"Wow, Van. Your parents never throw ANYTHING away, do they?" Derek asked as they walked into the garage.
"No. Not really." Van admitted shyly.
"It could take us a month to go through all of this." Derek said as he looked at the boxes stacked nearly to the ceiling.
"There's more storage space up in the rafters, too." Van reluctantly admitted.
"Has your family EVER been able to park their car in here?" Derek asked curiously.
"No. Not that I can remember." Van said reluctantly.
"Where do we start?" Hunter asked cautiously.
"Van, do you happen to know which boxes were put in here first?" Kerry asked hopefully.
"No. My dad never lets me come in here." Van said quietly.
"We should probably start with what's upstairs, then check the boxes that are farthest back and most hidden. What's toward the front is probably the newest." Derek said decisively.
"Where's the ladder?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"Back there, I think. I haven't been in here since I was little." Van said as he pointed.
* * * * *
The lighting in the garage was somewhat dim to begin with. But the stacks of boxes served to block the light and make the small pathways between the boxes virtually impossible to navigate.
Kerry and Derek both took out their flashlights and started meandering through the boxes to find their way to the back.
"Do you think that this is another illusion, or is it really this much of a maze?" Derek asked cautiously.
"I think it's just this bad." Kerry answered honestly.
"There it is." Van said as he pointed.
From their vantage point, they could just barely see the ladder between two stacks of boxes.
"How do we want to do this? Do we want to split up?" Kerry asked as they fought to work their way toward their destination.
"Absolutely not." Van said firmly.
"Right." Kerry agreed, then added, "Good thinking."
* * * * *
Once they arrived at the ladder, Kerry was the first to work up the courage to begin the climb upward.
When he reached the top of the ladder, Van started up next, handing the flashlight to Kerry as soon as he was within reach.
Derek and Hunter followed in short order.
Kerry turned the flashlight beam to survey his surroundings and was happy to find a light hanging from the rafters. When he reached it, he was able to find the pull string to turn it on.
"Where do we want to start?" Derek asked cautiously.
"At the beginning, which I suppose would be the farthest point from the ladder." Kerry said frankly.
"Why am I doing this?" Derek asked himself rhetorically.
"Because, if you don't, the demon that's already marked you will probably completely consume you." Kerry said seriously.
"Oh, yeah. That's why." Derek said, then started crawling down the walkway to begin his search.
* * * * *
"Derek. What's your location?" Alana's voice called over the radio.
"We're in the garage, looking for the weapons stash." Derek answered immediately.
"We've finished with Charity. She's doing fine. We're moving up to Mr. and Dr. Osmani's room to start on them." Alana said seriously.
"We haven't found anything out here, so we'll probably be going back inside in a few minutes." Derek said frankly.
After a moment, Derek keyed the walkie-talkie again and cautiously asked, "Charity, are you there?"
"Yes. And I'm fine." Charity responded.
"If you guys get lost, remember to surround yourselves with light and let it melt away the lies." Derek said carefully.
"What are you talking about?" Charity asked slowly.
"I'm talking about demonic confusion. Remember what we did before. If you get lost, it helps." Derek said firmly.
"Got it." Charity said seriously, then added a moment later, "Thanks."
"I don't think there's anything here. I'm not finding anything that looks like it came from inside the house." Kerry said seriously.
"Yeah. If I were to guess, I would say that all of this is stuff that they brought with them when they moved in." Derek said honestly.
"Does that mean that we can get out of here, now? My fingers are frozen." Hunter asked hopefully.
"Yeah. Let's go inside and warm up, then we can decide if we want to try the basement again, or the attic." Derek said decisively.
* * * * *
As they slowly climbed down the ladder, Kerry quietly asked, "Did you notice that we haven't had any distractions? Nothing's been trying to divert our attention."
"Yeah. I was thinking the same thing. If we were on to something, then the demon would probably be messing with us." Derek said honestly.
As the group walked out the side door of the garage, they noticed a car parked in front of the Osmani house with someone sitting inside.
"That's Christoph." Derek said suddenly, then led the way toward the curb.
