Cthulus Toad

(sequel to Paladins selected for Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Vol 10)

The Essex Street pedestrian mall throbbed with a swelling bustle of souls crowded within its confines, some in costume, some in warm weather street dress. Girls in short shorts or even shorter skirts, skimpy tops, bare-chested young men sporting war paint, it all became a pulsing carnival of flesh and frippery bathed in warm October sunshine.

Making their way through the maelstrom of humanity a man in puritan dress dragged a similarly dressed woman bound by the wrists. Eddies of human beings swirled after them toward the Old Town Hall where they would re-enact the trial of Bridget Bishop, and where the modern-day audience would most likely vote to condemn her to the gallows for “sundry witch-crafts.”

Swept within the swirl, the Rev. Walter Wright took his wife Adeline by the hand, towing her against the current like a tugboat until they neared an area roped off with tables and chairs outside a tavern and grille.

“Addie,” the minister said. “Let’s sit down. Are you hungry?”

“A little, but mostly I’d just like to sit a while.”

They entered the open air café and emphatically planted their behinds in the chairs. Adeline wiped away a fall of light brown hair from her forehead. “Whew! I thought we were going to be pulled apart.”

“Amazing, isn’t it?” her husband agreed. “All this revelry, and all in the service of the devil. Rev. Hanson had warned me, but I had no idea. We can do some real good here, Addie.”

“Oh, Walter, I don’t know. It seems such harmless fun. The young people especially enjoy it.”

“Addie, it’s the young people we are most in danger of losing. Of course they think it’s all fun, but it’s subversive fun, it undermines the message of the Lord. This city is entirely in danger of losing its soul.”

“Amen to that, sir.”

Neither of the Wrights had noticed the young man sit at the table next to theirs. His eyes were dark, set back deep beneath his black brows. His hair was long and loosely curled; his beard black as his mane.

“Forgive me,” he said. “I couldn’t help overhearing. I’ve been saying the same thing since I moved to Salem, but no one wants to listen. My name’s Tovan.”

The reverend glanced at his wife. “Rev. Walter …”

“Yes, Pastor Wright … I know, and this must be Mrs. Wright.” The young man nodded at Adeline who responded with a smile.

“I read about your visit to the Enoch Baptist Church, all the way from Iowa. I’ve been looking forward to listening to your lectures.”

“Are you a member of the church?”

“No, sir, in fact, I haven’t made up my mind which church to join, but Enoch is one of those high on my list. It has a good, consistent message.”

“Well, it’s very refreshing to meet a young person so concerned with his spiritual welfare, uh … Tovan?”

“A very unusual name,” Adeline added. “Is it your first or last?”

“My only,” he answered as his eyes narrowed. A smile, more like a smirk subtly creased his face.

Before either of the Wrights could respond, he twirled his finger in the air then aimed it directly at Adeline’s chest.

“I had no idea your wife had such full and lovely breasts, may I see them?”

Adeline’s hand went to her throat. She began to say something, but hesitated.

“Rev. Wright?” Tovan pressed.

Walter’s words also backed up behind his teeth. Then he looked at Adeline.

“Well, go ahead, dear. We don’t want to seem rude.”

Adeline smiled, a nervous tic twitching her cheek.

“Um … of course … I don’t … that is, I suppose …”

She unknotted the little tie at her throat and began to undo the buttons of her dirndl blouse.

“I’ll have to reach back,” she said, as if in apology. Then she unfastened the clasp on her bra. Hesitating a moment, she lifted blouse and bra and exposed her vanilla-hued scoops of flesh to Tovan. Some passersby stopped and pointed, chortling rang out in the crowd.

“Very nice, Adeline.” Tovan nodded. Then he turned to Walter.

“You enjoy your wife exposing her breasts to others’ eyes, don’t you, Rev. Wright?”

“I … but … well … yes, I suppose.”

“And why not? They’re such awesome tits; they should be shared.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” the Reverend nodded, but his expression was that of a man who was struggling to remember something.

“Adeline, you like to exhibit yourself, too, don’t you.”

“I … I suppose …”

“Nothing to suppose, it makes you feel good. You’re such a slut, Adeline.”

Tovan pointed across the mall. “See that young man there?”

The Wrights peered toward a hulking, shirtless man tugging at his crotch.

“Adeline, that big healthy teenager has been watching you, wanting you. Won’t you please give him some relief? There’s a van parked around the corner. Go with him; ask him if you can suck his cock.”

“I … I … well, of course, I suppose I should … cock?”

“Penis … you stupid cunt. You like being called a stupid cunt too, don’t you. Your pussy is drenched, isn’t it?”

“My … my ….”

“Don’t pretend you don’t know what a pussy is. Now, be a good Christian and go with that young man. Walter will be along soon.”

Adeline smiled and stood, her breasts jostled unfettered behind her disheveled blouse. Her eyes fixed on the young man across the pedestrian mall.

Tovan and Walter watched her as she spoke to the young man, who put his arm around her waist and guided her around a corner.

“Well now, Walter, does she often fuck other men?”

“I … well … I can’t remember …”

“You enjoy it though, don’t you?”

“I … yes … Yes, I do …”

“Have you ever wondered what a smooth, pale teenaged cock like the one your wife is sucking on right now would feel like in your own mouth, reverend?”

“I … that isn’t …”

“And to play with young, virile balls?”

“I’m so … what’s happening?”

“Come with me, Walter.”

Walter followed Tovan around the corner where a nondescript white van was parked. They approached and Tovan flung open the door. Adeline was on her knees sucking the young man’s cock. She was naked, her clothes piled in a corner.

A tall blond man stood behind her.

“Walter, this is Lars. Lars’s prick is as smooth as porcelain, just delicious. You want a taste?”

“Yes … yes!”

“Lars, may Rev. Wright suck your lovely dick?”

“He can, after I fuck his slut of a wife. I’ll need a cleaning then.”

“Is that all right with you, Walter? Ask, Adeline.”

“Addie, please, I must have some of this beautiful young man’s cock. Please, let him … let him …”

“Fuck her, Walter.”

“Yes, please let him fuck you.”

“Yes, Walter, of course he can fuck me. They can all fuck me. Walter, see, I’m a whore, they said I’m their whore.”

“Yes, yes, Addie.”

“Watch me fuck this bitch’s cunt,” Lars ordered.

“Yes, yes, please, fuck her …. fuck her!”

Tovan hopped outside and slammed the door of the van.

“Too easy,” he chortled.

* * * * *

“Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has indicated we are making our final approach to Boston’s Logan International Airport, please place your trays in the upright position in preparation for landing.”

Lois squeezed the hand that had tumbled into her skirted lap when her companion dozed off more than an hour ago.

“Hey, we’re landing soon.”

Locan groaned and stretched. “Damn, I hate sleeping on these things. I don’t usually.”

“You had quite the strenuous night,” Lois said and squeezed his hand again. “But I didn’t mind.”

“Oh?” He grinned.

“Even if it did kinda make me feel like a thief.”


“Locan, it wasn’t me you were making such amazing love to last night.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know, I was going to take another night before I headed back to D.C. Maybe shack up with you in Boston one more time, but … dammit, I’m so envious. Who is she?”

Locan frowned. “No one I’m ever likely to see again.”

“Somehow, I think you’ll find a way. Just for my own ego, I’d like to think she’s some skanky alley cat.”

Locan chuckled. “She’s definitely no kitten.”

“Hmm, well, I guess I’ll always have Rome, even if I was just a stand-in.”

“Lois, look …”

“Shhh, it’s okay. It was a romantic weekend in the Eternal City, and all paid for by the State Department. This girl’s got nothing to complain about.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Bouncy.”

“Bouncy? I heard you had a penchant for bestowing nicknames on people, but ‘bouncy’?”

“Uh-huh, and I’m the trampoline.”

“Oh? Yeah, I see what you mean.” She shrugged. “It must have been the Chianti.”

“I didn’t mind,” he said, and kissed her hand. “At least you’re cushioned.”

“I guess I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should. You are a very lovely, very sexy … civil servant.”


They parted with a kiss at the airport where Lois hurried off to make her connecting flight to Washington. Locan gathered his one bag and stood outside the terminal. The nondescript, but official-looking car soon pulled up and he got in.

