Discover more from Gary Paul Varner
THE TEMPLE OF MAGGIE STONE
Chapter 17: Part 2
“It’s over,” Dr. Lane said.
Maggie sensed something going for her head. She ducked and whirled around in time to see Dr. Lane making a swipe for her with both hands. She’d meant to break her neck. In the next instant, Maggie felt a hard fist slam against her chest. She flew back and struck the wall hard. Then she felt herself slowly slide down it like something out of a cartoon.
Maggie didn’t remember tossing her rifle, but it wasn’t in her hand, so all she had left was her handgun. She reached for it, but the doctor was too swift. She rushed Maggie and pinned her arms to the ground. Then Dr. Lane shook Maggie, banging her head against the wall several times, causing her vision to blur. She barely noticed the demon take the gun and throw it into a corner. Then the demon grabbed her throat, not quite choking her, but making it hard for Maggie to breath.
“Why?” she coughed.
“Why?” Dr. Lane laughed. “You ask me that?”
“How long? Is Dr. Lane still in there?”
“No.” Dr. Lane’s face contorted. At first, it morphed into the girl from the observation room, then it morphed into something with black animal eyes and razor-sharp, serrated teeth, the face the girl had made at her before. “Possession doesn’t work the same in this body as it does in a real one. Here, I can just throw the soul out. There’s nothing connecting it, no mortal coil.”
“So, where is she?” Maggie asked.
The demon shrugged. “Who can say?” She stared into Maggie’s eyes. “I’m not going to do that to you,” it said. “I have nothing to work with. Your husband did a good job with your marriage. There was almost no anger between the two of you, no lust or longing for another, even after that affair of yours. I thought you’d be a shoe in, but I just don’t have anything to go on. Pity, I like your body better than this one. However, I’m going to make you suffer, just like I’m going to make that little bastard across the hall suffer. He’s caused us a lot of trouble over the years, and he’s got that coming back to him in spades.” She turned to the monitors. “Look at him, crying like a bitch just because he lost some mild acquaintances. It’s pathetic.”
“What are you going to do to me?” Maggie asked.
“See how much this body can take before your soul leaves it, assuming it can leave on its own. I’m not sure what the rules are, and it will be good to find out.”
One of the demon’s hands moved so quickly that Maggie lost sight of it. It drove into her stomach. Dr. Lane’s fingers dug into her up to the first knuckles. The demon twisted her hand; blood spurted everywhere. Hot pain blinded Maggie. She screamed. She grabbed vainly at the hand driven inside her stomach, but it was like a clamp. She couldn’t move it.
“All I have to do is pull,” the demon said. “Do you realize that? I already have a bit of your intestine. Do you feel it?” The demon moved her hand around. Maggie did not feel the demon’s fingers on her guts. She only felt pain. “All I have to do is pull and spread your bowels out onto the floor, just like poor Dr. Blake. You should have seen the look of hurt and surprise on his face. It was a good meal.”
Maggie let go of the demon’s hand, feeling the world swim out of existence. If she didn’t think fast, she was going to get an inspection of her insides. Her hands went frantically, blindly, to her pants, and she felt something. Keys! Maggie still had Dr. Lane’s ring of keys, and wonder of wonders, they were almost falling out of her pocket. Maggie clutched at the ring of keys, guiding a few of them between her knuckles. She made a fist.
“Pinkerton will stop you,” she said weakly.
“His death will be more painful than yours,” the demon said. “I’ll feed on him until there’s nothing left.”
Maggie clutched tighter at the keys and swung. The demon smiled at her knowingly and tilted her head back to dodge Maggie’s wild blow. Maggie had been aiming for the doctor’s former face, but she missed. The keys went lower than expected, but caught on something else, the doctor’s throat. The keys slashed a long gash across the soft flesh. Blood erupted in a torrent, spraying Maggie, soaking her hair and covering her face. The demon let go of her stomach and throat and clutched at her own neck, staring unbelievingly at Maggie. Maggie ignored the pain, the blood, everything. With blind rage, she leapt onto the demon and began pounding on its face. Her body must’ve been stronger than she realized because the demon didn’t resist. It let go of its throat and tried to reach for her, but by the fourth punch, Dr. Lane’s body stiffened, as if all the joints had locked into place at once. The arms hung frozen at the demon’s side like idle hooks. She stared at Maggie with wide eyes. Droplets of blood flew everywhere as the creature coughed and gagged.
“I guess there’s a God after all!” Maggie screamed.
She continued to punch and cry. At last, Maggie got up and retrieved her handgun. She aimed it but decided the gun would be too loud. So, instead she holstered the gun, and grabbed one of the heavier machines on the counter. The demon didn’t so much as look at her. It stared at the ceiling and coughed up another glob of blood. Maggie lifted the machine over her head and was amazed by her own strength. “For Sal, Father Jacob and everyone else. Most of all, for my son Robert!” She threw the heavy, square device on top of its head. She heard bones crunch. The body twitched, then went limp. Maggie fell to her knees, panting.