* * * * *
"I was just trying to call Alana, but she isn't answering." Christoph said as he got out of his car.
"Yeah. Her phone got slagged by a demon, earlier tonight." Derek said frankly.
"It sounds rather aggressive."
"Christoph, I think you've met Hunter before, I'd like for you to meet Kerry Hinton, he works part-time with our team and Van, this is his house. I'm working on trying to recruit him, but this demon might end up scaring him off."
"What can you tell me about what we'll be facing?" Christoph asked seriously as they started walking toward the house.
"It seems to spread its influence by infecting and injuring the members of the household. Mrs. Batton said that it was a form of low-level possession, which also keeps them from healing." Derek said seriously.
"It sounds like a root." Christoph said slowly.
"Mrs. Batton also believes that it's old and that it was summoned." Kerry added, hoping that the information would be helpful.
"What manifestations have you experienced?" Christoph asked cautiously as they walked into the house.
"Psychic oppression. Apportation of small objects. Apportation of weapons when it infects someone. There was a group delusion that included four of us. Demonic confusion. Kerry and Van witnessed an apparition." Derek said thoughtfully as he led the way into the dining room.
"Where is Alana?" Christoph asked as he looked around.
"The last I heard, she was upstairs with Merryl, trying to exorcise the demonic possessions from Mr. Osmani's wounds." Derek said seriously.
"Is there anything else I should know before I begin?" Christoph asked quietly.
"The four of us have been trying to track down a cache of weapons that were on display in the house when the Osmani family moved in. We've been distracted and diverted a few times already, but we were just about ready to get back to it." Derek said carefully.
"You said that the demon apports a weapon when it inflicts its demonic infection on a person, correct?" Christoph asked slowly.
"Yes. Here's one, still stuck in the wall." Derek said frankly.
"Then, very likely, you are on the right track, trying to discover the cache of weapons. It's very likely that one of those weapons was used to form the conduit, and in so doing, the demon has been forced to utilize the properties of that conduit to channel his power." Christoph said thoughtfully.
"Then we'd probably better get back to looking." Derek said frankly.
"If you will tell me where Alana is, I'll speak with her for a moment before I begin." Christoph said solemnly.
"I'll show you." Van said immediately.
"Thank you, young man." Christoph said with a smile.
"Hunter, will you go with them. I don't want anyone traipsing around this house alone." Kerry asked hopefully.
"Sure." Hunter quickly agreed, then followed Christoph and Van out the door.
"Attic or basement?" Derek asked Kerry quietly.
"I can think of a thousand things that I would rather do than return to that basement, but I really think that's where the answer is." Kerry said honestly.
"I was afraid you were going to say that." Derek said with dread.
* * * * *
"You waited for us!" Van said with surprise as he and Hunter walked down the stairs.
"We're a team." Kerry said simply.
Van smiled at the answer as he walked to Kerry's side.
"Is everyone ready for this?" Derek asked hesitantly.
"No." Hunter said honestly, then added, "But I'll still do it."
"Your mothers have taught you well." Derek said with a smile as he led the way to the basement stairs.
* * * * *
"It's gone." Derek said cautiously.
"What's that?" Kerry asked curiously.
"The alter cloth. I left it right there and there's no sign of it." Derek said cautiously as he looked around.
"The smell is definitely gone. I can't say that I'm sorry about that." Kerry said frankly.
"You don't think that anyone came down while we were out in the garage, do you?" Derek asked as he finally gave up and stopped looking.
"I very seriously doubt it. I think that it's more likely that the demon either moved it someplace else, or it never existed in the first place." Kerry said honestly.
"I'm sick of this. Let's just find the weapons." Derek growled in frustration.
* * * * *
"Oh, gross! Man, your parents really need to get rid of this stuff." Hunter said disgustedly.
"What did you find?" Van asked with concern.
"Nineteen seventies decorating stuff. There's a blown glass bedpan looking thing, some avocado green ceramic tiles with fish handpainted on them... who needs a demon when you've got stuff like this in your house?" Hunter said as he continued to search through boxes.