“Ever been to Salem before?” Special Agent Mullens asked.

“Yup, plenty of times.”

Mullens laughed. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, in your line of work.”

Locan’s grin was wry and crooked. “I used to visit that town long before all of that Halloween shit took hold. It’s a pretty fascinating place. That whole witch trials episode was a brief hiccup in its history.”

“If you say so, but that’s all anyone ever remembers about the place.”

“That’s too bad.”

“Anyway, Rome talked to State, which talked to Justice, which talked to the bureau, and so here I am watching your back again. Just try to keep a low profile this time; it gets tougher bailing you out of shit.”

“You’re my own guardian angel, Mullens.”

“Angel, my ass.”

“So what does the bureau have on this guy?”

“Not much. He has no record. His name is Marshall Conway, but lately he goes by Tovan – just Tovan. Ex-seminary school student, left before he graduated and never got his DD. Could have been something concerning a girl, another student. Some rumors it was even a rape or sexual assault, but no charges brought. Then he shows up as an asterisk in a bank heist in New Jersey.”

“Why just an asterisk?”

“It wasn’t actually a heist … at least nothing he could be charged with. He said something to this little girl teller who filled up a couple of bank bags with cash and walked outside to the curb and waited there as if she was expecting someone to pull up and scoop the loot. Probably no one would have paid any attention to her except, before she went outside, she stripped down to her bikinis. He was questioned because he was the last one who talked to her before her episode.”


“Oh, another thing I’m supposed to tell you.”

“What’s that?” Locan said, as he rolled down the window and took in a lungful of ocean air along Lynn Shore Drive.

“They’ve partnered you up on this one.”

“No. What the hell for? I work better by myself.”

“They didn’t tell me why; I’m just the messenger.”

“Shit. Did they at least say who?”

* * * * *

Mullens tried to avoid traffic by detouring off Route 1A through Marblehead, but as they came abreast of the state university he could see it would be a long chug into the city. They sat and stared at the bumper of the car in front of them.

“It’s a bitch getting into this town this time of year,” Mullens said, as if trying to spit a seed from his mouth. “Shit!”

“Yeah, it’s that time of year.”

“So, is your guy some kind of Halloween freak, or something? And why is the Vatican so interested in a guy who has no record? Must be some kind of spook if they’ve sic’d not one but two paladins on him. Why Salem, of all places?”

“Because this is where the landmarks are.”

“Landmarks? What landmarks?”

“The school here.”

“The state university?”

“Arkham University.”


“Ever read any horror stories, Mullens?”

“I read some of King’s stuff when I was a kid. I get enough real horror tossed my way on the job.”

“Yeah, I suppose you do at that.”

They inched along Lafayette Street and turned right onto New Derby.

“Headed for the Hawthorne?” Locan asked.

“Nope. You guys are putting up at a little bed and breakfast off Derby Street.”

“A b&b?”

“I checked it out. Little place in an old house. Don’t worry; you have your own shower and a-c.”

“Won’t need the a-c at night. No matter how unseasonably warm it gets in October, the night’s are always chilly on the coast.”

“Your partner’s already there. Oh, and your name for check-in purposes is Sumner Osgood.”

“Where the fuck they come up with a name like that?”

“You’re tracking your genealogy in case anyone asks. That’s why you came to Salem.”

“Not the Halloween festivities?”

“That too.”

They passed the maritime site and the old Customs House, then Mullens turned hard down a narrow street that paralleled Derby Wharf.

“Kosciusko Street?” Locan said, noting the street sign.

“Polish neighborhood. Practically on the water. You know that Seven Gables joint is just up the street.”

“I know.”

“Oh, yeah, you said you’d been here before.”

Mullens stopped the car and indicated they had reached their destination. Locan stepped out and retrieved his bag from the trunk.

“Stay in touch,” Mullens said. Locan nodded.

A small white wooden shingle affixed to the house indicated it was built in 1800 by Joshua Briggs, sailmaker.

Inside Locan was greeted by a cheery blonde girl he guessed to be about fourteen.

“Hi, I’m Jeanie. My dad’ll be back soon. I can check you in.” she said. Her grin seemed to brighten the dark-wood interior from a tiny pulpit of a desk wedged into a corner.

“Hi, yourself, Jeannie. Sumner Osgood.”

“Yes, Mr. Osgood. Mrs. Osgood checked in two nights ago.”

“Good. I suppose I would have to be a bit flummoxed if she wasn’t here.”

“Well, she isn’t here right this minute, sir. She took the ghost tour; it came by to pick her up about twenty minutes ago.”

“You don’t say. Hey, would you have a copy of their itinerary?”

“Yeah, sure. Gonna catch up to her?”

“Gonna try to head her off at the pass … maybe here: Howard Street Burial Ground.”

“I bet she’ll be surprised. If you don’t mind my saying, Mr. Osgood, your wife is really pretty. Kinda younger than you, huh?”

He nodded, “Kinda.”

“Well, nice to have you stay with us. Here’s your key.”


“Oh, and Mr. Osgood?”

“Yes, Jeanie?”

“I hope … I mean, when I said you were older than your wife, I didn’t mean … well, truth is, I can see why she married you, if you don’t mind my saying.”

Locan grinned. “Don’t mind at all. You are a refreshingly candid young woman, Jeanie.”

He made her blush.

* * * * *

She wasn’t dressed for the season, but the translucent pale yellow sundress and floppy white hat were perfect for the weather: 80 degrees and breezy even as twilight approached. The breeze teased its way around her ankles, lifting the hem of her dress just fleetingly to reveal an enticing view of her knees and calves. Locan sighed, then admonished himself. But his cock twitched too. Had he missed her that much?

She meandered between the tourists who disembarked from a bus made out to look like a trolley that was made out to look like a big hearse. The guide led his charges through the gate of the burial ground. The kid looked to be about eighteen and was dressed in a crypt-keeper’s cowl. Locan thought he must have been sweltering.

“Now, folks,” the kid began, “there isn’t much to tell you about this dumpy old grave yard except one very important thing … It’s haunted.”

“Excuse me, son,” Locan called out. “Would you mind where you’re stepping? You’re about to trip over Mrs. Peabody.”

The kid did a slow turn and a slow burn. Locan grinned widely from the granite tomb cap he sat upon.


“Mrs. Eliza Palmer Peabody … Nathaniel Hawthorne’s mother-in-law. Mom to Elizabeth the transcendentalist who introduced kindergarten to America, and Mary, who married the great educator Horace Mann, and Sophia, Nathaniel’s wife. She was an artist, you know. Anyway, you’re stepping on her, Mrs. Peabody, I mean.”

The kid cocked his head like a confused mutt.

“Her gravestone is pretty eroded already; I’d hate to see someone accidentally damage it.”

A collective mumble rose among the tourists. Some snapped pictures of the tombstone.

The kid forced a chuckle. “Everyone’s a historian in Salem, folks. Sir, maybe you should wait for the literary tour to come along.”

“You don’t have one. Shame. There’s a lot more to Salem than witches and ghosts.”

“Well, for the moment, I’m working the hauntings tour. Think I could continue?”

“Oh, pardon me, son,” Locan grinned and nodded. “Didn’t mean to interrupt. Please, carry on.”

“Thanks.” He turned toward his group. “As I was saying, this is where the ghost of Giles Corey appears whenever there is an impending disaster facing the city of Salem. He was crushed to death right here.” The kid waved his arms indicating Giles met his end right behind where the kid was standing.

“Oh, sorry, hate to be a pest,” Locan interjected again, “but more likely old Giles was pressed over yonder in the parking lot of the Catholic church there. It would have been right across the street from the old gaol.”

The kid was seething now. A familiar sweet giggle erupted among the tourists.

“Is that so?” the kid challenged. “Well, I’ve been conducting this tour all summer and …”

“Well, glad I could set you straight. Wouldn’t want to misinform all these good people who paid to get the accurate story. Especially since there’s nothing else to recommend this old bone yard. Except perhaps that I’m sitting on Mrs. Hathorne, Nathaniel’s mom, and his sisters and grandparents. And just a few yards away lies one of the most celebrated marine artists of his day, and a stone’s toss from Mrs. H. is Colonel Carleton, who raised his own regiment and served under Washington at Valley Forge. Hey, folks, has he shown you where Captain White was murdered yet?”

