March 30, 2014

Demons Ascension - The Projects

[Posted by Ted H]

Oh my God...ACTION! Somewhat.....Anyone who knows me knows I like doing constant dialogue but I also love when shit goes down and any sort of struggle takes place, so understand how hard it was for me to wait until almost the halfway point to actually write some confrontation...

Also, Longtime readers of mine should recognize the setting, because it's leading up to the reveal of someone from my last novel. [Gasp! Continuity? Between writings? Who am I to build on a universe?]


[Demons Ascension - The Projects]

            James headed out and made his way back home, the brown bag of liquor tucked under his arm as he fished out a cigarette. He wondered if just being near a flame would ignite the skull as he lit up and continued walking. He involuntarily shook as he realized it had become considerably colder out than when he first entered the liquor store.
            "Schizophrenic upstate weather," he mumbled to himself as he used his free arm to close his jacket as best he could while picking up the pace of his walk. A large formation of clouds had rolled in and blocked the sun out, but James felt that clouds alone couldn't be responsible for the temperature drop.
            James then happened to glance behind him to see a person quickly duck out of view at the last second. Casually, he looked back forward and continued his walk home, taking great care to listen behind himself for any approaching footsteps. The rest of the way he didn't hear anything and all quick checks behind himself yielded no more sightings of a person following, but he couldn't shake the feeling that someone was still following him.
            Back in his apartment, James made sure to lock and deadbolt the front door. He lived on the second floor with no fire escape, so the only way in was the one door. To be safe though, he went around and made sure all the windows were locked tight. He wasn't sure if the person who may or may not have been following him had anything to do with Sal, but he wasn't taking any chances.
            Feeling more secure, James took out his Jagermeister and placed it into his empty freezer. He then took out and looked over the glass skull bottle. He decided he wanted to try his new expensive drink as he turned it over and access the knob. Where the knob was situated, it was almost entirely overtaken on all sides by the rest of the bottle and James was unable to situate his fingers in a way that would allow him a grip to open the bottle with.
            "Maybe it's called death because you need to kill the bottle," James said as he placed the skull down. He thought about taking a hammer to it as he decided he had better things to do than to drink some Russian vodka promising death. He decided to head out again, not enough money left for food but he didn't mind. Three in the afternoon wasn't quite the evening, but as Ed alluded to before, the evening would be coming sooner than expected. He grabbed a messenger bag and placed the book inside it, then slung the bag over his shoulder.
            James checked and double checked outside before leaving. There was no one around as he thought about taking John's car but decided instead to walk down a few blocks and wait for a bus. It was still cold out as he walked and he spied the occasional snowflake make its way down. He figured with the way the sky was packing more and more clouds into the sky, it would snow a few inches and melt away within a few days. It was far too early in the season for any sustainable snow.
            The bus pulled up and James gave one final look around for someone as he boarded. There were eight people on board and none of them seem to pay any attention to James as he walked passed them towards the back. A few seats ahead of him sat a homeless looking man in a trucker hat and some torn up gloves that had their fingers removed. He was looking out the far side window with his head turned, allowing James to see the side of his head as he inserted his index finger into his nose and start rooting around.
            James looked away as he caught the eye of a mildly attractive woman standing in the aisle a few feet farther away from the homeless guy. She shifted her stance on heels while constantly adjusting a halter top that was a size too small. The short skirt she was wearing was also inappropriate considering the weather. "I don't have any money," James said as she immediately turned away and paid him no more mind. The rest of the ride was uneventful as James found himself strangely drawn to the spectacle of the homeless man searching his nose for buried treasure.
            James got off around the projects district. He always admired the way the crack addicts looked over their shoulders at him as they crouched in the nearby alleyways, as if he was some important person in their lives that they didn't want to see them like this. As he walked through the parking lot of an apartment complex, he passed a black man sitting on a bench with a concealed bottle in a small brown bag. The man took a swig of his drink as James looked at him then furrowed his brow as he shouted "Boy, I ain't got nothin to say to you! Now get the fuck away from me!"
            "Charming," James said to himself as he walked. The apartment complex was run down, but not condemnable. The brickwork was covered in layers of graffiti and most of the ground level windows were boarded up from the inside. There was an iron gate with a broken latch leading into a courtyard. "Top notch security," James said as he used his foot to open the gate and slide through.
            A string gust of wind suddenly blew in from behind and the gate slammed closed. James looked up to see dark clouds roll over the sky as it became impossibly dark out. "Uh oh," he breathed as he turned to go right back out the gate, but it would not budge. Light sounding footsteps on the pavement behind him cued James in to him not being alone.
            As the footsteps reached him, James balled his right hand into a fist as swung wild as he spun around. The approaching person quickly ducked under and was behind James before he could even focus on the guy. What he did see worried him immediately as he took notice of the gray fabric of a trench coat. As James attempted to turn around and see the man's face, he was kicked and ended up tumbling forward several feet.
            The mystery figure then grabbed James by the back of his jacket and toss him into the brick wall as easily as one would pick up a baby. His head bounced off the wall but he did not fall because the figure then ran up and braced him against the bricks face first.
            "You disappoint me," the man hissed into James' ear "You were hyped so well, I expected more. Yet here you fall, more easily than a child."
            "Yeah well, speed and strength aren't my strong suit," James said as his face was slowly being grinded into the bricks "But I'm a snazzier dresser."
            "Not too bright either," he man said as James felt the tip of a knife poking him in the back. He felt the knife drag up towards his shoulders, then back down to his lower back. It then trailed slightly higher and to the right to where an all too familiar injury resided. "This isn't the first time you've meddled and paid the price, but I'll make sure it's the last," he said as he pressed the knife tip slowly into James, the same point where he had been shot by Suzan Daniels years ago.
            There was something else in play with that knife, James just could not tell what. He felt his entire body grow numb. The knife wasn't nearly deep enough to cause any mortal injury, but it was causing him untellable amounts of pain, and the man in gray had only just begun. James began to grow light headed as his vision started to black out. "As much as I would love to keep you around so you may suffer," the man said as he slowly pushed his knife inwards "There is far too much at stake to risk with petty ordeals such as having you around."
            James struggled to cough or scream as the knife pushed farther into him. Suddenly as light flashed behind his field of vision and he felt the knife withdraw. The man released him as he fell crashing to the ground, James lacking the energy to even raise his hands to brace his fall. His hearing felt clouded, but he could make out a different voice chanting something his didn't understand. The light intensified as James attempted to roll over and ultimately passed out. He knew he was still alive since he could hear his heart pounding against his chest.