"When everything's all better around here, maybe I'll talk to them about getting rid of this stuff." Van said with a smile.
"What school do you go to? I haven't seen you around." Hunter thought to ask, since he had Van's attention.
"The Christian Academy." Van said simply.
"Oh, that's why. My moms wouldn't want me going someplace like that." Hunter said honestly.
"Why's that?" Van asked curiously.
"They're Wiccans, so they don't have anything to do with the guy on the stick." Hunter said frankly.
"You said that they're Wiccans. What about you?" Van asked curiously.
"I don't know, yet. My moms say that there's no rush for me to decide things and to take my time. But from all that I've seen when I help them out... I don't know. I believe in something, I'm just not sure what, yet." Hunter said thoughtfully.
"I don't know, either. Let me know when you figure it out." Van said with a smile.
"Yeah." Hunter said with a grin.
* * * * *
"Is anyone on the main floor?" Alana asked over the walkie-talkie.
"No. We're all in the basement. Did you need something?" Derek asked cautiously.
"There's a knock at the door. I was just wondering if anyone was close to it." Alana said simply.
"Do you want us to get it?" Derek asked cautiously.
"No. Charity and I are on our way." Alana answered easily.
"How is Mr. Osmani doing?" Derek asked carefully.
"It's too early to tell. It's not going as easily as it did with Charity, but that stands to reason. His should be the most difficult." Alana said seriously, then quickly added, "Father Francis is here. Call if you need anything."
"We will." Derek said before putting the walkie-talkie back on his belt.
* * * * *
"I think I've got something. Can you help me, here?" Kerry called out.
"I will if I can find you. Where are you?" Derek asked cautiously.
"I'm behind these stacked sofas. I just found a large steamer chest. This could be it." Kerry said frankly.
"Boys! Come over here and help me! Kerry might have found it." Derek called as he tried to work his way around the end of the sofas.
* * * * *
"Where are you?" Van asked as he stopped where he thought Derek's voice had come from.
"Back here." Derek answered.
Hunter walked to Van's side and looked around curiously.
Finally, Van reluctantly said, "I can't see you."
"I can't see you either. But maybe, if you guys can move these sofas out of the way, we'll be able to dig down to this chest that Kerry found." Derek said seriously.
"I think it's a trick." Hunter said simply.
"Yeah. It's probably a trap." Van agreed.
Derek stretched around the edge of the stacked sofas and asked, "Are you guys going to help or not?"
"Do you think the demon is using his corpse as a hand puppet to lure us in?" Hunter asked cautiously.
"Could be." Van said slowly.
Derek rolled his eyes, then started climbing.
"I guess we should help him." Hunter finally relented.
"Yeah." Van agreed. They worked their way across stacks of boxes and furnishings to help Derek, who was struggling to find his footing.
* * * * *
Once the couches had been relocated a few feet further away, the group began to work to move the strange configuration of stacked boxes out of their way so that there wouldn't be an avalanche.
"How did you find this one all the way down here under everything else?" Van asked cautiously.
"I was looking for boxes big enough to hold the size of weapons that we've been seeing." Kerry said simply.
Van and Hunter looked at each other with surprise at the statement.
"What's wrong?" Kerry asked curiously.
"You might have said something about the size of the box that we were looking for, before now." Van said slowly.
"I just thought that you'd figure it out like I did." Kerry said simply.
"He has way too much faith in us." Hunter told Van frankly.
Van nodded his agreement.
* * * * *
When they finally cleared away the last of the other boxes, Kerry looked to Derek and quietly asked, "Should we open it?"
"Yeah." Derek said reluctantly, then turned to Van and Hunter before continuing, "You guys should probably stand back. We don't know what this thing's going to do."
"This thing got my dad in his bed at the hotel. I don't think it matters how close we are." Van said frankly.
"Why do you think it's not trying to distract us or mislead us?" Kerry asked Derek cautiously.
"Either we've got the wrong box, or maybe it's got all its attention focused on what's happening upstairs." Derek said honestly.
"Do you want me to open it?" Hunter asked cautiously.