There was an emphatic acknowledgement from the group.

“Good. Well his nephews are buried here too, the first defendants to be convicted of accessory murder in the United States. They were both hanged right over there at what used to be the county jail … looks like they’ve turned it into luxury apartments.”

The crowd was losing its cohesion with individuals snapping photos and talking excitedly.

“Folks, we really got to shove off now,” the kid pleaded, got to get to the next haunted stop.”

Like a frustrated border collie he tried to herd them back onto the bus.

She didn’t follow the group, but instead slowly approached Locan, a careless relaxed roll of her hips with each step. He had missed her, even more than he realized.

At last she stood in front of him, the breeze carrying her scent into his nostrils. He resisted the urge to lay her down on the tomb cap and screw her senseless.

“Have a seat, Mrs. H won’t mind.”

She slid her behind onto the tomb cap, her dress molding to the valley between her cheeks.

“Planning on becoming a tour guide when you retire?”

“I didn’t know you could retire from the Palatinae. Only they can say when your penance is up.”

“Hmm, that poor kid.”

“He’ll probably get laid tonight; he’ll get over it.”

“You think that solves all problems?”

“The only ones worth solving.”

“Locan … I missed you.”

“Missed you too, Rachel.”


He grinned and pulled her toward him, kissed her, and deftly turned her onto her back.

“Here?” She asked, feigning wide-eyed surprise.


“It isn’t even dark yet.”

His hand slid up her thigh.

“Stop! We have a room.”

“Too far,” he said, and kissed her neck.

“I’ll shift.”

“Nooo, c’mon.”

“I mean it. Screw me on a nice soft bed, not a table of bumpy granite.”

“But I don’t know if I can walk,” he whined.

“I’ll help you; maybe we’ll get back before you get an ingrown erection. That would be a shame.”


* * * * *

Their walk back to the B&B was more like a pursuit as she fended off his hands and endured his pinches. They greeted Jeanie and almost fell up the stairs as the teenager blushed and giggled.

Once inside the room Rachel kicked off her shoes and tossed the hat. He lifted her dress to her shoulders and held it a moment. Her body was so pale.

“You don’t get out in the sun much, do you?” he said.

“I prefer moonlight. Complaining?”

“No, no, no … It’s just … I guy could go snow blind looking at you.” He lifted the dress over her head and let it fall. Her chestnut hair tumbled over her shoulders, veiling her unfettered breasts; she wore only a flower-print bikini panty. He began to back her toward the bed, but she sidestepped him and worked at his belt buckle, zipper, and took hold of his trousers at the hips. Then she had them off and his boxers with them.

He was on the bed, naked. She had lost the panties and had straddled him. It seemed she was about to forgo any preliminaries. But he wanted to kiss her, even more than fuck her. He reached up and pulled her onto his chest, lifting her so her lips could reach his.

She kissed him back, a long, lingering, lip-licking kiss.

He trailed more kisses and nibbles along her neck and over her shoulders, and let his hands roam down her back until he squeezed palmfuls of her round derriere. Still kissing, kissing every inch of her he could reach while on his back. His hands coursing over her cool skin, he couldn’t feel enough of this girl.

She clasped his cock in her hand, lifted herself and plunged herself onto him. Her cunt clenched him as her buttocks pounded his pelvis. Her eyes were closed, her wet lips parted in an ‘O’. A high, musical note was building into a wail. She was fucking him, taking what she wanted, impatient, rapacious.

A thousand blue fireflies cascaded down her arms.

She cried out in mid thrust and plunged down, squeezing his thighs between her knees. His eyes rolled back and his fluid rocketed out of his cock. Every bit of tension drained from him. He went limp.

She refused to release his cock, even as it retreated, and began to swivel her hips, lazily swirling his cock inside her.

“God, that was good,” she said. Her eyes were half open, sleepy, and her mouth slanted into a sloppy smile. “C’mon, I’ll fuck you slow now.”

His cock was responding, but he thought it had a long way to go before making a useful recovery. He sighed, thinking how wonderful it was to be used and abused by her. He closed his eyes, a languid smile playing across his lips.

“Oh, my God, did I do that?”

“Huh?” he tried to sit up.

“Your pelvis is all bruised … wait a sec. Those bruises are … a few days old.” Her eyes lost that sleepy aspect and narrowed sharply.

“Bouncy,” he sighed.

“Bouncy? Sounds like one of your patented nicknames. Who is she?”

He sighed again. “A wonderful woman who granted me the privilege of pretending she was you.”

Her eyes softened again. “Oh … should I send her a thank-you note?”

“C’mere. I want to kiss you some more.”

She slid off his cock and snuggled into his shoulder, granting him her lips and kissing him deeply. When she broke their kiss she shook her head. “What is it about you, Locan, that girls just naturally want to be on top?”

“Hmmm, just easy, I guess. Or lazy.”

Later as she delicately played her fingers along his recovering cock and he swirled his hand across her ass, he asked, “Wasn’t there anyone else for you?”

“Sure … you can’t let an itch go unscratched for long. It was a girl, though.”

“That’s right; you had a thing for girls too.”

“I like girls … a lot. I like cock too.”

“And I’m glad you do.”

“She was a girl they partnered me up with. Her name was Daphne; she was nice. She’d had a run-in with a pooka …”

“Was she the girl with Dex O’Leary when …?”

“Yeah, she said that was her last partner. You know her?”

“Know about the pooka run-in she and old Dex had. It’s legend among the Palatinae.”

“Anyway, she was scared to death she’d run into another one. She used to sneak into my bed at night. We’d cuddle, and then we’d try other stuff. It was just girlfriend sleepover stuff, but it was nice to share a bed with someone.”

“How come they didn’t keep you together? Someone get wind of the ‘sleepover stuff’?”

“No … she saw me shift. We had a thing cornered in an old church. Jacoby told us it was an elemental – really dangerous. Turned out to be a fucking run-of-the-mill serial murderer, except he was a really hideous looking dwarf. He got the drop on Daphne; only way I could get to him fast enough … anyway, it freaked her out a bit. She asked to be transferred. I couldn’t blame her.”

“How many times have you had to …?”

“Twice … there was just one other time.”

“Dealing with it?”

“Yeah, sure. I am what I am. Sometimes though …”


“The sensations are so … incredible, so intoxicating … sometimes I’m afraid I won’t want to shift back.”

He held her head close to his chest. They dozed off.

* * * * *

They slept and screwed for the rest of the evening, not even bothering to have dinner. In the morning they awoke famished. The temperatures had fallen overnight. She slid into a pair of jeans, not bothering with panties and pulled on a roomy sweatshirt. Locan watched her dress, then used his imagination to undress her again. No bra, no panties, just the ankle holster cradling a Beretta. He liked her sense of fashion; he pulled on his own jeans and a hoodie bulky enough to disguise the Bulldog revolver tucked into the small of his back.

The breakfast room was small and accommodated only one other couple, who looked to be a long time retired. Jeanie again seemed to be on her own as she waited each table.

“My mom’s coming home next week,” the girl said and grinned.

“She’s been away?” Rachel asked.

“She had a tiny stroke a few months ago and she’s been in the rehab hospital. That’s why my dad hasn’t been around much. But she’ll be home right after Halloween.”

“Glad to hear it,” Locan offered.

“Yeah, I’ll be glad for my dad; he really misses her being around.”

She refilled their coffee cups and returned to the kitchen.

“Nice kid,” Locan said.

“Yeah, a really sweet personality. I was such a moody bitch when I was her age.”

“You were being fitted out for the convent. Hell, I’d be moody too.”

“So, what are we doing here?”

“They didn’t tell you?” Locan’s brow wrinkled.

“They were in too much of a hurry, I guess. Plucked me right out of Prague and put me on a plane.”

“Well,” Locan said, leaning his elbows on the table and forming a chapel arch with his hands. “I gather it’s a big panic over nothing. Silly really.”

“Rome doesn’t dispatch a pair of Paladins over something silly,” Rachel said, emphatically biting a bagel and smearing her upper lip with cream cheese.

