, that same voice began reciting something in Latin. Albertson’s screams changed, turning from cries of agony to rage. The screams were animal-like, filled with gravel and fury.
“Doctors, Maggie, get down!” the female agent cried.
Maggie felt a hand grab her and pull her to the floor. She screamed. Two flashlight beams shined from the tips of the rifles the two agents carried. Maggie looked to her left and saw the faint outline of Dr. Blake’s face. Without thinking, she leaned into him and hugged the doctor as he guided her to a wall.
Maggie tried to see if the giant man would come lumbering through the hole where the mirror had been. No one came.
“Did you hit him?” the female agent asked Pinkerton.
“I didn’t see,” Pinkerton replied. “I can’t load this damn gun in the dark!”
There was a mad cry from inside the observation room. The sound of crunching glass erupted inside. Someone was running. Maggie saw an outline leap through the open hole. Then there were two loud bangs from Pinkerton’s shot gun. The body flew backward and vanished into the dark.
“Dumbass!” Pinkerton shouted with a twisted smile. “Sal, make sure he’s dead. Joe, get your light on Albertson!”
Agent Sal leapt through the window, and Agent Joe shined his light on Albertson, revealing two gory holes where eyes should have been. Blood and ooze seeped down like tears. Randolf had his arms wrapped under Albertson’s armpits and behind the bureaucrat’s neck. Albertson’s arms flailed wildly. He kicked at the ground, throwing glass in every direction. His screams and snarls gradually began to form gurgled words Maggie could not understand.
Albertson spat and hissed the unknown language as he writhed. The Priest moved from Latin to English, his voice growing louder as he recited some ancient text.
“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ get out of him!” the priest shouted before returning to his Latin.
Albertson continued to flail wildly. His hands found Randolf’s face. He drove his nails across the cheeks of the bodyguard. Randolf screamed, as the long slashes across his cheeks began to drool blood. but he did not let go. The Cheese gritted his teeth and shook the bureaucrat until his nails lost purchase of his face.
Maggie looked for Dr. Lane. She saw her dim silhouette in the corner rocking back and forth as if she were mad. Maggie wanted to help her. She wanted to crawl across the glass covered floor and hold her, try and steady her. But everybody was so on edge that Maggie was afraid if she moved, she might distract or spook someone, and Albertson would get free.
“The big guy’s dead!” Sal cried from inside the observation room. Pinkerton spun around and hobbled to the large black bag lying next to the door. He pulled out two steel objects that looked like maracas. He handed one to the priest, and both the priest and Pinkerton began shaking the strange objects at Albertson. Droplets of water sprinkled out of them, and there was a horrible sizzling sound like steak frying on a hot skillet. Albertson’s screams of rage turned to shrieks of pain. Steam rose from his body, and horrible blisters formed across his face and hands.
“NOOOOOO!!! WE’LL KILL YOU ALL!!!” a low graveled voice screamed through Albertson’s lips. Then Albertson went limp.
“Keep praying!” Pinkerton ordered. “It could be faking!”
“I know,” the priest replied. He continued with his Latin. Everyone watched Albertson, except for Dr. Lane who continued to rock against the back wall, muttering to herself. Pinkerton knelt and checked Albertson’s pulse.
“He’s alive,” Pinkerton said. “Joe, bandage him up and get something to kill the pain.”
“We’ll have to get him out of here,” Sal said.
“We will if were not too late,” Pinkerton said. He turned to Dr. Blake. “Are there generators? We’ll need the elevator.”
Dr. Blake nodded. “They should be kicking on at any second. I don’t know why they haven’t already.”
“They’re on,” Dr. Lane said quietly. “They’re just not hooked up to the observation rooms. The generators we bought didn’t have enough juice to power the whole lab, so we just hooked up, the hallway, the elevator, the cafeteria and the storage rooms.”
Dr. Blake stood up and opened the door leading into the hallway. Red light spilled inside the room, making the blood and gore inside turn black.
“We need to hurry,” Pinkerton said. “If something was cut, that means the other bodies have woken up. We have to get everyone out. Dr. Lane, Dr. Blake, you two start with the living quarters. Maggie and I will start grabbing people from the offices and labs. Father Jacob, you and Randolf get Albertson out of here. There should be agents outside already. Don’t bother coming back yourselves. I don’t think there’s anything else you can do.”
“We don’t know if your theory about the exorcisms is correct,” Father Jacob said. “I should try, at least.”
Pinkerton shook his head. “The bodies need to be destroyed.” He looked at Dr. Lane. “They raise too many questions.” He then looked at his agents. “Sal, Joe, go hunting.”
“On it,” Sal said. She knelt beside the bag and pulled out a smaller bag which, when opened, contained a variety of handguns. She gave each of them a gun and two magazines. Pinkerton took a handgun and kept the shotgun and the box of shells.
“Each magazine holds nine bullets, plus one chamber round. You’ve got nineteen shots. Use them carefully,” Sal said.
“I’ve never used a gun,” Maggie said.
“Neither have I,” Dr. Blake said.
“Then I would advise waiting until those things get close enough to grab you.” Sal said. “Pinkerton, how many shells are in that box?”
“Twenty-one,” Pinkerton said.
Sal nodded. “We should have a rendezvous point when were finished. What do you think?”
“The cafeteria is as good a place as any,” Pinkerton said. “Dr. Lane, how many bodies were in the storage rooms total?”
“Like I said before, there were thirty in each,” Dr. Lane told him.
“So minus Silas and the thirty bodies he stole, the body you took, Maggie’s body, the body downstairs and the two in here, that makes for a total of eighty-four hostiles.”
“Sure,” Dr. Lane said.
“How many employees again?” Pinkerton asked.
“Sixty,” Dr. Blake said. “But there could be a few people absent.”
“Who keeps track of that?”
“Dr. Harrison,” Dr. Blake replied. “But it might be faster to go to his office and get on his computer to find out who clocked in.”
“I’m assuming if some are sick, they’ll be in the living quarters. I’m also assuming if anyone leaves the facility, they’re tracked, and any record of that will also be in Dr. Harrison’s office.”
“Is there a back exit in the living quarters, a fire escape?”
Pinkerton nodded. “Good. Take your people in the living quarters through the fire escape. Then head straight to the cafeteria with a printout of whoever was on shift. Maggie and I will grab who we can as fast as we can, then we’ll meet you and do a final sweep, understood?” Dr. Blake nodded, then he and Dr. Lane left the room without another word. “Are there any questions?” Everyone shook their heads. “Alright. Let’s get to work then.”