"No. I've got it." Kerry said quietly, then reluctantly reached down and began to open the lid.
"Oh geeze!" Hunter said as he stepped back.
"Yeah. That's the smell." Van said as he fought not to back away.
Once the lid was fully open, everyone stepped forward to see what was inside.
Stacks upon stacks of weapons were piled in a heap inside the giant wooden chest.
"Did your dad put these in here?" Hunter asked curiously.
"Yeah. I guess so." Van confirmed.
"This is no way to treat weapons. Some of these things are ancient!" Hunter said seriously.
"I guess he thought that they were just junk." Van said frankly.
"Well, if he doesn't want them, give me a few days on ebay and I bet that I'll be able to make a bundle off of them. There's a few of my moms' witchy friends who'd jump at the chance to own some real antique weapons." Hunter said seriously.
"Except for whichever one of these is the conduit that the demon's using to access this plane of existence. You don't want to be selling that on ebay." Derek said frankly.
"We'll just be sure to include a disclaimer." Hunter said simply.
At the combined looks from the others, Hunter said, "Fine! We won't sell the demon possessed weapon. But I'm serious about the rest. We could make some serious money."
"You can talk to Van's parents about that, once we've got everything else settled." Kerry said assuringly.
"So, how can we tell which one of these is the bad one?" Van asked curiously.
"I have no idea." Kerry said honestly, then looked at Derek with question.
"We might be able to pick up something with a K2, but since all of these are metal, they've probably all got a pretty good dose by this point." Derek said honestly.
"Maybe we should get Christoph down here. He might know some kind of a trick." Kerry said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. That's probably best. None of us have done a full blessing or protection, so we aren't prepared to be handling something like this." Derek said decisively.
"I am." Hunter said seriously.
When they all looked at him, he explained, "My moms always make sure that we're all blessed and protected before we go into any job. I drank so much holy water before we got here that my piss is holy."
"Good to know." Derek said weakly, then continued, "Let's go get Christoph."
"If he's with Alana, we can call him." Kerry said thoughtfully.
"We'll go get him. He'd never be able to find us behind this wall of junk, anyway." Hunter said frankly.
"Be careful." Kerry said with an anxious look at Van.
"You, too." Van said with a smile, warmed to the depths of his soul at Kerry's concern for him.
* * * * *
As Van and Hunter approached the bedroom, they could hear voices talking.
Hunter held his hand up and listened for a moment, then whispered, "They're only about halfway done."
Van nodded that he had heard.
Hunter carefully stepped through the doorway. When he spotted Christoph standing with the others, surrounding the bed, he made a motion to catch his attention, then gestured for him to follow.
"Is there a problem?" Christoph asked in a whisper, so as not to disturb the ritual.
"We might have found something. Do you have time to look at it?" Hunter asked hopefully as he guided Christoph into the hall.
"I don't often get the chance to witness a pagan exorcism, but I suppose that if you've found something, that I should have a look." Christoph said cautiously.
"Everyone in this house is probably going to need to get exorcised, so you should have plenty of chances." Van said seriously.
"Very well. Then would you like to show me what you've found?" Christoph asked calmly.
"Yeah. It's in the basement." Hunter said as he led the way.
* * * * *
"How are things down here?" Van asked as he approached the wall of furniture.
"Be careful. Stay back. I think it's noticed us." Kerry warned.
"What happened?" Van asked with concern as he started forging a path around the barrier.
"More of the same." Derek said weakly.
When Van saw him, he gasped at the gaping infected wound on Derek's neck.
"You might want to stay back." Kerry warned him.
Van did a quick visual inspection of Kerry and realized that he was keeping one of his hands hidden behind his back.
"What happened? Are you hurt really bad?" Van asked as he hurried to Kerry's side.
"No worse than anyone else." Kerry demurred.
"Let me see." Van said firmly.
When Kerry finally took his hand from behind his back, he revealed that it was nearly unrecognizable, grotesquely deformed with putrid, festering boils.
"Where is it?" Christoph asked as he climbed around the furniture.
"That box." Van said as he absently gestured in that direction.