“Oh?” Locan replied, shaking his head and making a face. “They do it all the time. But this time, I don’t know, it’s amazing what some people believe.”


“Okay, ever read any horror fiction?”

“Stephen King.”

“Of course. Well, back in the day, pre World War II, Steven King was a guy named Lovecraft. He used to write some densely weird shit about ancient immortal monsters who every so often showed up and made some people’s lives a nightmare. Anyway, he concocted a whole mythos about these beings, and he very craftily let other writers expand on it, even to the point of citing allegedly genuine ancient texts as their source. You ever hear of the Necronomicon?”

“Yeah, during training, that’s one of the books Brother Theodosius told us to look out for. He said it was full of spells and was “extraordinarily evil.'” She mimicked the monk’s sonorous voice.

“Doesn’t exist. It’s bullshit, entirely concocted by Lovecraft and other writers.”

“But, why would they tell us about …”

“Lots of people believe it’s real because Lovecraft and his acolytes did such a good job of promoting it. The Vatican isn’t taking any chances, so here we are.”

“You mean they sent us after a book that doesn’t exist?”

“No, we’re after some nut job who believes it exists and who thinks he can summon these old monsters. About a year ago the Vatican began receiving odd emails. They read like Lovecraft stories, except the author isn’t calling them stories; he says they really happened and that he has the key to the whole mythos. Well, shit, there’s a general call to battle stations over this; it’s absolutely ludicrous.”

“So what are we supposed to do?”

Locan leaned over and wiped the cream cheese off her lip. “They know who sent the emails. It’s a little douche bag who’s calling himself Tovan. He’s here.”

“Why here?”

“Lovecraft set a lot of his stories in a group of fictional towns on Massachusetts’ North Shore. One town he called Arkham, but anyone with any knowledge of the area would know Arkham is a stand-in for Salem. They figure he’s going to summon these creatures forth at Halloween. We’re supposed to stop him.”


He gazed at her a moment. “The guy’s a crackpot, but it doesn’t matter, they think he’s a threat to humanity and, by extension, the Church. Either way, he gets a one-way ticket to hell.”

“That … That’s not right. I mean, if he’s just a nut.”

“Maybe, just maybe there’s more to it, but that’s the basic story.”

Locan’s cell phone rang. Rachel shuddered. It rang for only one reason.

“Yeah?” Locan answered. “No shit? When? What the hell …? Where? On our way.”

He snapped the phone shut. “We’re taking a walk to the police station.”

* * * * *

The heat had dissipated overnight and an autumn chill had settled in. Tourists filled the streets wearing jackets and sweaters, or bulky fleece. It was an axiom of New England weather that held true: if you don’t like the conditions, wait a minute.

Locan proceeded to give Rachel the nickel tour as they made their way along Derby Street.

“That’s Derby Wharf over there, juts about a half mile into the harbor. The guy who owned and developed it made a fortune in the Far East trade. He became America’s first millionaire. That’s the Custom House directly opposite where they used to tally up the cargo of every ship that came into port and levied an excise on it. It was the federal government’s sole source of revenue for a long time and Salem accounted for about half of it. See the corner office?”


“Once occupied by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Had enough time on his hands to imagine ‘The Scarlet Letter’ there. Lost his job when the administration changed. Used the prologue to get back at all the life-time hacks who kept their jobs. Real catty stuff, ever read it?”

“No. Never read any Hawthorne, except what I had to in high school. Don’t really remember any of it.”

“Hmm, but you read Stephen King.”


He pointed out a mansion that figured into a Lovecraft story as well as the Old Burying Point and the Witch Trials victims memorial.

“And that’s why all these people are here celebrating and wearing costumes and having a great time,” he said. “Because three hundred years ago a handful of people got their rights trampled over and paid for it with their lives. I wonder if three centuries from now some little town in Poland will have itself a little month-long festival like this, and folks’ll be walking the streets in striped pajamas and having a gay old time.”

“Isn’t Halloween supposed to be fun?” Rachel said.

“Yeah … sure it is.”

They approached the police station, which was set kitty-corner beside railroad tracks. It looked like a red brick Norman fortress. The lobby was bare; a pair of officers sat behind a counter separated from the lobby by bullet proof glass.

“Yes, sir, can I help you?” The officer was blonde, her hair tied back in a short pony tail.

“Sumner Osgood and wife to see Lt. Dileo.”

He watched her eyes dart left to her male companion.

“He’s expecting us,” Locan added.

“Sir, would you and your wife please step through the metal detector.”

“That won’t be necessary, officer.” Mullens appeared out of nowhere.

The officer nodded and buzzed them into the inner sanctum of the station.

Mullens guided them to an office and hustled them through the door. A dozen eyes had watched every move they made.

The officer who stood behind the desk eyed them warily. Locan at once noticed the decoration on his lapel: The Order of St. Peter. They didn’t give those out with a can of beans.

Mullens made the introductions: “Lieutenant Dileo, Mr. and Mrs. Sumner Osgood.”

“Nice to meet you,” the lieutenant offered. “Now, let’s see some ID.”

Mullens nodded toward Locan and Rachel. They each proffered a leather hip wallet. The lieutenant took them and looked through Locan’s first.

“Garreth Locan and Rachel McDaniel … Palatinae … Paladins. I’ve seen Interpol, Scotland Yard, even Moscow Militia. First time I ever saw one of these. They talk about you guys at cop conventions, you know, like you’re some kind of legend or maybe fairy tale. God’s cops they call you.”

“Hardly,” Locan said.

“Agent Mullens wants you to see the Rev and his wife. There’s a lot of chatter going on about why the FBI is nosing around this thing. If anyone ever got wind that you two were here …”

“We’ll try to keep a low profile, Lt. Dileo. What can you tell us about this couple?”

“As much as the local paper printed today. The minister was stopping kids as young as ten on the streets offering to pay them twenty bucks to hump his wife. Some parents tipped us; we got a warrant and ran their motel room. Found a couple of sixteen-year-olds with the missus. Busted them on a few dozen charges. You know, this guy’s known throughout the country as a conservative evangelical. He was in town to give a lecture at one of the churches. Can’t figure it out.”

“No bail?” Mullens asked.

“It looks like all that juice he used to have dried up real fast. Their own people in Iowa aren’t returning our calls. The pastor of the Enoch Baptist washed his hands of them. Right now, they don’t have a friend in the world, and Rev. Wright didn’t have enough money on him to make bail for him and his wife. Spent every dime trying to get his wife laid.”

“Anyone ask them what they were up to?” Locan asked.

“They’re talking some ragtime about obliterating innocence at the behest of Cthulhu. Know who that is? Some half-assed god or something from one of Lovecraft’s stories.”

“Lieutenant, you’ve read Lovecraft?” Locan nodded toward Mullens and Rachel.

“Yeah, we had a crew of graffiti vandals a few years ago spray-painting Cthulhu all over town. Had to read up on it to get a handle on who they were.”

“What did you think?”

“I like Stephen King. Lovecraft was just too weird.”


“Another thing they kept saying is how they were guided by Tovan. We put the name out on the wire and that’s how we got the bureau hit.”

“Well, Lieutenant, can we speak to the reverend and his wife now? In fact, I’d like to interview Mrs. Wright first.”

“Follow me. I want to avoid as many people as possible on the way to the cells. We’ll put her in an interview room for you.”

* * * * *

Mrs. Wright was serene, a slight smile playing across her face. Locan thought the forty-something minister’s wife was attractive enough to draw a man’s attention without the help of her husband and a fistful of twenties, but teenagers? Her attire was sensible, even demure, but her figure indicated she took care of herself. Locan put himself in a teenager’s mind. Mrs. Wright looked like the average high school teacher. Then maybe, if a guy was paying you and your hormones were raging, why not screw your teacher?

Locan sat directly across the table from the woman, as Rachel sat off to the left so Mrs. Wright would have to turn her head to talk to each of them.

“Hello, Adeline, do you think we could have a little chat?”

Mrs. Wright’s smile widened and her eyes slid to her left.

“She’s pretty,” the woman said. “I could lick her pussy for you. Make her scream when she came. Want to hold her down?”

“Um, no thanks, dear, we just …”

“I’ll suck your cock; get you all hard. Fuck her in the ass; I’ll hold her head between my thighs while you rape her asshole.” Mrs. Wright licked her lip and grinned.