March 23, 2014

Demons Ascension - No Name Liquors

[Posted by Ted H]

The part of the story where Blake wastes valuable time on a pointless expedition to the liquor store...also where I continue my well defined trend of not wanting to name anything.

...I also make no claim to knowledge of the Russian translate

Blog Housekeeping note: I've added some select one-shot stories and poems to the sidebar just so newcomers don't immediately think this site is all about one or two novels. Also I've edited the "Popular Posts" to only show the last 30 days, not all time. That way new stuff has a shot to make it on there...


[Demons Ascension - No Name Liquors]

            The next day had a pleasant change in temperature. James actually considered leaving his coat behind as he stepped out. He tried again to call his contact, this time getting an answer. James had explained that he had some questions and he could only do this in person. He was told to stop by in the evening. This gave James the entire day "off" he figured as he decided now was a good a time as any to restock some alcohol, and food if he had any cash left over.
            He set aside enough cash to gas John's car back to Chicago, then set off. It was a little after noon and James decided to hit up his usual liquor store guy who would always sell to him no matter what time of day or county law prohibited. As he walked down the street, he heard a familiar engine rev as a red SUV with tinted windows pulled alongside him and the passenger side window rolled down.
            "Blake," a black man with a toothpick in his mouth said.
            "Ty," James said without looking over as he kept walking, the car crept up with him.
            "Sal's been wondering when you'd get back in town."
            "Short stay," James said "I'll be gone before you know it. Best ignore that you saw me."
            "Nigga, please," Ty said with a wide grin "It wasn't me who saw you. You think I ain't got better things to do than watch the streets for your creepy ass?"
            "Yeah, my neighborhood isn't for people like you. Way too upscale. Too far from the nearest crack house."
            "Usually your smart ass mouth entertains me, Blake, but you best shut it and listen."
            "I'm not staying. I will literally be gone by tomorrow, so whatever Sal wants can wait."
            "Oh you best make time for Sal before me makes time for you."
            "Do you even listen to yourself when you talk, Ty?"
            "Whatever, bitch. And my neighborhood is fucking immaculate compared to this shithole you live in."
            "You're right. The hookers a block away from your den really brings the whole street together in an aesthetically pleasing way."
            Ty turned to the man driving the car he was in and asked "Can you understand what this mother fucker is saying." The driver smiled as he shook his head.
            "Always the intelligent conversations with you, Ty," James said as he began to walk faster, absent mindedly thinking he could out power walk a motor vehicle "My bad, I forgot to keep all words to three syllables or less with you."
            "Shut the fuck up," Ty said as he snapped his hand at James as he began to talk loud and slow at him "Sal. Be there. We're not asking."
            With that he rolled his window up and the SUV sped up down the road, leaving James. As he turned the corner, he stopped momentarily at the sight of Stan waiting for him, arms crossed and casually leaning against a fence. James was both surprised at the sight and at the same time felt like he should have expected as much. "We should talk," Stan said as James kept walking and passed right by. "You're gonna have to get in line," James said without looking back "Scarier people are demanding my attention, and I'm in no rush to see them either."
            "Scarier, eh?" Stan asked but made no effort to actually follow James "You're wasting days you don't have, Blake." James waited until he was a good length away before checking behind him. Unsurprisingly again, when he looked, Stan was nowhere to be found. "I gotta learn that trick," he said as he approached the liquor store.
            The liquor store was one of those old style setups with the huge bars over the windows and some tacky neon signs over the door that made it seem like it would rather be a bar. Inside was a mess of disorganization that would make any OCD patient cripple in horror. The border along the top of the walls was lined with liquor types from rum and whiskey to vodka, yet the set up below was anything but. The whiskey was displayed on the opposite end of the store from where the border said it would be, the vodka was actually scattered into various areas. For a first timer, finding what you needed would be a disorienting journey. For a regular like James, it was a system you were used to. Oddly enough, there was no name above the store, but that was intentional.
            "Blake!" A pudgy man from behind the front counter said as he put down the porno magazine he was reading "Someone said you skipped town."
            "Nah, just a family emergency, Ed" James said.
            "You don't have a family," Ed said with a sideways look.
            "Extended family?"
            "Not buying it."
            "Someone did die, I assure you."
            "Awe, that's sad. Anyone I would know?"
            "From Chicago?"
            "So, no."
            "Friend of a friend."
            "You don't have friends either."
            "Anyone tell you that you missed your calling as a comedian?"
            "I assume whatever you're doing has the potential for a few bucks?"
            "You know me so well."
            "So what brings Mr. James Blake to No Name Liquors?"
            "Some of the usual," James said as he made his way towards the back corner "Got anything new in?"
            "Do I?" Ed said with excitement that suggested he'd been waiting all day for someone to ask him. He rummaged behind the counter while James picked out a tall bottle of Jagermeister and walked it to the counter. As he placed the bottle down, Ed sprang up with a skull shaped bottle of something clear and placed it next to the bottle.
            "And just what am I looking at?" James asked.
            "Pure, powerful, Russian Vodka. Strong as hell."
            "180 proof?"
            "If I didn't know better, I'd say it was 300 proof."
            "Riiiight. So it's gasoline in a skull bottle."
            "That's how it's packaged. The box calls it something funny. "Smeptibuh" or something."
            "It says "
смерть" you dolt. It's Russian for "death". Are you even suppose to have this?"
            "Probably a mix up, but we haven't been called about it. Tell you what. I'll sell it to you for cheap. Call it a loyal customer discount."
            James looked at the bottle for a moment. "What's its usual price?" he asked.
            "A wise man once said if you have to ask, then you sure as hell can't afford it."
            "Does my "loyal customer apply to my Jager as well?"
            Ed smiled as he help back a laugh. "Sure," he said.
            As Ed punched some numbers into his register, James picked up the skull glass and peered into it. The way to open it was a knob on the base, virtually unseen when the skull was placed down upright, allowing an unobstructed view through the rest of the skull. James wasn't even sure there was anything inside since the liquid inside was so crystal clear. The weight of the skull and the tiniest of air bubbles are what suggested to the fact that there was something inside.
            "$61.66," Ed said as he reached for a brown bag.
            "Jeeze," James said as he pulled out his cash.
            "Whoops, forgot to ring up the Jager too."
            "I don't even wanna know," James said as he peeled off several twenty dollar bills and placed them on the counter.
            "I suggest you give up smoking before you drink this. The way you go, you'll blow up the whole damn street."
            "Right. How many of those do you even have back there?"
            "Just the one," Ed said as he took the money "I like to think that somewhere in Russia, someone is getting a case of Ketel One that was supposed to come here."
            Well, it's their loss," James said as he took his goods and stepped for the exit "Tell Roger and Maggie I said hi."
            "Come back real soon and spend all your money."
            "You think with all the money I give you guys, you'd at least be able to put a sign over this place."
            "That would defeat the whole purpose."
            "Yeah, who'd want people to actually know what this building was, right?"
            "We get by."
            "Right. By the way, you wouldn't happen to have the time, would you?"
            "Almost three. Feels like it's five though, damn daylight savings malarkey."
            "Thanks. See ya."
            "Have a good one, Blake."