"We wanted to know if you can figure out which one is the one that we're looking for." Hunter explained.
"What am I looking at?" Christoph asked as he approached the large steamer trunk.
"Like I told you before, we sort of figured out that since the demon apports weapons whenever it infects someone, that it's probably using a weapon as a portal or a conduit. Van said that there were a bunch of weapons down here in the basement somewhere. This could be what we're looking for." Derek said as he tried to stem the flow of blood and infectious fluids leaking from his neck.
"That's if this thing is really a demon at all. It's been using all kinds of tricks to throw us off the track." Kerry said seriously, then added, "We could still be totally wrong."
"No. It's a demon. I recognize the smell." Christoph said slowly.
"What do we need to do? How can we stop it before it attacks someone else?" Kerry asked desperately.
"We're going to need to get these weapons out of the chest. Once we've determined which one it is, then I can bind it, rendering it harmless." Christoph said seriously.
"Do you want us to start taking them out?" Hunter asked cautiously.
"No. Just see if you can clear some space for me, so that we'll have a place to lay them out." Christoph said as he kept his gaze focused on the collection of weapons.
"Help me." Van said as he climbed over some boxes to one end of the couches.
"Yeah." Hunter agreed, then moved to the other end.
Kerry and Derek did their best to move as many of the smaller things as they could, but they were both weak and in pain from their injuries.
"Stop." Christoph commanded.
Everyone froze in place.
"I can feel the power building. It's about to take some type of action. We need to stop it before it can react." Christoph said thoughtfully.
"What can we do?" Van asked helplessly.
"Pray. Call upon whatever deity you believe in and entreat it to protect you and those in this household. Ask it to bind the demon and prevent it from causing further harm." Christoph said firmly.
"I don't know what I believe in!" Hunter yelped in panic.
"It doesn't matter! Just pick one!" Christoph snapped in response.
"Great Mother, hear my prayer..." Hunter said reverently.
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name..." Kerry began to recite.
Finally, Van bowed his head and quietly began to say, "O Blessed One, Shakyamuni Buddha, precious treasury of compassion, bestower of supreme inner peace..."
Derek looked around the group, then quietly began to say, "We thank Thee, O Thou Great Eloheim, that Thou didst raise up Thy servant..."
"Hear our prayers. Bind this demon. Prevent him from causing further harm." Christoph said firmly as the sounds of muttered prayers rang up from all around him.
* * * * *
There were long minutes as the others in the basement continued to pray, but finally, Christoph wilted with relief and quietly said, "The immediate threat has passed. You can stop."
Everyone fell silent then, as one, they looked at Christoph with question.
"The demon fought against our combined blessings and seems to have exhausted himself. We need to act quickly before he has time to attack again." Christoph said decisively.
"Watch out, this thing is sneaky. I wouldn't put it past him to be 'playing dead' so you'll let your guard down." Derek said frankly.
"I won't be letting my guard down. But now is the time to act." Christoph said firmly.
"Let's finish clearing this out." Hunter said urgently.
"What do you need us to do?" Kerry asked quickly.
"Just take each weapon as I hand it to you and set it aside. It's possible that it will be able to mask itself from me, so lay them out where I can see them individually, don't stack them. That way I'll be able to look back over them when I'm finished." Christoph said seriously as he took hold of an axe that was near the top of the stack.
Van and Hunter worked and strained to not only get the furniture out of their way, but also to provide a decent walking path out of the area.
"Kerry, are you at a point where you can break away? We've just finished with Mr. and Dr. Osmani, and I'd like to do you next." Alana asked over the radio.
After a moment to get the radio off his belt, Kerry quickly said, "Do Van first. He's been here the longest."
"Agreed. Send him up. We'll meet him in his room." Alana responded.
Van looked at Kerry apprehensively at the announcement.
"Hunter, will you take over here for me?" Kerry asked hopefully.
The smile of relief on Van's face told Hunter all that he needed to know.
"Yeah. I got this. Go on." Hunter assured Kerry as he stepped forward to take his place.
* * * * *
"When they're done with me, we'll get them to do you." Van said firmly.