Locan reached over the table and took hold of Mrs. Wright’s hands. “Look at me Adeline, right here.”

He briefly let go of one hand and with two fingers indicated she look straight into his eyes.

The woman’s lasciviously childish demeanor faded as quickly as a shadow crossed her face.

“What’s going on in there, Adeline? Who’s telling you to say such things? Look at me; it’s okay, it’s not your fault, dear. Someone put some nasty ideas in your brain. What happened?”

The woman’s chin trembled; her eyes filled and spilled over in an instant. He could see the wail building from a deep dark place in the back of her mind; he braced for it.

The woman’s sob when it surfaced made Rachel flinch. She wanted to talk, wanted to tell him, but the spasms of remorse were just too much to control at that moment.

“Tov-tove-tove …mum-ma-made me …”

Locan glanced at Rachel who hurried to hold the woman as her sobs broke upon each other like waves crashing on a rock. He stood and left the interview room. Lt. DiLeo and Mullens had been watching through a one-way window.

“That woman is in a state of deep hypnosis. She’s coming out of it now, but we’re going to need a shrink to stand by.”

“Hypnosis?” DiLeo said. “I didn’t think anyone could hypnotize you to do anything against your will.”

“That’s not quite true. Everyone has dark little what-ifs floating around in their heads. A skilled hypnotist can zero in on them and pretty much suggest a for instance. Like, ‘Mrs. Wright, say for instance you thought once or twice what it would be like to be an insatiable nymphomaniac slut with a liking for young men?'”

Locan looked toward the room holding Rev. Wright. “Or maybe he said to the reverend, ‘How can a man have sex with another man, have you ever tried to imagine what it’s like to suck another man’s cock?’ The truth is, of course he can imagine, everyone makes themself imagine such things, even fleetingly. Is there a guy alive who hasn’t wondered what it’s like to be a girl?”

Locan stepped past them into the other interview room.

Wright stood and looked at him up and down. “Wow, you’re a big one. Bet you have a big dick too. I’ll let you fuck my wife’s big ass if you let me suck it first.”

Locan said nothing, but slammed his open hand into the side of the reverend’s face. Before he could fall, Locan took him by his lapels and lifted him up level with his eyes.

“Wright! Snap out of it. Look at me. Come out of there!”

Locan watched the panic build behind Wright’s eyes.

“Oh, dear lord Jesus! My wife … Adeline! No-no-no! I’m sorry … I’m so sorry!”

“Hang in there, Wright. You didn’t do anything.”

“I … I sold my wife like … like she was …”

“Tell me about Tovan.”

“Tovan? Tovan! That … that … that …”


“Fucking bastard!”

Locan chuckled. “Now you’re talking, Rev.”

* * * * *

“That poor woman cried for a straight hour. I thought she was going to have a heart attack, she cried so hard.”

Locan, DiLeo and Mullens nodded with no comment as Rachel recounted her efforts to interview Mrs. Wright before she and her husband were transported to a psychiatric hospital in Boston.

“I couldn’t get a lot out of her in the state she was in,” Rachel continued. “I got that Tovan has a gang of lackeys, young guys, and that they think he’s some kind of magic man, a regular rock star.”

“Why not?” Locan said. “The guy can literally charm women out of their clothes. It’s every adolescent’s fantasy: hypnotize girls into having sex with you. No fear of rejection.”

“I never heard of a hypnotist who could do that,” Rachel said.

“Neither did I,” DiLeo said, “but I caught a show at one of the Route One comedy clubs with an ‘R-rated hypnotist.’ I saw one show where they had a group of people thinking they were having sex; I figured they were just faking or maybe they were weak-minded. Then one girl – she looked like the shyest of the lot – got on the floor on her knees, lifted her behind up, and you’d swear she was taking it up the … um.”

“I get the idea,” Rachel nodded, suppressing a grin.

“I saw a show in Vegas once,” Mullens added. “This guy really did get people to take off their clothes and think it was the most normal thing in the world. I think he could have gotten them to have sex on stage, but that would have been pushing the legal limits even for Vegas.”

DiLeo’s phone rang. “Yeah. Aw, shit. Stall him … Shit!”

“Problem, lieutenant?” Locan inquired.

“We have an assistant DA on his way up here. Talbot. Very ambitious, he’s looking to make his bones prosecuting the rev and his wife. Hell, those people didn’t know what they were doing, did they?”

“Yes, they did, but they couldn’t do anything about it. Not to worry, I’ll handle this … Talbot?”

Before DiLeo could answer ADA Talbot barged into the office without knocking.

“All right, lieutenant, just tell me you Mirandized those perverts so there’s no surprises when I prosecute their twisted asses.”

“Mr. Talbot.”

“Who are you?”

“Sumner Osgood.”

“Are you friends of these … people?”

“Just an interested party.”

“Suppose you take your party the hell out of here.”

“You’re very rude, Mr. Talbot.”

The ADA hooked his thumbs into his waistband and puffed out his chest.

“Your boss, the district attorney, he’s very involved in the Catholic League, Knights of Columbus. He’s about to receive a very prestigious decoration from the Holy See, means a lot to him. I understand he’s going to Rome to receive it from His Holiness himself.”

“What’s that go to do with …”

“No grand jury, no indictment, no charges against the Wrights.”

“What? Are you kidding …?”

“Try it and your boss will be left standing in St. Peter’s Square in his silly Knights get-up with both his hands up his ass, because no one at the Holy See will even know who he is. And he will be told who is responsible.”

“But … who …?”

Dominus vobiscum, Talbot. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

After the door closed, Locan lowered his voice. “Wright told me Tovan had put the whammy on some young kids, teenagers. I’m not sure what his fixation on young teens is other than rewarding his toadies with underage quail. I’d like to find out what went on between him and that girl at the theological school.”

“She’s being interviewed right now by our guys in the Minneapolis field office.”

“Let me know what you find out. In the meantime – Don – your guys will have to keep their eyes out for any lascivious behavior out of the norm.”

“Out of the norm? Locan, this is Salem; we’re right at the windup to Haunted Happenings. We see all kinds of crazy shit out there. Every year, I swear, the city pays to put up billboards all over the country advertising ‘Free Proctology,’ because every crazy asshole in America shows up here, including plenty from overseas.”

“Nonetheless, Don, you’re likely to come across folks who’ve been hypnotized like the Wrights, but especially keep an eye out for younger kids acting like sex-crazed demons.”

“Let’s just nail this guy Tovan,” DiLeo insisted.

“Listen guys, we’ve got nothing on Tovan.”

“What do you mean?” DiLeo said, shaking his head.

“What are you going to charge him with: felony hypnosis? There’s no such thing. Maybe, just maybe facilitating the endangerment of minors, but it’d be damned hard to prove, even for Talbot. I can tell you this: This guy’s got it into his head that he can summon Lovecraft’s ubermonsters.”

“That’s fiction,” DiLeo insisted.

“No shit. You wouldn’t believe how many fools on this planet believe it’s all real, the granddaddy of all urban legends. Anyway, I think this guy is going to try to bring them to earth with some ritual, probably on Halloween. Most likely in one of the city’s grave yards.

“Which one?” DiLeo asked. “I’ll have them staked out.”

“No, Don, we can’t have anyone near them except whoever Tovan expects to be there, like his toadies and maybe a bunch of mesmerized teenagers for whatever reason. Besides, your guys’ll have their hands full that night. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Mullens, you need to contact Professor Helen Girolf; she’s at Harvard Medical. Mention the Palatinae; she’ll be more than glad to help. Have her set up at the local medical center. Don, have your guys pick up any kids, or anyone who acts like they’re in heat. Bring them straight to Girolf.”

“Maybe we should alert the public that someone’s been hypnotizing tourists,” DiLeo suggested.

“Who the fuck is going to believe that, Don? It sounds like a Halloween joke. No, you’re going to put out an alert that someone’s been dropping acid on unsuspecting people. In fact, that’ll be our story for the Wrights. Anyone can believe someone was slipped a drug.”

“The mayor and the Chamber of Commerce are gonna be pissed,” DiLeo sighed. “Shit, one more night to Halloween.