March 16, 2014

Demons Ascension - The Number You Are Trying To Call...

[Posted by Ted H]

.........and the tie ins to "That One Night" begin...


[Demons Ascension - The Number You Are Trying To Call...]

            It had taken James the better part of the day to drive home; a depressing little city called Syracuse. By the time James got home to his apartment, the sun was already set. The place wasn't very big, but James always figured it fit the life he was leading. The neighbors never bothered him and it was within walking distance of a liquor store, a bar and a strip club; none of which James deemed essential but each a definite plus for himself. Inside were several plants he often neglected to water and an infestation of something crawling around inside his walls.
            As he entered, James tossed his coat in the same corner he usually did, three other coats sat crumpled nearby. He walked to the kitchen and lightly tossed the book onto the table as he passed. He flipped on the small television in the corner of the room and waited for any mention of the Chicago murders. After realizing how the local stations cared more about the local college's embarrassingly bad football team than the occurrences of the rest of the world, he switched the TV off and pulled out his phone book. He  searched and tracked down a certain number to dial. James dialed and waited patiently as the phone on the other end rang endlessly.
            "C'mon," James said as the phone just kept ringing. Eventually he gave up and hung up the phone. He sat at his table for a moment with his head in his hands. "This is crazy," he said as he reached over and pulled the book he brought over. He flipped through the pages again, hoping that something would appear that he would recognize. He knew most foreign languages when he saw them, but this was something he'd never seen before.
            "Not even a picture to look at," he said as he lit a cigarette and walked over to his fridge. "Lucky," he said as he pulled out a couple 40 ounce bottles and returned to the table. He proceeded to go through the book, page by page as he drank, looking for anything that could tell him what its purpose was. After both bottles were emptied and the book skimmed cover to cover, he put his head down on the table in frustration.
            "This book is beyond me," he said as he picked his head up and rubbed his eyes. He didn't know how much time had passed, but he was tired and the book had given him a headache. He looked over and pondered his phone book for a moment before he grabbed it and searched out a new number. He sat back and dialed the number as he lit a new cigarette and waited.
            "Hello?" a voice on the other end said after a few rings.
            "Hey Tom," James said "It''s James."
            "You know anyone else by that name that have saved you from jail time?"
            "What do you need, James?"
            "Remember the good old days?"
            "We never had good old days."
            "Relatively speaking."
            "The two of us probably had one of the more atypical years of college."
            "Sure was memorable though."
            "You call me to reminisce about my dead ex-girlfriend?"
            "Back when a murder was nothing more than one person killing another for simple reasons."
            "What's going on?"
            "Nothing," James said as he couldn't help but start to flip through the book again "Remember John's sisters?"
            "...Yeah," Tom said with hesitation. James knew he was throwing the man for a loop.
            "What do you think would have happened if I went with you guys to that party?"
            "You would've had fun. Probably would've gotten laid too."
            "Think it would have kept you from getting hit?"
            "God dammit...I told him never to tell you that story."
            "Sorry, but seriously, what do you think would have happened?"
            "I probably would have kept better track of which twin was which. Why? You think you could've gotten with Brittany?"
            "I thought Brittany was the one you were trying to get with that night?"
            "Piercings don't really do it for me. You remember that fight Meg and I had when she gauged her ears?"
            "Vaguely. But you still wanted to take Brittany home with you that night."
            "Well," Tom said before pausing for a moment "She was into me, both were, and Brittany was just more aggressive than the other one. I ended up drinking a little too much and forgot the timid sister even existed for a while. That led to my little mix up."
            "Who would have guessed..."
            "Listen, can we not talk about my exes?"
            ", how's the wife?"
            James and his old roommate continued with random small talk for some time, with James only paying some detached attention as he flipped through the pages of the strange book. After a while, Tom comments about how it was getting late and hung up. James stood up and wandered over to the front door, wondering if it wasn't too late to walk down to the liquor store.
            Tom was a much different man than what James knew in college. Back then he was lazy, unintelligent, showered rarely and was promiscuous, even after he started dating Meg Hart. After Meg was murdered, he took on a slightly different perspective on life. Now he was happily married with a child, a second on the way and word was that he actually took up showering regularly. Not much could be said for his intelligence, but seeing how he graduated and James never got the chance, he would reserve the right to insult the man.
            A steady rain had begun outside, so James dismissed the notion for more booze and decided to retire for the night. The ache in his head wasn't going away and his amateur treatment of cigarettes and more cigarettes didn't seem to be working. He resisted the urge to look at the book anymore as he wandered his way into his bedroom and kicked off his shoes. After spending the last few nights sleeping on couches, the allure of his was bed was strong.
            He laid in bed and listened to the rain hit his window for a time while he lost himself in his own thoughts. He kept going back to the night the Praque siblings and Tom all went to the party without him. He wondered what would have happened if he had gone and hooked up with one of the sisters, or had at least prevented Tom from mixing up sisters. What could have changed from that one night in Cazenovia?
            "Meg would still be dead and I'd still be kicked out," he said, partly answering his own question. But he also wondered what impact things would be for the sisters. Maybe if one of them ended up with Tom, they would be the happy wife living in some suburb outside of Buffalo and the other sister wouldn't have ended up in Chicago. Either way, Stephanie wouldn't have been where she had been when she died.
            But James then pondered the actual ritual murders themselves. It had to be Stephanie and it had to be in that house. Would someone else had died in that house or would Stephanie would have died elsewhere? He decided these questions were too big for him in his current tired state and attempted to drift into sleep. His last thought was that of regret; That somehow, some way, he would have been able to spare Stephanie her fate if he had only a little more backbone back in college.