A few seconds later, she heard four gentle knocks on the door. She looked up, terrified, but then glanced at the monitors and saw the room Pinkerton had been in was empty. She smiled, got up and opened the door. Pinkerton stepped inside, carrying his cane and shotgun. He closed the door behind him. The monitors on the other side of the room went out, leaving them in darkness. However, this wasn’t for long. Pinkerton tried his light again, and the beam shot up to the ceiling. He flashed the light at Maggie then at Dr. Lane’s body.
“Did you know?” Maggie asked.
“Not until Randolf explained it,” Pinkerton admitted. “Once he did, Dr. Lane was the only suspect, but I couldn’t let on until we got outside. She would’ve attacked us in the hall. I’m surprised she didn’t when I told her to move to the front of the group.”
“She wasn’t sure,” Maggie said. “She couldn’t read our minds.”
Pinkerton nodded. “That’s why I stepped back with her instead of shooting at the horde with the rest of you, but once things fell apart, I lost track of her. I didn’t realize she was with you until you screamed.” Pinkerton moved his flashlight up and down Maggie’s body. He saw her blood-soaked shirt, tiny droplets were dripping to the floor. “You’re hurt.”
Maggie suddenly felt light-headed, and almost without realizing it, she sat back down and leaned her head against the wall. Pinkerton knelt beside her and took from his pocket a small first aid kit and a roll of gauze.
Pinkerton looked at her, and Maggie realized he was blushing. “We have to remove your shirt,” he said.
“Sure,” Maggie said, smiling. “It’s not my body anyway.” Maggie was about to take off the shirt, but Pinkerton raised a hand. “I’d feel better if you didn’t move.” He took out a small pair of scissors from the tiny white box and gently cut the shirt down the middle, revealing five distinct holes in her stomach. They were deep and filled with black blood. Tiny trails of crimson oozed out of the wounds. Pinkerton helped her out of the shirt and began cutting around the areas soaked in blood. “I’m going to put down a layer of gauze, then I’ll put the dry scraps of the shirt on top of that then add another layer over the scraps…you know, like a sandwich.”
“Sure,” Maggie said, trying to give the boy a smile.
Pinkerton finished cutting up the shirt then laid the scraps across Maggie’s legs. He took out a tiny brown bottle from the white box. “This is going to hurt, a lot.” He dumped out the rest of the box’s contents and gave the box to her, pointing at its plastic handle. “Bite down. Try not to scream.” She did as she was told, and Pinkerton dumped the contents of the bottle onto her stomach. Hot pain surged through every inch of her body, making each muscle to tense. She bit down on the handle so hard she thought her teeth were going to shatter. She groaned, but she did not scream. Once this was done, Pinkerton gave her a minute to collect herself. Then, he wrapped the gauze around her stomach, put the strips of cloth on top of the gauze, and finally, added the second layer around the scraps. He used the rest of the roll, trying to apply as much pressure as possible to the wounds. When he was finished, he fastened the outer layer of the gauze together with a metal clip. “This will stop the bleeding, at least.”
“Thanks,” Maggie said. They were both silent for a long time until Maggie found herself wanting to go to sleep. Scared she was going into shock like Joe, she decided to try and start a conversation. It seemed like they needed to make a plan anyway.
“How long was Dr. Lane possessed?” she asked.
“It was the moment the demon left Albertson. He was never the target.”
“It showed me a recording of Dr. Lane talking to it over the course of the week. You were right. Possession is a long con. It was getting inside her head.”
“Yeah,” Pinkerton said quietly. “That’s usually how it works.”
“Poor dear,” Maggie said, shaking her head. “She just wanted a better life. Was that so wrong?”
“No,” Pinkerton said. “But she made a deal with the devil, and he always comes to collect.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and pointed to the ring of keys lying on the ground. The teeth of several keys were covered with blood. “I’m glad you’re okay. That was smart, using the keys.”
“I would’ve called it luck. Ray would’ve called it Providence.” Maggie said. “It doesn’t matter. We’re still here, and they’re still somewhere in the hall.”
“They’re close to the cafeteria,” Pinkerton said. “But they’ll circle back any minute, then they’ll wait by the elevator. We probably won’t hear them when they do. Those noises are for show. They’ll want us to think it’s safe when we make our last charge. As for the finished bodies, they’ll patrol the halls in case we try something else, but they won’t really be looking for us.”
“Do you think they know we’re in here?” Maggie asked.
“Probably not,” Pinkerton said. “And the finished bodies know that if they try to break into the rooms, we’ll shoot them. I doubt they’ll risk their new bodies now that there are only two of us left. They’ll leave us for the deformed bunch. Besides, they like to draw things out, wait for our fear to grow. But when our dread is up to their satisfaction, if we haven’t moved by then, they’ll come for us.”
“So, what do we do?”
“We either make our last charge, or we wait for the calvary. Don’t forget, I sent for help. Abubakar and his team are made for this sort of thing.” Pinkerton smiled and shook his head. “They’ll be furious that I came down here without more men. I suppose, they should be.”