* * * * *

“God, it’s like Mardi Gras, only chillier,” Rachel said as she and Locan weaved through the throngs of people, most of them costumed or sporting face and body paint.

“Look at the cleavage on that witch,” Locan said, pointing.

“Padding,” Rachel insisted.

“What a mob. Everything is happening on a weekend too. It’ll be nuts. Trying to find that freak in this sea of souls would be tough anyway. We’ll nail him tomorrow night. Want a drink?”

“No, but speaking of nailing someone, how about we go home and you nail me.”

“Have I ever mentioned to you how much I admire small breasts?”

“Shut up.”

He lifted her off her feet and kissed her amidst the swirl of humanity. Blue lightning crackled around her head. They heard someone say, “Cool, did you see that?”

“Ooops!” they said.

Locan put her down and they made their way as best they could through the crowd.

A man greeted them at the door of the B&B.

“Hello, Jake Sprague, Jeanie’s father.”

They shook his hand.

“Sorry I’ve been so scarce.”

“That’s okay,” Locan assured him. “Jeanie told us about your wife.”

“She’ll be home Monday. Poor Jeanie, she’s been terrific helping out. I gave her a break, let her go out with her friends tonight, but I’m getting kind of worried. I asked her to get home by 10 and it’s nearly 11.”

“She’s probably having too much fun,” Rachel said. “I can remember being her age. She’s a sweet girl.”

“I know; she’s never given me any grief. But I still worry; hell, some nut’s been dropping LSD in people’s drinks downtown. They think that’s what happened to that poor couple, the minister and his wife.”

“You don’t say,” Locan said, shaking his head.

“Yeah, cops just put it out over the radio, and they dropped off a bunch of leaflets. I’ll give you one.”

“We can grab it on the way in,” Rachel said. “We’re really tired, been doing the tourist thing all day, you know.”

“Sure, well, have a good night. Glad I finally met you folks. Jeanie is quite taken with you.”

“She’s a terrific kid,” Locan nodded.

Once inside, Rachel snagged a bright orange leaflet from the desk. “Wow, it didn’t take long for DiLeo to get the word out.”

“Good, people might be a bit more circumspect about who they chat with.”

“You know,” Rachel whispered. “I’m naked under all these clothes.”

She grabbed his hand and towed him up the stairs. They tumbled through the door and Locan hooked his thumbs into her jeans and began to tug them off her hips.

“Whoa, you’re gonna rip them. Hey … what’s wrong?”

Locan’s hands had frozen. He turned Rachel around to face the bed. Jeanie sat right on the pillows, her back against the wall.

“Jeanie,” Rachel said. “What are you doing here? Your father …”

“I listened to you last night, I heard you … fucking.” The girl licked her upper lip and giggled.

“Jeanie?” Locan inched closer to the girl.

“Let me come to bed with you … puhleeeeze. I’ll be good. I can suck pussy and cock. Make me your dirty little whore, oh, pretty-pretty-please?”

“That fuck!” Locan spat.

“Please, Mr. Osgood, be my first. I got a juicy cherry just for you. You can fuck me while I suck out her cunt.”

“That wouldn’t be a good idea, hon.”

She pouted, “Then I guess it’ll have to be my dad. The dark one wants me soiled.”

“Who, Jeanie?”

“Cthulhu of course, when he brings him to earth. We’ll be his first meal. Can you imagine what a come that is, to be devoured by Shub-Niggurath?”

“Oh, sure, old Shub, used to have him over for dinner all the time. And when is this supposed to happen, honey?”

“I’ll tell you if you let me lick your dick.”

“No … tell first.”

“Okay … promise?”


“Well, of course on the feast day, silly. We’ll be the feast, me and all the dirty little sluts, and the little cocksuckers, and the vile priests. Yum-yum, eat us up.” She stepped off the bed.

Locan stood between her and the door.

“Aw, sweetie, I’m really sorry for this, but …”

He slammed his open hand hard across the girl’s face, grabbed her and shook her.

“Come out of there, Jeanie. Look at me, look into my eyes.”

The girl’s eyes refocused. “Oh, God, Mr. Osgood … Mrs. Osgood … I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean …”

Rachel took the teenager in her arms. “It’s okay. It’s not your fault.”

“Someone’s been screwing with your head, Jeanie. Do you remember?”

“He said … he said … I thought he was nice. My friends, Sally and Toni. Oh God!”

“It’s okay. We’ll take care of them. Now, you need to see a doctor.”

They summoned Mr. Sprague and explained that Jeanie had fallen victim to the serial acid-dropper. Locan called Dileo directly who had an ambulance sent to pick up Jeanie and her father, and a cruiser to the homes of her friends.

Later, Locan called Mullens.

“It isn’t going to happen on Halloween,” Locan told him. “I should have figured, Halloween night, too many people floating around, goofing in the bone yards. He’s going to do it on All-Saints Day, the night after Halloween. The town will be dead then, crowds gone, tumbleweeds blowing down the streets.”

“Okay, if you say so. I got the Minneapolis field report on that girl’s interview. Her name is Mercy Tramwell, comes from a very wealthy, very conservative family.”

“Don’t they all? Fax it to me, okay?”


* * * * *

Locan and Rachel lay naked together in bed as Locan thumbed through the FBI report. She nibbled his shoulder reading each page in turn as he turned it over.

“That’s all?” she asked. “He slapped her around because he found her in bed with another guy?”

“I think I’m beginning to understand this guy. Those agents in Minneapolis were good getting her to admit to this stuff. Ah, the lead agent’s first name is Denise. Okay, use a woman to coax stuff out of a woman.”

“Whaddya mean?”

“You know that shit you girls pull with each other, ‘You can tell me, it’s just between us’ type of baloney.”

“Oh, guys don’t do that,” she said, a sarcastic inflexion in her voice.

He laid the report on the bed table and pushed his head back into the pillow. “Shit,” he sighed and closed his eyes.

“What’s the matter?”


“She’ll be fine. Didn’t Mullens say Girolf pulled her out of it? She doesn’t even remember …”

“She will remember. It’ll pop into her head when she least expects it. Lousy thing to do to a kid. I’m glad she came right home before she offered herself to some freak on the street.”

“Well, sure, she has a crush on you.”

“You too.”

“Maybe. You really smacked her. You scared the shit out of me when you did that.”

“Had to snap her out of it fast. Goddamn it, kids today are so casual about sex, they’re getting and giving their first blow jobs while they’re barely into their teens. If you’re that casual about a BJ, where the hell’s the magic in your first kiss?”

“You remember your first kiss?”

“Better than I remember my first fuck. Mary Therese O’Toole, she had the longest, silkiest, dark brown hair.”

“So, you always liked brunettes, huh? First fuck?”

“Her name was Barbara, she was blonde. She cried the whole time. Geesh.” He shuddered.

“I think Jeanie’s growing up just fast enough,” Rachel assured him.

“Yeah. She was.”

“Locan, I want to be the one to take this prick out … for what he did to Jeanie.”

“He’s yours, kid.”

“Something else is eating at you, isn’t it?”

“Fucking guys, we’re so hard-wired, you know.”

“When she was coming on to you, you were responding?”

“Yeah, I’m loathe to admit it, but damn, all the bells and whistles went off.”

Rachel shrugged. “You’d never take advantage of a girl like that.”

“I’m not sure that’s the point.”

“Of course, that’s the point.”

She threw the covers back exposing his growing cock, took it in her hands and licked its length from base to tip and back.

“Want me to be an innocent little girl; want me to cry?”


“Please, don’t hurt me … You’re so big, I’m so scared. Are you really going to rape me?”


She slid underneath him and coaxed him on top of her. His cock dangled at her gate.

“Oh, you’re going to … please don’t tell my parents. Oh, please, I’m scared.” She began to weep.

Locan’s cock was steel. He slid it into her cunt.

“Owww! Please, oh no, don’t rape me … Don’t … oh God; no, don’t make it feel so good. I don’t want it to feel good. I’m a good girl … noooo!”

She was sobbing now, he couldn’t tell if she was faking or not. He increased the pace of his thrusts as she wailed for mercy.

“Urrrgh! Bitch! You want it!”

“No, please, don’t make me …”

“Slut! You’re a slut!”