"It's not bad. I can stand to wait for a while." Kerry assured him.
"Well, I can't stand it!" Van said seriously.
Kerry glanced at the teenager at his side, then threw an arm around his shoulders as he said, "Okay, Van. I'll do it."
* * * * *
When they walked into Van's bedroom, Father Francis smiled and said, "It's so good to see you again, Mr. Hinton."
"It's nice to see you, too, Father." Kerry responded warmly, then said, "And I'd like to introduce Van, Mr. and Dr. Osmani's son."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, young man." Father Francis said sincerely.
"Yeah. It's nice to meet you, too." Van said shyly.
"We're going to need access to all of your injuries. So if you could please remove any clothing that is covering them, we'll be able to proceed." Merryl said seriously.
"Oh, um... yeah. I'm going to need to put on some shorts or something." Van said nervously.
"When you do, make sure to check that there aren't any injuries that you weren't aware of. We need to get them all." Merryl warned.
"Don't worry. I'll help you." Kerry assured him, then said, "Grab what you need and let's get this over with."
* * * * *
Once they were alone in the bathroom, Van nervously said, "This is weird."
"You'll get no argument from me." Kerry said with a smile, then continued, "Just remember that I've got a son. This is one of those things that parents sometimes have to do."
"Check your kid for demon bites?" Van asked incredulously.
Kerry laughed, then said, "You help your children, sometimes in situations that might be uncomfortable or embarrassing."
Van nodded, then slowly started to undress himself.
Kerry remained silent, but took note of each of the injuries that Van had sustained.
After completely disrobing, Van picked up the shorts and was about to pull them on when Kerry quietly said, "Before you do that, would you raise your arms and turn around. I want to be sure that there aren't any injuries hiding from us."
Although Van wanted to protest, he held himself back and did as Kerry had asked. It occurred to him in that moment that there was no one else, including his own father, that he would rather have helping him.
"Good. Go ahead." Kerry said quietly.
Van quickly pulled on the shorts, then looked at the rest of his clothes uncertainly.
"You'll be able to put more things on when they're done. Let's just go ahead and get this over with." Kerry said seriously.
* * * * *
When Kerry and Van walked back into Van's bedroom, Merryl instructed Van to lie down on the bed and relax.
The incredulous look on Van's face when she said 'relax' brought a smile to Kerry's lips.
The long and involved ceremony that followed seemed to be mostly gibberish to Kerry's ears.
When Merryl applied the blessed water to each of the wounds, Van reacted with a little gasp or he would wriggle. But at no point during the ceremony did he exhibit any signs of discomfort except for those of embarrassment.
When the ceremony was finally finished, Van announced that it was Kerry's turn next.
"I'll borrow something of my dad's so that you can change." Van said as he pulled on a tee shirt.
Kerry wanted to protest, but in the light of what had already happened, he felt that he didn't have the right.
* * * * *
Once Van had secured a pair of shorts from his father's room, he returned to find Kerry looking apprehensive.
"Just remember that I've got a father..." Van said, trying to hide his smile, "...kids sometimes have to do things like this."
"Check their fathers for demon bites?" Kerry said with a smile as he played along.
"No. But sometimes you have to help them with something embarrassing." Van said with an impish grin, then added, "Of course, that's usually right before you ship them off to the old folks home."
Kerry laughed as he stepped out of his underpants.
"Okay. Turn around." Van said in a mock impatient tone.
Kerry turned and the expression of amusement fell away from Van's face.
"Go ahead and get your shorts on. That looks bad." Van said with concern.
"Yeah." Kerry said soberly, then did as he was told.
* * * * *
The exorcism and blessing ended up being much the same as Van's had been, although a little more extensive, due to his greater number of injuries.
"Do you want us to send Derek up, next?" Kerry asked as he got off the bed.
"Yes. I think that would be a good idea." Alana said thoughtfully.
"Please send Hunter up, too. Although he probably hasn't been infected, I'd rather be on the safe side." Ashley said seriously.
Merryl nodded her agreement to the request.