March 9, 2014

Demons Ascension - Well THAT Went Well...

[Posted by Ted H]

Wherein the protagonist finds out he's not very good at interrogations...


[Demons Ascension - Well THAT Went Well...]

            As John was call calling in the situation, James figured Bradford would have some choice words to say, and would want to know the significance. James knew there would be difficulty in that especially with how things have been to this point. He looked down and the book in his hands and flipped through various pages, but the writing was in some language he never saw before. He knew if he could figure out what this book was, then he could determine what the ritual murders were trying to accomplish, and maybe figure out the next target before it was too late.
             "What you say?" James asked as John approached, now off the phone. "I just called in some officers saying that I found something." he said "They're wrapping up for now at the church. Victims name was Father Nicholas Brooks."
            "Anything to do with the previous vics?" James asked.
            "So far, not a chance. Stephanie never really went to church and Williams was from the other side of town. Maybe some digging into Brooks can yield something, but I'm not too optimistic about it."
            "So, despite a new murder and victim, you guys are still where you started?"
            "Actually, there is a pattern that Bradford noticed."
            "What's that?"
            "Williams was killed six nights ago. My sister six nights before that."
            "So you're thinking this guy will strike in six more days?"
            "I don't know what to think," John said as he looked down at the book James was flipping through "Why did you take the book?" he asked "That could be evidence."
            James shrugged "You guys won't be able to read this." he said as he closed the book and tucked it under his arm.
            "And you can?"
            "No, but I know a guy who might."
            "Friend of a friend of a friend. Something like that. Met him a couple times, has a knack for supernatural stuff like this."
            "Think if we brought him here he could help?"
            "You'd have to go a long way to find this guy, but he could help me."
            "So let's go have a chat with him."
            "No, just me."
            "This guy, he's...a little different. He doesn't own a cell phone and he rarely leaves his house. No way he's gonna cooperate with someone around he doesn't know and especially if that someone is a cop."
            "So you're saying that you alone, with that piece of evidence, can get us the answers we need."
            "Yes," James said knowing full well that police procedure would be nothing short of punching James in the mouth and taking the book for professionals to look at as evidence.
            John stood for a moment and shook his head. "You're sure that is the clue we need?" he asked as James looked up and locked eyes with him. "Yeah," he replied "We just need someone who can read it."
            "Where is this guy?"
            "Back in New York, not far from where you found me."
            "How can you get there?"
            "Uh...bus? Maybe a plane would be quicker if you wanna loan me some cash."
            John tossed James the keys from his pocket. "Go," he said "Find some answers." James smiled as he all but ran for the door in excitement, but a woman entering got in his way and they almost knocked each other over. She gasped as she almost dropped the coffee in her hand and backed up. "I'm so sorry," she said as James exhaled and nodded. "Are you ok? I didn't see you there," she said as James waved her off and apologized. She was wearing a large tan colored coat that was mostly covered on her shoulders by long red hair. She wore black gloves on each hand and she wore leather boots that disappeared unto her coat, leaving James to wonder just how up far they reached. On her head she wore a black knit hat, leaving her pale face as the only exposed part of her entire body. She had thin framed glasses that were slightly fogged as they sat on her red cheeks.
            "Amanda, do not get in the way of police investigation," Mark exclaimed as he rushed in from another room. "Police?" Amanda asked as James just knew John was rolling his eyes again. "What are you investigating?" she asked as James smiled. "Uh..." he started and tried to keep the book from view "Yeah, well, we're not at liberty to talk about this, uh, investigation. Right, Mark? Need to know only."
            Mark pondered it for a moment before his eyes lit up and he smiled. "Yes!" he said "Need to know only! Only important people, like me and the police." Amanda nodded slowly and apologized. "By the way, officers," Mark said as he walked over to James "I've called supervisor about that door. We should have it open soon!" James couldn't help but laugh a little. "It's detective," John corrected Mark before pulling him aside "And about that door..." John pulled Mark into the staircase, leaving James and Amanda alone.
            "Again, I'm really sorry," Amanda said as she side stepped to allow James to leave. "Happens all the time!" James lied "Most people wouldn't even think I'm a cop. I'm James by the way." Amanda laughed as she shook his outstretched hand. "Well," she said "I honestly thought, and hoped, you were a new arrival."
            "New arrival?"
            "Oh yeah. Some people are gone now, so there's room for rent I believe."
            "That's odd," James said "Mark said there was no vacancy."
            "Oh," Amanda said "Maybe he doesn't know. Friend of mine in the building said a few of the guys wouldn't be around here much longer. I naturally figured they were leaving. I assumed Mark knew."
            "Any of them named Crow by any chance?" James asked, not expecting much of a result. Amanda nodded quickly and smiled. "No, he's still around. He's actually the friend I just mentioned." James no longer wanted to leave. "I need to see him, now," he said. "Police business," he added.