“Don’t … Don’t make me say it.”

“Cocksucking whore!”

“Don’t … I’m so ashamed.”

“Slut! Say it!”

“Slut!” she sobbed. “I’m a slut! Oh, please …”

She cried so sweetly.

“Jesus!” His fluids rocketed out of his cock. The release was so sudden it hurt, but it felt so good.

He held his cock inside her as it deflated. He felt wicked, cruel, giddy. Rachel lay beneath him, still weeping.

He lay beside her and scooped her into his arms. Her tears wet his shoulders.

“God, Racey. Are you, did you really …?”

“Shhh, I can’t just break character like that, you know. Let me cry a while.”

“Yeah … sure.”

She quieted, then she began to snore.

* * * * *

“Mr. Osgood, it’s none of my business, but that fax that came in for you, well, I noticed it was from the FBI. I wasn’t snooping, mind you, but I noticed.”

“Yes, Mr. Sprague.”

“I think maybe there’s more going on in Salem than some punk moron dropping LSD on unsuspecting people; I think maybe that’s why you’re here. I don’t want to know, or need to know anything and I ain’t asking. Just one thing I want to say to you.”

“Yes, sir?”

“That son of a bitch that screwed around with my girl, you get that bastard.”

“You have my word, sir.”

Locan and Rachel left the B&B after breakfast and walked a block past the House of the Seven Gables to the Salem-Boston ferry dock. The high-speed catamaran had just discharged a full load of tourists. They waited for the crowd to thin and for the vessel to back out into the harbor fully loaded for the return trip to Boston. Mullens and DiLeo approached from different directions. They all gathered at the quay.

“Where do you need us to set up tomorrow night?” DiLeo asked.

“Nowhere. Like I said, I don’t want him scared away. He’s not expecting anyone to show up except whoever he told to be there.”

“What are you going to do with him? You said no charge would stick.”

“Don, you don’t need to know that.”

“We’ll take care of it,” Rachel said. Her tone was so flat, cold. No one said anything for a moment.

Mullens cleared his throat. “Which grave yard? You figure that out?”

“Not the Burying Point; it’s the one all the tourists flock to, and even if Halloween will be over, there’ll be a few stragglers around. He wouldn’t take the chance. Broad Street would be a good choice, just outside the central downtown area, and the Corwins are buried there.”

“Who?” Mullens asked.

“Jonathan and George, judge and sheriff during the witch trials. George oversaw the torture of Giles Corey. So their graves give the place a certain creepy cachet.”

“Okay,” DiLeo nodded.

“But I think it’ll be Howard Street. It doesn’t get much attention except from bums and vandals. It’s a big dark patch in the city. I think he’ll show up there, and that’s where we’ll be. We’ll wrap it all up. It’ll be neat.”

“Guy should get a trial,” DiLeo said.

“He’s had one,” Rachel said.

* * * * *

Rachel and Locan sat with their backs to the wall of the old brick lighthouse at the end of Derby Wharf. Except for a few couples who strolled to the end of the pier and back, they remained mostly alone in the dark. Behind them and all about them they heard the sounds of a city in revelry. Halloween in the trick-or-treat capital of the world. They were good sounds mostly, people having fun, laughing, shouting.

“A ship would push off from this pier and wouldn’t come home for a year or maybe three, but when it did, people got rich overnight with the cargo it brought home,” Locan said. “Can you imagine the adventure, the risk and the payoff? Did you see those mansions lining Chestnut Street?”

Rachel snuggled into him in the chill air.

“What about the women?”

“They stayed home, took care of the kids, and prayed to God their man came home.”

“And if they didn’t?”

“They had their little social safety nets. But it was do or die, boom or bust.”

“The stars are brighter out here,” Rachel mused. “It’s the kind of night I could run naked through.”

He squeezed her hand and tried to put the idea of ever losing her out of his mind.

* * * * *

The feast of All Saints dawned as a gray November morning. It was Sunday, a day to recuperate from a particularly immense party. The crowds were gone, leaving their trash and detritus behind. The city wasn’t about to pay overtime to clean it up. It could wait until Monday.

The streets were empty. Now after a celebration of all things weird and unnatural, the city genuinely felt like an eerie place. Sunset seemed to linger close by even at the height of the day.

“I always hated Sundays,” Locan said as the gloom grew deeper. “I could never enjoy a day knowing I had to get up for school the next day, or work.”

“I liked school,” Rachel said.


It was after 10 o’clock and they had scoped out the burial ground.

“I want you to wait by the copse of trees by the old jail,” Locan said. “I want you flanking me when I confront this guy. I’ll try to convince his toadies to run along; if not, they go down too.”

“I hope it’s not a long wait.”

“Rachel … stay dark.”

She nodded and they separated. Locan spotted a tomb cap in deep shadow, sat down upon it and waited.

He heard Tovan’s toadies first, still a distance away, young guys’ stupid bluster. They followed behind Tovan along Howard Street. Locan studied his body language and compared it with the careless antics of the group several steps behind.

“He’s cutting them loose,” Locan whispered to himself.

Tovan entered the cemetery and strode toward a tabular monument; it could have been an altar.

A tall blonde kid peered into the dark corners. “Shit man, where are all the little cunts? You must have spelled a few dozen.”

The rest of the group of five young guys mumbled. One said, “Yeah, weren’t we going to have one big fuck party first?”

Tovan didn’t answer. The blonde acted as his mouthpiece.

“Fuck it! After tonight, we’re all gonna be kings.” He spun around and faced Tovan. “That’s right, isn’t it, magic man?”

“You’re nothing … but food.”

“Huh … what?”

“Here it comes,” Locan whispered.

“Food for the old ones. Just like the little bitches, and they’d be here too. But someone’s been working against me. It doesn’t matter though. It all changes tonight. You’ll know the terror of his jaws.”

“But … but you said … Hey man, you’re the man, the magic man. You said we’d rule …”

“Fucking Neanderthals … I don’t need you anymore.”

Locan thought the tall blond guy was going to cry. Then he turned to the others. “Shit! Let’s get out of here.”

They ran like hell was chasing them, tripping over tombstones, stumbling through the gate.

Tovan laughed. “There’s no where to run, idiots!”

Locan let him have his last laugh before he stepped out of the shadows.

Tovan’s back stiffened. “You!”

“Yeah, me. The guy who’s been gumming up your little party.”

“LSD? You couldn’t tell them the truth, could you? You couldn’t tell them their phony world and all their false beliefs were going to end in horror. They’d panic just like those fools.”

“People can understand being the victim of a malicious twerp dropping acid on them. That way there’s nothing to excuse or forgive. It’ll help some people regain their good name.”

“Who the fuck …? Ah, it doesn’t matter. When they come …”

“No one’s coming, chump.”

“I will call them down … You’ll digest for eternity in the belly of Shub-Niggurath.”

“Shub-shlub. This isn’t about moldy old gods that some fruitcake from Providence dreamt up.” Locan chuckled. “What did that town ever produce besides nerdy writers and low-level Mafiosi?”

“You’ll see, I can call them; I will call them.”

“That girl really fucked up your head didn’t she?”

Some of Tovan’s bluster escaped him.

“Poor Marshall. Poor nerdy Marshall. You couldn’t buy a date with a girl, could you? I’ll bet you prayed and prayed one day that some girl would give you the time of day. And not just any girl, a beautiful blonde, with lots of money and all the class you’d never have.”

Tovan stumbled back as if reeling from Locan’s words.

“You better shut up!”

“Or what? Is Marshall going to call on some dumb fuck of a god to slap me down? Jesus, why the hell would anyone want to venerate Azathoth? Even Lovecraft said he was an oblivious idiot stumbling around the cosmos like a big retarded baby. What the hell did you expect a god like him to do for you, even if he did exist?”

“He does!”

“No, Marshall. I understand the kind of kid you were, creepy, awkward. All the nerds got into Lovecraft, at least the saddest ones did. Meanwhile, you still expected God to hand you sex on a platter. And why not? You were smarter than everyone else; you deserved it. You thought you had some special arrangement going with God. You enrolled at the theological college and that’s where you met Mercy.”

Tovan’s face soured as if his stomach had regurgitated.