“How long will it take for them to show up?”
“I don’t know,” Pinkerton said. “They could be here already, or it might take a couple days. It depends on what they were doing when word reached them.”
“So, it’s another coin toss. We either wait for your team and risk the demons getting bored, or we make a final charge and hope Randolf and Ralph killed enough of them for us to make a hole.” Pinkerton nodded. Maggie laughed and shook her head. Then she met Pinkerton’s eyes and asked. “Who are you?”
Pinkerton sat beside her and leaned his head against the wall. He glanced at the door then looked back at Maggie. “During the later years of the Pinkerton Organization, Alan Pinkerton found himself in a crusade against the Labor Unions. He believed the unions had formed into a sort of mafia, and he was right. They pretty much controlled everything, and they weren’t above using violence to get what they wanted. What started was, more or less, a war. Alan killed some; the unions killed some; however, in the end, the unions got enough influence over the government. They passed the Anti-Pinkerton Act of 1893, and that was the beginning of the end. But Alan was no fool. Records show Alan Pinkerton had only 6 children, yet a letter from William Pinkerton revealed there were nine kids total, strange huh.”
“Very strange,” Maggie said, getting the implication.
“People assumed William was referring to some still-borns.” He shrugged. “It’s a family business. And it’s split into three branches. I inherited one of them. We’re a government contractor that runs into the supernatural from time to time.”
“It seems you run into the supernatural quite a bit.”
Pinkerton smiled. “We’re a hybrid. Deep conspiracies, supernatural occurrences, sometimes they overlap. They overlap a lot actually.”
“Is this a normal day?” Maggie asked.
Pinkerton laughed and shook his head. “No. No, this is a very bad day.” Maggie smiled, and both were silent for a while until Pinkerton stood up and said, “I better barricade the door, just in case.”
He began quietly and slowly moving random furniture and equipment. Maggie would have tried to help him, but she felt too lightheaded. Plus, she suspected he wouldn’t have let her. So, she watched him move back and forth until the makeshift barricade was about chest high. She was impressed that he was able to lift anything at all, but if Pinkerton was nothing else, he was inventive and found a variety of unique ways to move and lift every object he encountered.
At last, he stopped and looked down. His light beam fell on a small green square sitting aimlessly in the corner. “You’re kidding,” he said and knelt down, shinning his light on a white sticker that was too far away for Maggie to read. “The Chafon 300w portable generator; how about that? Some Providence at last.” He moved his light, following a wire to the wall. “It’s hooked up. This just keeps getting better.”
“What?” Maggie asked. Pinkerton looked at her and winked but didn’t say anything. He started flashing his light around the equipment on the counter before resting the beam back on the generator. He pressed a button. The room exploded with red light. Maggie was surprised to find that she was temporarily blinded even though the room was still dim.
“What are you doing?” she hissed. “They’ll know we’re here!”
“Come look at this.”
Maggie blinked several times, then struggled to get up. She hobbled over to the counter, clutching at her stomach. She wanted to scream with each movement, but she managed to keep quiet. As she crossed the room, she realized that the monitors were on, but their screens were black.
“You’re looking at the security cameras,” she said, leaning against the counter. “But the whole place is too dark.”
“Give me a minute,” Pinkerton said. “Keep an eye on the door.” He handed her his shotguns, and she turned around and watched the door while he started pressing random buttons. “Here we are,” he said after a minute. “Maggie turned and saw all the monitors were shinning a faint grey. “Night vision,” he chirped. “I have to hand it to the security guys. It was good thinking. They had their own backup generators, probably in each room, just in case everything died, and they needed to find somebody.”
Pinkerton began pressing more buttons, and the screens changed to various areas around the complex. He went on until he found the camera closest to the elevator. Sure enough, there was a mangled horde guarding the doors. Maggie gulped, realizing the horde had indeed passed by them at some point, and they hadn’t heard a sound. Pinkerton stared at the screen for another minute. “Twenty even,” he said. He turned to Maggie. “What do you think?”
Without a word, they both checked their guns and ammo. Maggie had five clips left for her handgun. “What did Sal say? Nine bullets per clip? She did the math. “Maybe.”
“Good,” Pinkerton said, tossing a hand grenade in the air and catching it.
“I was hoping you’d say that, but I need to find the humans, first.” He took back his shotgun and began scrolling through the different rooms on the monitor. At last, he pointed, “There they are, close to the cafeteria, ten bodies.” He sighed. “It’ll be close. Very close.”
“Yeah,” she said. “It’s a stupid plan, but I don’t want to be here anymore.” She stared at Pinkerton with his shotgun in one hand and his cane in the other. “I’ll have to carry you.”
“I know,” Pinkerton said. “Can handle it with your wound?”
“I have no choice,” Maggie replied. “I’ll put you down at the last minute.”
Pinkerton nodded. He flipped through the various images on the screen and checked the horde in front of the elevator. They were still standing in place. He looked at her and took a breath.
“Okay,” Maggie said. She sighed. “Let’s get this over with.”