            They made their way to the elevator and went to the top floor. "So you live here alone?" James asked as they stood together in the cramped elevator. "Yeah," Amanda said "Low income housing is the worst, but some of the people around here make it interesting."
            "Low income? That hard finding a good job?"
            "I don't like working boring jobs. But the interesting ones don't pay very well."
            "How are the people around here?"
            "Great. Crow is a doll to have around, though I'm not sure I'm his type. And times I think he doesn't even prefer girls."
            "What about the people he typically hangs with?"
            "Bunch of...random dudes. I dunno. I never really liked his friends. Creepy guys."
            "And they're all gone now?"
            "Last I checked," Amanda said as the elevator stopped and they got off. "One day Crow mentions that they're gonna be gone soon. Next thing I know, I don't see them about anymore."
            "What about Crow? He make plans to leave."
            "No, he told me he'd be sticking around. Said he could never imagine not having me as his neighbor. I thought that meant he was into me, but I can never tell with him. You think that means a guy's into you?"
            "So," James said with a smirk "I take it no boyfriend in your life."
            "What makes you think that?" Amanda said with a smirk of her own as she led him down the hall.
            "By the way, I'm not a cop," James said with a wink as they walked down the hall. Amanda thought about it a moment before winking back "I get it," she said "Undercover." James chuckled to himself as they approached what was Crow's apartment. "He lives right across the hall from me," Amanda said as she pointed behind James. "There's my room," she said with an arched eyebrow that got James' attention as she turned, red hair being flipped towards his face as she spun, and knocked on Crow's door.
            As Amanda knocked, James realized he had nothing to approach Crow with that wouldn't tip his hand about the police investigation. "You know, actually I'm a little busy right now," he said as he began to back up. At the very least he probably could use John and his gun backing him up. "But you came all this way," Amanda began as the door opened.
            Out stepped a man wearing black pants and a blue satin shirt with a fire design on it. He wore thin rimmed glasses with a light amount of black makeup around each eye. He had jet black hair gelled into place in a messy way and he had a cigarette tucked into his left ear. "What?" he asked in a light, crackly voice.
            "Crow," Amanda said "This is my friend, James. James, this is Crow." Crow looked over at James with his blue eyes almost as if he was trying to burn holes right through him. James had closed his coat with the book inside and crossed his arms to hold it in place. "I've heard a lot about you," James said, trying and failing to not make things awkward.
            "From who?" Crow asked.
            "Wouldn't happen to know a guy named Rickey Kenton?"
            "Never heard of him."
            "How about a chick named Amy?"
            "Nope. You a cop?"
            "Of course I'm not a cop."
            "You smell like a cop."
            "You smell bacon?"
            "No. I smell cop on you, among other things."
            "The name Stan ring a bell, Crow? Cuz he knows you I think."
            Crow narrowed his gaze. "There a reason you're bothering me?" he asked.
            "Heard a lot of your friends are gone. You wouldn't know where they are now, would you?"
            "We're done here."
            Crow immediately went back into his room. Amanda drew breath through her teeth and had an unsure look on her face. "I dunno what that was, but he's usually a lot friendlier." James backed his way towards the elevator. Amanda followed. "I guess he's just upset that all his friends left," she continued "But he's always been a much sunnier person."
            "Even behind all that eyeliner?" James asked. "Don't knock it," Amanda said "He makes it look good." James called for the elevator and took the book back out. "You think he's involved in something?" Amanda asked as James stepped back into the elevator. "I'm not too sure," James said "But do me a favor, would you?"
            "Of course," Amanda said as she stood straight and smiled. "You know that other cop? The one that went with Mark?"
            "Yeah, I remember him."
            "Could you just find him and let him know about my little chat with Crow? He'll know what to do from there."
            "You can't tell him yourself?"
            "I need to be somewhere, specifically not here. Gotta go out of town for a case."
            "Oh," Amanda said with a look of disappointment "Leaving town already?"
            "I'll be back before you know it," James said with a smile "We'll do dinner when I get back?"
            "I'll hold you to that," Amanda said as the doors closed, leaving James to go down alone.
            "Real smooth, James," he said as he dropped his head against the wall. Finding Crow caught him off guard and blundering right at the supposed man behind all of this was probably the last thing James should have done. Crow was odd, but something was definitely up with the man. The only real problem was convincing any cop in Chicago to do anything about him.
            James decided not to let any of that bother him when he stepped off the elevator. He made his way to the street as police brushed their way passed him on their way in. James immediately walked to John's car and fired up the engine. He had some serious driving to do, and dinner with a redhead waiting for him when he got back. But first, he needed some coffee for the road.