“We talked to her, Marshall. She told us how she felt sorry for you, how maybe if she gave you a simple hand job you’d be satisfied and stop pestering her.”

Locan laughed out loud, grabbing his belly.

“Jesus!” He laughed, trying to wipe his eyes. “You didn’t even rate a sympathy fuck; all you got was a sympathy hand job. That’s just too funny, too … fucking … sad.

“Of course, you misinterpreted the whole thing. You thought she loved you. What the fuck did she say to you when you barged in on her and her boyfriend? Really, what could a girl say to someone like you that would leave you even more fucked up and twisted than you already were?”

Tovan couldn’t reply. Locan could hear his breathing labored by rage, his teeth gnashed into a snarl.

“Did she tell you that you were a pathetic creep? That she’d die before your pokey little worms ever had a chance to swim into her belly?

“You caught her alone a few days later; you hit her. Got your ass booted out of school in exchange for no charges brought. It was worth it to her and her family that the world would never know that you even briefly darkened her day with your shadow.

“So, what did you do then?”

“I studied, I searched, I acquired the power!” he roared back. “I’ll turn their virgins into whores, their shamans into filthy, carnal pigs!”

“What power? You’ve done nothing a decent stage hypnotist couldn’t do. Oh, I’ll grant you, you’ve got some talent. I figure you met someone in your wanderings, someone who showed you how it was done. An entertainer, maybe, maybe even a clinical hypnotist. You had a real knack for it. And then what? See, that’s what I couldn’t understand.”

Tovan’s fists clenched at his sides.

“You see, Marshall, that’s the primo Nerd Fantasy, being able to charm women out of their clothes, hypnotize them into wanting to give you all the sex all the ways you want it. But you weren’t satisfied with that. And then it came to me, how Mercy so unmercifully fucked you up. Her tirade was so traumatic, you can’t get it up, can you Marshall?”

“Shut up!”

“God, that’s it, isn’t it? Now you can have any woman you want, but you can’t do shit about it. You poor slob.”

“It all changes tonight; they’ll all see …”

“Mercy was your idea of an innocent Christian girl sent to earth especially for you. Then it turned out she wasn’t so innocent after all. So you set out on this bizarre revenge mission; you were going to soil the very notion of innocence, turning young kids into the crazed carnal idiots. You were going to take it out on the churches too, target any clergy you came across; the Rev. Wright and his wife, they were just going to be the first … or have there been others?”

“They marinade in their own hypocrisy. The old ones will nosh on their bones. Just like you, look at the ooze; watch it seep out of the putrefaction of this ground. Sink, drown in it!”

Locan took a look around. “You know, Marshall, I’m just not seeing what you’re seeing. No ooze, just solid ground.”

“No, it’s sucking you under.”

Locan took a few loping strides toward Tovan and drew his 44 revolver from the small of his back. Without any hesitation he swung the pistol up aside of Tovan’s head and fired. Tovan reeled from the report going off in his ear. He rolled on the ground and shook himself. He stood slowly and looked around.

“What do you see now, Marshall,” Locan taunted.

Tovan frantically scanned the darkness. Over on Howard Street a few lights had gone on in the darkened homes. He stamped his feet on the ground.

“You poor dumb shit,” Locan said, his voice even. “You hypnotized yourself … hypnotized yourself into thinking this Lovecraftian nonsense was real.”

Tovan stepped back and sat down hard on the tomb cap. “I … I didn’t do anything. You can’t prove … you can’t prove anything.”

“I’m not here to prove anything, Marshall. Except what a worthless piece of shit you are. Lots of people get handed the shitty end of the stick; they aren’t so smart or good looking. They suck it up and get through life, lonely as it is, maybe no one ever notices them, but they get through life with dignity. Then there are the mewling little shitheads like you who take what little you have going for you and try to get back at the world. You selfish, self-centered little creep. You think the world owes you an apology.”

“I didn’t do anything!”

“Marshall … yes you did. You damaged lives. You had no right to do that. And now you gotta pay.”

“I … you can’t …”

“You wanted to bring horror down on this world? You don’t know what horror is. I’ll tell you what horror is, and I’ll tell you what eternity is. Horror is fangs … fangs you see in the split second before they close around your neck and squeeze like a vice until they puncture your arteries and snap your spine. And in the billionth of a second after your head separates from your body those fangs are the only thing you’ll remember; and that, for you, you pathetic shit, will be eternity.


Tovan turned his head toward the darkness and then all he could see of the world shone with a lurid blue luminescence. He was blind to everything except the fangs coming at him at an impossible speed. His neck was in their vice.

Locan had looked away from the flash. Now he turned in time to see Tovan’s head launch off his body, arc through the air and then land with a thump. His lifeless body was being shaken, twisted and worried lake a rag. Then it was left draining on the sod.

The animal was dark and sleek, its eyes glowing, its fangs whiter than marble on a tomb and blood streaked. It began to drag the body away. Locan followed, stooping to pick up the head. He followed it across Bridge Street to the railroad tracks along the North River where it had left Tovan’s body. Locan tossed the head a little further along the tracks.

The animal turned and loped back toward the cemetery. Locan found it pacing amongst a row of tombstones.

He knelt and held the animal’s glowing blue gaze with his own.

“Please, Racey, come back. Come back to me.”

She hopped onto a stump and raised her head. Her howl echoed about the silent city, haunting all its dark corners.

Locan closed his eyes. The blue light shone through his lids and then subsided.

Rachel lay naked on the grass.

It started to rain, a cold, soaking rain. His practical mind told him this was a good thing. It would obliterate the blood trail.

Locan covered her with his jacket and lifted her into his arms.

“I forgot to bring a change of clothes,” she said in a hoarse whisper. Rain drops trickled like tears off her face. She laid her head against his chest. He carried her out of the grave yard and down the dark-shadowed streets, bereft of any other soul. Through the common and down to the waterfront, along Derby Street past the maritime site. He was drenched to his skin. At the B&B he fumbled for the key and pushed open the door. The tiny lobby was dimly lit. He carried her upstairs.

Inside their room he placed her on the bed, retrieved some towels and patted down her naked body, and then dried himself. He slid beside her and pulled the covers up to their necks. She lay on her belly. He began to kiss her shoulders and her back, and all the while his hand coursed gently over her behind and the backs of her thighs. A contented moan escaped her, then her breaths became regular, feathery. He continued to kiss her; he would kiss her until he also surrendered to fatigue and slumber.

* * * * *

“Mr. Osgood, a fellow left a car here for you. Here’s the keys.”

“Thanks, Mr. Sprague.” Locan took the keys. “Your wife is coming home this afternoon?”

“Yes. Jeanie’s getting out of school early so she can come with me.”

“That’s wonderful. I only regret we’ll not be able to make the lady’s acquaintance.”

“It was good to have you, Sir. There’ll be no charge.”

“No, no, no, sir. I’ll have none of that. My employers have very deep pockets. You were a wonderful host.”

“Well, it’s just, I’d like to give you something, me and Jeanie, that is.”

“No need.”

“You got him … didn’t you Mr. Osgood?”

“We got him, Mr. Sprague.”

Rachel came down with her one bag and kissed Mr. Sprague. “Say goodbye to Jeanie.”

“Sure will, Mrs. Osgood.”

Locan fired up the car and pulled onto Derby Street, navigating the narrow streets on the way to the Interstate.

“Where to?” Rachel asked.

“New York City. We have a new assignment.”

“What, don’t we get a break?”

“We’re driving. We’ll put in to some delightfully cheap motel halfway through the speed bump between Boston and New York.”

“Speed bump?”


“Oh. So, what’s next?”

“A simple recruiting assignment.”

“Recruiting? We don’t recruit. That’s what the big black monsignor is for.”

“Occasionally we recruit. These must be very special people; a lot of bigs are going to be there.”

“Who are they?”

“Not sure, a young Jewish couple.”


“When it comes to the Palatinae, the Vatican is very ecumenical. All they’re looking for is talent and merit.”

“Hmm, I don’t know any Jewish people.”

Locan looked at the old town in the rearview mirror and smiled. Behind them a dull, gray-steel sun lingered low in the sky over Gallows Hill, impatient to set.

© 2010 Robert Buckley. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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