"Alright. I'm just going to stop by the bathroom to get dressed, then we'll send him right up." Kerry said seriously.
"Hang on. Let me grab a few things. I'm going to need to put on some more clothes before I go down to the basement." Van said seriously.
Kerry waited in the doorway as Van gathered what he would need, then they both walked across the hall to the bathroom.
* * * * *
"How did it go?" Derek asked when Kerry and Van approached.
"We've been exorcised and blessed. They're ready for you, next." Kerry said frankly.
Derek nodded his acceptance.
"You, too, Hunter." Van added.
"There's nothing wrong with me." Hunter objected.
"Your moms just want to be safe." Van told him simply.
"You think it's bad having an overprotective mother? Try having two of them..." Hunter muttered as he walked away, at Derek's side.
"How's it going down here?" Kerry asked Christoph curiously.
"I was afraid of this. It's hiding itself. I think it's one of these." Christoph said as he pointed to a selection of less than a dozen knives and swords before him.
"That one." Van said as he pointed.
"Why do you think that?" Christoph asked curiously.
"Just look at it. That thing's oozing bad." Van said frankly.
"I suppose that there's one way to find out." Christoph said as he carefully picked up the crude dagger and placed it on a white satin cloth.
"Is this something dangerous? Should we get back?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"No." Christoph said simply, then took a vial out of his pocket.
"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I command you to leave this realm, never to return. All invitations and entreaties that have been made, I now declare with holy authority, have been rescinded. What was opened is now closed." Christoph said firmly, then sprinkled a few drops from the vial onto the blade of the dagger.
After setting the vial aside, he then carefully folded the cloth around the dagger.
As he began to tie the bundle closed with string, he continued, "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I bind thee."
"Do you feel that?" Kerry asked as he looked around curiously.
"What?" Van asked cautiously.
"I don't know. It just feels... different." Kerry said uncertainly.
"Do you need for us to stay down here for anything?" Van asked Christoph cautiously.
"Not unless this wasn't the right one." Christoph said frankly.
"It was. I'm sure of it." Van said with certainty.
"Then let's go upstairs and see how everyone else is doing. If this really worked, then they should also be able to feel the difference." Christoph said as he picked up the wrapped dagger and carried it with him.
"Do you want to leave that down here?" Van asked cautiously.
"This thing isn't leaving my hands until I have it safely neutralized and under lock and key." Christoph said as he began to walk.
"Do you mean that it's not safe?" Van asked curiously.
"I have it bound, but all you'd have to do is untie or cut this string to release it. This is a temporary measure to sever the link between the demon and its fragments that it's spawned in your family." Christoph said frankly.
"Are you going to destroy it?" Van asked cautiously.
"No. That can cause a whole other set of problems. When I get it back to my office, I'm going to do a more permanent binding ceremony on it, then I'm going to lock it away where it can never be used again."
"Good." Van said seriously, then thought to ask, "What about the evil midget?"
"What was that?" Christoph asked curiously.
"Van and I spotted a small black... something, in his closet. When we shined a light on it, it moved away." Kerry explained.
"Did it have substance?" Christoph asked carefully.
"What do you mean by that?" Van asked cautiously.
"Did you ever see it pick up anything or move anything? Was it able to interact with anything on our plane of existence?" Christoph asked seriously.
"No." Kerry said firmly, then reminded Van, "You remember when it ducked behind the couch? It couldn't have fit back there. It was like a shadow, except that it didn't disappear when you shined a light on it."
"Good. That's the perfect description of a shadow demon." Christoph said with relief. "I think what you had was something being manifested and controlled from the other side. If we hadn't been able to shut down the conduit, then it would have eventually been able to gain a physical form, here. But since it never manifested as more than a shadow, closing the conduit would cause it to dissipate. Keep an eye open for it, just in case, but chances are that it won't be back."
"Good." Van said with a relieved smile.
"Let's go see how everyone's doing." Kerry said with a glance at the teenager at his side.
* * * * *
"How are things going up here?" Kerry asked as he led the way into Van's bedroom.
"Extremely well. Can I assume that you were able to locate the conduit and bind it?" Alana asked curiously.