March 2, 2014

Demons Ascension - The Room

[Posted by Ted H]

So I attempted a follow-up to my Oblivion play through where I finished the Fighters Guild quest and made fun of them some more, but ultimately decided it wasn't worth the effort. The gist of if was that they waited until the 11th hour of the quest line to make the rival guild look as evil as they'd been talking about. The final quest solved the "evil" guild problem but did little to nothing over how useless the Fighters Guild still was.

On the bright side, you'll get even more of the novel, which is now [finally] going somewhere plot-wise!

[Demons Ascension - The Room]

            The center that James was banking on turned out to be a low rent apartment complex. Some outer windows were boarded up and the front door to the entire building looked recently replaced. They milled around for a few minutes while James sucked his sweet nicotine from his newly purchased pack of cigarettes. The weight of last nights rain still hung heavily in the air, adding to the bitter cold that even the rising sun didn't seem able to penetrate.
            "You're sure about this place, right?" John asked as James blew and extended puff of smoke from his mouth. "No," he said "But if Bradford puts the lockdown on me at any more important places, then this is our best bet." He took a final drag from his cigarette and flicked it away as they approached the front steps. They had to step under some scaffolding since a part of the wall high up was being painted over. James figured it was graffiti since this was such a "nice" part of town, to which he chuckled since he really didn't think any part of Chicago was particularly "nice".
            The door opened when James tugged at it, which struck him as odd since he figure such a door would have some sort of measure to only let people in who lived there. "Up or down?" John asked as they stood in the cramped front lobby. James rolled his eyes as he looked for a basement access. "Always down," he said as  he found an elevator and called for it.
            The elevator let off into a dingy basement hallway. The walls were worn and dirty and James figured at least a dozen rats lived in the walls somewhere. "Ain't exactly the Ritz, is it?" John said as James walked forward. To their immediate left was an entry to where various washing machines and dryers were, many of which had an "out of order" sign taped on top. Across the hall was a common room with a single exposed light bulb that hung unlit. Farther down the hall were various storage closets and a small office that looked disused, a thick layer of dust rested on the desk and various cobwebs stretched from the sides.
            At the far end of the hall was a small stone staircase that twisted farther down. There was no light for the stairwell and John instinctively pulled out his flashlight. As John flashed light down the stairs, James could see they dropped down a few steps, then cut off in a new direction down. "After you," James said with a smile. Before either man could move, a voice called out from behind them.
            "You boys, you need help?" John and James turned to see a man in a button down blue shirt and jeans looking at them from down the hall. He didn't look much older than 50, but he had a neglected beard growing that was a much lighter color than his jet black dye job hair. He spoke with an accent from eastern Europe, but still spoke clearly enough for James to understand. He walked cautiously towards them while eyeing them up. "You don't live here," he said "I know every person who lives here, and even most of those peoples family, and I've never seen either of you two before. This building is full, there is no sign for vacancy." James forced a smile as he stepped in front of John towards the man. "I'm James," he said as he motioned towards John with his arm "And this here is John."
            "You not understand me? I'm calling the cops," the man said as James called for him to wait. "What a coincidence!" he shouted as he elbowed John "That's what we are." The man looked at James, then back to John as John pulled out his badge. "Detective John Praque," he said as he emphasized his title "And this is James Blake."
            "You two cops?" the man asked.
            "Why yes, yes we are," James said before John could say anything.
            "What seems to, uh, be the problem, officers?"
            "What's down this way?"
            "Down there?" the man asked "Nothing. Cellar, storage, those types things. Also where we keep the sump. Nobody goes down there anymore. Light in the stairwell went out years ago and I never bothered replacing it. No one care."
            "You're in charge of maintenance?" John asked. "This and many other buildings," the man said with pride in his voice "Name's Mark."
            "Mark?" James asked with skepticism.
            "I came here named Marek, but no one calls me that. They say Mark much easier. I say it's one letter. They say not so simple. I call them simple. They get mad. This long time ago, I grow used to Mark so I keep it."
            "Well, uh, Mark," James said as he motioned behind himself "Mind if we take a look downstairs anyway?" Mark licked the inside of his mouth as he tilted his head. "What is it you two are looking for anyway? That is the old basement, original. No one goes down there anymore," he said. "Murder investigation," John said with a flat face and a matter of fact tone "We have reason to believe this building may be involved."
            "Now that you mention it," Mark said while nodding to himself "Someone has been vandalizing over front of building. Had to paint over it yesterday. Going to put second coat up this morning." Both James and John looked at each other before looking back to Mark. "This vandalism," James asked "Was it a symbol of some sort?"
            Mark shook his head. "No," he said "It word. Some gang or something. I already paint over."
            "What was the word?" John asked out of curiosity. Mark looked back to John and shook his head. "It not matter," he said. "What do you mean?" John asked "What did you paint over? What word?" Mark pressed his lips together for a moment. "Why does it matter?" he asked "It just word."
            "You can't read, can you?" James said as Mark shrugged. "I read," he said "Just not English. Don't need to read your language to do job. I work here for many years and not need to read." James laughed at this notion, while John made a less amused face.
            "Can we just go downstairs?" James asked. "What rush do you have to go down dark and scary stairs?" Mark said "Bad things happen in dark places, like killer."  James looked down the stairs and back at Mark with a smile. "Well that's exactly what we're looking for," he said as he started blindly down the stairs before climbing back up. "Seriously, flashlight, I can't see a damn thing."
            There was a different, working light at the base of the stairs. "So," James said as his eyes adjusted to the dimly lit room "The basements basement. Cozy." The room was entirely concrete and stonework with two doors leading out. One door was metal with "Pump" written across the front. Next to it was a clipboard that hadn't been touched in at least a decade. The door on the far side of the room was wooden with nothing written on it.
            "What's that door?" James asked as he pointed to the wooden door. "Is nothing," Mark said "Room has been locked. Nothing in there now but mold and bugs." James walked over to the door and tried the handle to find it locked. He then noticed scratched around the door frame both old and some more recent. "Open it," he said to Mark.
            "You think?" Mark asked. "Oh yeah," James said "Police business and all that." Mark shrugged and pulled out his keys and fished through them. "This master key," he said as he held up a single key on the ring "Opens every door in the building."
            "Even old basement doors?" John asked as Mark walked up to the door. "Oh yes," Mark said "The building is old, even the renovated parts above ground, but none of the doors down here have ever been replaced." He slid his key into the door as he spoke. "I work here many years, too many to count, and never a new door. Least of all down here..." he trailed off as he attempted to turn the lock. A few moments passed and the door remained locked. Mark grunted as he continued.
            "Problem?" James asked. "No problem," Mark said "Old lock, that's all."
            "I don't think it's an old lock," John said as he shone his flashlight on the door handle. The lock lacked the layers of dirt and grime that the rest of the room had piled on. "That isn't the original lock," James said as Mark gave up and took his key out. "Impossible. I never replaced the lock here," Mark protested. "Someone else did though," James said "And they didn't want anyone else in here."
            "No one lives there, right?" James asked. Mark shook his head.
            "And no one comes down this way?" Mark shook his head again.
            "It never occurred to you that someone might be trying to use this room for whatever reason?" Mark yet again shook his head.
            "Any camera footage?" John suggested "Something that could tell us who came down the basement and when?" Mark frowned. "No cameras in building. It's not that kind of place."
            "We need to get in here," John said. Mark began for the stairs. "I will call my supervisor," he said "See how we can get this door open. You two wait upstairs while I make call, ok?" With that, Mark disappeared up the stairs. James trailed his fingers against some of the scratches and markings along the door frame.
            "Is he gone?" he asked. John checked behind himself towards the stairs and shrugged at James. "I guess, why?" he asked as James dug into his pockets and crouched near the door. "Keep watch," he said as he pulled out some lock picking tools "Best if our friend Mark isn't around for this next part."
            "We can't just do this," John said "We need a warrant. There's a procedure." James only laughed. "YOU need a warrant," he said as he picked at the lock "I can do whatever I need to." John sighed and turned away. "If you're wrong about this, then this is breaking and entering," he said as James tinkered. "It's not B and E," James replied "I'm not breaking anything. They'll never know I was here. This is more like trespassing. And if we catch the killer because of this, it'll be known as a game changer."
            "How good are you at that?" John asked, rolling his eyes.
            "Got us into the library at Cazenovia, remember?"
            "That was different."
            "Tell me about it, those doors were all jokes. I remember I could break into the main residence hall with a butter knife, the latch was that exposed."
            "That was a long time ago, too."
            "Do I want to know?"
            "Plausible deniability is your friend in this case."
            The soft click and a turning latch brought a smile to James. "Shall we?" he asked as he pocketed his gear and stood up. John waved his arm but did not turn around. James chuckled as he turned the knob and leaned in to push open the door, but it still wouldn't budge. "...The hell?" he said as he pushed into the door again but couldn't open it. "You sure you picked the lock?" John asked as James started knocking up and down the door. "The knob turns," he said "Something else must be blocking this shut."
            "Bolted?" John asked as James shook his head. "If that was the case, only part of the door wouldn't budge," James said as he pushed the door one last time "The entire thing is shut."
            "Maybe it's just an old door," John said "Maybe the roof sagged and the door's buckled shut." James ignored him as he went over to the metal door and picked the clipboard off the wall. The clipboard had a pencil attached with a string and only a few pieces of yellowed paper. James placed the paper on the scratches on the doorframe and rubbed the pencil over them to leave an imprint. "You honestly think we'd have better luck figuring out those symbols?" John asked as James folded the paper up and put it in his pocket. "I know a guy," he said as he looked over the door again.
            "This door's not wedged shut or anything stupid like that," James said "I've never seen it in person, but maybe it's sealed magically." James looked over to John to see him with a puzzled look on his face. "You mean..." he began but stopped "What do you mean?"
            "These symbols along the frame where the door closes," James said as he pointed each out "Perhaps they're sealing the door against unauthorized entry...and if that's the case..." he trailed off and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. Suddenly he wasn't feeling so well with where this was all going. Stan and Amy had been odd, often unsettling conversations, but everything was starting to fall into place in terms of why this case wasn't making sense.
            "So, if this door is as "sealed" as you claim it is, how do we get in there?" John asked "I mean IF I can land us a warrant to open this door and search, and that's going to require some favors are the very least, how are we suppose to get through?"
            James looked over the entire door frame and smiled. "We're good," he said "Though I guess I will be doing the "breaking" part of the B and E."
            "I don't understand," John said as James took a step back. "It's an old door," he said as he kicked the door as hard as he could. The door held, but a noticeable crack formed on the far side where the hinge on the other side held it. Whoever put the protection on the door probably never figured anyone would try to kick it down from the hinge side, let alone find it to begin with, a fruitless tactic of not for the fact that the door was rotting and neglected after decades in a damp, disused basement. The protection would keep the latched side shut, but James had no desire to open it that way anymore.