Christoph held up the cloth covered bundle.
"Even though I wasn't aware of it, I think that I was experiencing a form of demonic oppression. When you did the binding, all of a sudden, it's like I felt my energy and vitality returning. The bond that was sapping me was broken." Alana quietly explained.
"Yeah. I guess I didn't think about it, but I felt that way when the exorcism was finished." Kerry said thoughtfully, then looked at Van with question.
"Yeah." Van said simply.
"So, is that it? Is everything resolved?" Kerry asked Alana curiously.
"No." Christoph answered for her.
"What still needs to be done?" Alana asked cautiously.
"I suspect that this demon is what is known as a 'root'. It slowly infects its victims and saps their strength. But, when the link to the demon is severed, the spawned pieces don't die away, they continue to grow. Until every last bit of the 'root' has been eradicated, this matter won't be completely resolved." Christoph said firmly.
"Oh. I thought because I stopped feeling it sapping my strength that it was over." Alana said thoughtfully.
"No. Every last trace has to be exorcised or it will grow within you, sometimes for years, and it will eventually seek to either infect others or reconnect to the mother root." Christoph said grimly.
"So, what do we do next?" Alana asked cautiously.
"First, we make sure that everyone that's been infected has completed the exorcism ritual. After that, we need to check back to be sure that some trace doesn't re emerge." Christoph said seriously.
"It looks like we're going to have to stay in touch." Kerry said to Van with a smile.
"Yeah." Van said with a grin.
* * * * *
"How are things with the family?" Derek asked Kerry curiously, as he drove.
"Fine. They're having a Harry Potter marathon at my house." Kerry said with a warm smile.
"What about Malika? Did she have any reaction when Christoph sealed the conduit?" Alana asked curiously.
"Actually, from the sound of it, Toni and Lorra figured out what kind of demon we were dealing with a long time before we did. They had already done a basic exorcism and blessing long before we ever thought of it." Kerry said proudly.
"So Malika's alright?" Alana asked cautiously.
"She's as happy as she can be." Kerry assured her.
"Still, we should probably keep an eye on her, just to make sure what they did continues to be effective." Alana said thoughtfully.
"Between Van and Toni, I'm sure that I'll hear about it if Malika's having any problems." Kerry said confidently.
"Kerry, here's your car. If you want to hop out, Derek and I have another stop to make. Thanks for everything you did tonight." Alana said sincerely.
"Yeah. You were amazing." Derek said honestly.
"Next Friday?" Kerry asked cautiously.
"Yeah. We'll see you then." Alana said with a smile.
* * * * *
"Do you think you're up to having a few visitors?"
"Alana! How did everything go? Is the Osmani family alright?" Jack asked hopefully.
"Everything worked out, they're all fine." Alana assured him.
"So, was it a demon?" Kyla asked curiously.
"Actually, it was a demon summoned through a conduit manifesting itself in this world by way of the diabolic infections that it causes." Alana said frankly.
"Manifesting itself... you mean, like possession?" Jack asked hesitantly.
"Yes. Exactly. However, a standard exorcism can get rid of it. I assume that Kyla can do that for you, but if you'd rather have a professional, I'm sure you know who to call." Alana finished with a smile.
"How much time do we have? I mean, if I'm possessed..." Jack trailed off as he looked at Kyla anxiously.
"I called in Christoph and he closed the conduit. That means that you don't have any outside demonic influence fueling its growth, now. You can take the time to do this right." Alana assured him, then thought to ask, "What did the doctor say?"
"Once she got the maggots out from under my skin and got her nurse to stop puking, she said that she wanted to keep me overnight for evaluation." Jack said frankly.
"Well, enjoy the rest. With the demon sealed away, you should be able to heal up in no time." Alana said happily.
Well, it seems all's well that ends well, so to speak. As I said before, I have a feeling that we will be seeing more of these folks. At least I hope we will. I find myself becoming really interested in everyone. That tends to happen to me when I read one of MultiMapper's stories. Thanks for another really cool story, MM.
Darryl AKA Radio Rancher