            Another kick and the door leaned back. James kicked a third time, this time much higher and the door cracked at its other hinge. One final kick between the hinges and the door swung awkwardly in on its wrong side before toppling out of the frame all together. "Practicality: 1, supernatural: 0," James said triumphantly as John gave a sarcastic slow clap. Immediately afterwards, both men recoiled at the smell that washed over them. "My God!" John exclaimed. The bitter and sour smell keeping either man from walking forward into the darkness. "Don't your cop senses tell you that that ain't right and you should investigate?" James asked as he plugged his nose and breathed through his mouth. "You couldn't pay me to go in there right now," John said as he pulled out a handkerchief to breathe through.
            James leaned into the dark doorway, but couldn't find a light switch in the immediate area. "Are you gonna come in or not?" James asked as John shook his head. "Apparently warrants are a big deal," James said as he extended his hand out "At least give me your flashlight?" he asked. John rolled his eyes and handed it over. "Need my gun, too?" he asked as James turned the light on and entered. "Nah, I'm good," he said "But hey, if I go ten feet in here and just cry for help, would you be required to enter anyway, warrant or no warrant?" John thought about it for a moment then nodded. "That would work," he said.
            James slowly made his way through the dark, his feet walking over wet concrete as he searched the walls with his flashlight for any sort of switch. He tried to ignore the fact that it probably wasn't water he was walking on. The smell was intensifying, but James had strangely begun to get used to it and ignore it, which he was still deciding whether or not that was a good sign. The flashlight, which shone bright enough all the times it was used before, seemed to struggle to provide adequate light, as if the darkness in this room was somehow too thick to pierce brightly.
            The last thing on James' mind was the notion that there was anything else in the darkness with him. He found it odd that there were rats in the basement level above when there was an easily accessible level of darkness below that. What could possibly be going on down here that even rats would refuse to venture?
            In the middle of the room was a candelabrum. James pulled out his lighter and lit up the six candles. The light they offered allowed James to see a light switch on the far side of the room. Even as James crossed the room, he could tell what the moisture on the ground was, but he put the thought aside as he flicked the lights on. An electrical hum sounded as two lights on the ceiling lit up, giving a dim glow to a red colored room. Empty wine racks lined an entire wall as James easily guessed the rooms original purpose.
            James looked about the floor where blood pooled around most of the floor and a few chunks of unknown meat sat festering. In the far corner of the room were three steps leading up to another small room. As James climbed the stairs, he realized that all of the blood on the floor had spilled out from this raised room. James could make out a few details from the small slivers of light making their way in from an unknown point on the far side.
            James scanned the area around him with the flash light and noticed a flood light hooked up to a battery. He powered it on and the light sprung to life, almost blinding James with how fast and powerfully it lit up the room. James waited a minute for his eyes to adjust to the bright intensity and then focused on what he could now see.
            The middle of the room had a platform raising several inches off the ground. On the platform was a table with a large, leather book and several metal instruments, wire cutters and steel thread. The entire room was coated with blood, even up to the ceiling. Even more chunks of meat were piled in three various locations in the small room. The only parts of the room that weren't crimson were the book itself and parts of the wall that had black symbols drawn all over, many of which James already recognized from before, including the C symbol that was at all the crime scenes. At the far end was a stone staircase leading up to a surface door held shut by a padlock on the inside.
            The smell that had been so prevalent before was gone now. This was obviously the source of it now, but James could not smell anything. He found he couldn't hear John milling about anymore either. Before he could hear him coughing, mumbling to himself and remarking about the smell, but now it's as if John wasn't there anymore. James could hear his own breathing and smell his own self, but it was as if this room didn't exist in the same plane of reality, like he had stepped through a portal and could only see as if he was still on earth.
            "John, get in here," James yelled out as he stepped up and onto the platform. He fixated on the book, the only thing free of blood stain despite it being at the center of the bloodbath that the room had become. He reached down and touched it, finding it only looked like faded leather but it felt much different, different than anything he'd ever experienced before. Despite having every reason to the contrary, James picked the book up, immediately feeling a sense of dread and fear coarse up and down his spine as he did. He opened the book and tried to read a random page, but couldn't make out the writing.
            "James!" John screamed as he stepped into the room, almost causing James to drop the book and scream. "Holy crap, what is it?" James asked as John looked at him baffled. "I've been calling out to you and you didn't answer," John said "I didn't know what happened."
            "You didn't hear me tell you to get in here?" James asked.
            "You didn't say anything. I saw you disappear into this room and that was it. Ten minutes and nothing. I got worried."
            "Ten minutes?" James asked "Let's not exaggerate. I was in here maybe three minutes, tops."
            "Look at all this blood! That is what it is, right? And what are those piles of? Organs?"
            "I have no idea. But it would take more than one dead person to make this kind of mess. How could the police miss something like this?"
            "Maybe everyone involved live here."
            "Yeah. It's not a big place, but it defiantly houses more than enough people. Anyone go recently missing though?
            "You know how long our missing persons list is?"
            "What about Mark? Guy says he knows everyone. Maybe he's noticed something."
            "You think maybe he might be involved?"
            "That's...actually an interesting idea. He just seems too out of it to be involved."
            "You'd be surprised at how some people in this town can surprise you."
            "Think he would know anyone named Crow?"
            "What the hell is a Crow?"
            "Just look into that, ok?"
            "Should I even bother asking why or how you think that's relevant?"
            "You know me so well."
            "Look, this place is fucked up. I'm calling it in, and I don't want you in the middle of everything again when backup arrives."
            "Yeah..." James said as he looked down at his shaking hands that still had a grip on the book, wanting nothing more than to leave this room and never come back "Let's go."