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Terror of Tuhloon

March, 2005

Chapter 10: Merte


 

Tonja parked her dirt bike in the garage, stowing her riding helmet and gloves inside a locker there. Along the way home, she repeatedly had to pull off the road to cry, her tears blurred her vision and kept her from steering properly. Her sorrow was twofold, she had not only lost her best friend, but also her first love, before it could even fully develop.

Serje had used the awful book, Tonja was convinced of it. His face, his attitude and even the tone of his voice was changed, different, as though another person was residing within his body. During the confrontation in his bedroom, Serje was behaving like a stranger to her. The disgusted expression on his face as he regarded her, was something she would never forget.

Although her heart was broken, Tonja still wanted to help Serje. As far as her love was concerned, Serje had stamped it out, extinguished it, like tossing a candle into a cold river. Under the surface ugliness, there was still a sweet young man who had become Tonja's best friend over the last few years. Despite his abhorrent behavior and selfish decisions, there was a kind, thoughtful and shy boy who she had slowly fallen in love with.

Tonja had given up any hope of a relationship with Serje and she wasn't even sure if their friendship could still be salvaged. Nonetheless, she was going to help him, even if it wound up causing her even more pain.

Serje had lied, numerous times, right to her face without blinking an eye. Tonja's heart felt like it was going to drop out of her body, as if suddenly it had transformed from muscle to stone, no longer pumping hot blood through her vascular system, but thick mud instead.

The main sign that reinforced Tonja's belief Serje had used the book, were his eyes. Normally, he was sort of shy, unsure of himself, self conscious. He rarely met anyone's gaze directly, not even his own grandfather's. Earlier, in his bedroom, Serje was practically boring holes into her skull with his intense gaze. His eyes never left hers, and from his stare, Tonja sensed an unsettling darkness, something evil, deep inside him, raging like a wildfire, fueled by hatred and destruction.

Serje was no longer the person she had fallen in love with.

Tomorrow was Saturday, there was no school, so Tonja had time. She planned on going to her father first. Her father had connections within the Russian government. The FSB agent that was at the school seemed intelligent and insightful. Maybe he and her father could find a way to help Serje before he was shot to death by the police or murdered by an angry mob of residents.

Her father was actually her stepfather, but he had showered her with so much love and devotion that Tonja never treated or referred to him as anything but her proper dad.

Tonja prayed that Serje wasn't involved in the missing girls, even though she suspected he was. Every single one of the victims were in Merte's entourage. Today, Merte was only hanging around the school with a few boys. The last of the girls, Zhenya, wasn't at school today either. That brought the total of possibly missing to four. Every one of the girls that had gone missing, had spent the last few years tormenting Serje. He had plenty of motive to harm them.

Although she was desperate to believe in Serje, Tonja knew that he was involved with the disappearances. When she asked him about it, he had grown angry, a hideous fury that had frightened her. Everyone at school was talking about it because they all knew Serje had the most reasons to punish Merte and her entourage. It was only a matter of time before the police arrived and arrested Serje. In fact, Tonja was surprised they hadn't yet. Maybe they lacked concrete evidence to apprehend him but surely Serje was one of their prime suspects.

The problem was, Tonja's parents wouldn't be home until the following day. They were spending the night in Bratsk to attend some formal ball for her father's job. They promised to rush home early in the morning because ironically, tomorrow was Tonja's fifteenth birthday.

Neither of her parents had ever met Serje but they knew all about him since Tonja spoke of little else. Every invitation they had sent out to the young man had been turned down so far. She spoke so highly of her friend and spent so much time with him, that her parents were both anxious to meet him.

Tonja was once again overcome with sorrow and wept just outside the backdoor of her house. Now that their friendship was over, her parents would never meet him unless they visited him at the penitentiary or worse, the cemetery.

Tonja searched her heart for a remote possibility that she could forgive Serje and salvage their relationship. All she could think about was the vile satanic book that he had used to seek vengeance. He had grown two inches taller literally overnight, had become more confident and vastly more angry. Since there was no doubt he had used the book successfully, Tonja wondered which of the stomach-churning preconditions he had performed. Necrophilia? Bestiality? Cannibalism? She knew she could never look at him the same way ever again.

Tonja also wondered what he had done to the poor girls. Although heartless immoral bitches, Merte's entourage did not deserve to die. Had Serje committed murder? Rape? Had he beaten them to death? Stabbed them? Killed them by strangulation? Had he dismembered their corpses, buried them deep in the woods like trash or left them out exposed to the elements to rot away? She shuddered at the thought of her sweet Serje being capable of such cold-blooded behavior.

Tonja sat down at the kitchen table, her mind racing to find a way to help Serje. He was lost, a sheep that wandered far away from the flock, in danger of being imprisoned for the rest of his life but also, being consumed by a demonic predator. If she was going to help him, she had to go back. Back to his house. She needed to team up with his grandfather. Perhaps together, they could talk Serje into seeking help from his only chance of salvation: God.


 


 

* * *


 

The Three traveled to Zhenya Teshin's house in the finer neighborhood of Tuhloon. On the way, they received a phone call from Trisha Lamont, informing them that a fourth girl had been reported missing.

“Is it Zhenya Teshin?” Jewel asked.

“Yes,” Trisha confirmed, “Teachers at the school are reporting she never arrived this morning.”

“Okay,” Jewel said, “Thanks for the heads up.”

Trisha said, “Captain Dragomirov from the FSB is free to meet you now, if you have time.”

“Where and when?” Logan wanted to know.

Trisha said, “At the old abandoned school. Say, in twenty minutes?”

“We'll be there,” Jewel told her.

Sephon asked, “So now Zhenya is missing. I thought the aberrant only attacked at night?”

“Maybe he wanted to throw off his prey. Make them think they're safe during the day then nab one of them while their guard is down,” Logan said.

“Wouldn't the aberrant have taken Zhenya back to the same spot where we found the others?” Jewel wanted to know.

“Maybe,” Sephon said.

Logan fished a cigarette out of his coat pocket and lit it, took a drag and blew a large cloud of smoke out of the cracked window, “This aberrant is starting to piss me off. He's leading us on a wild goose chase, making us look like chumps. I'm really going to enjoy eliminating it.”

“What are we dealing with?” Sephon asked him. Logan didn't say anything so Sephon bade him again, “You've seen it, right?”

“Yeah. It's huge, bigger and more horrible that any other Werewolf we've ever dealt with,” Logan said.

Before he had joined The Three, Sephon had served as a lone hunter for over a decade, specializing in hunting down lycanthropes of every variety. He had become quite acclaimed for doing battle with and defeating the ravenous beasts armed with only his blessed knife. Perhaps Logan or Jewel had never encountered a beast so fearsome before, but Sephon was confident that he had.

Logan blew out a large cloud of smoke as he said, “Its fur is silver, its eyes glow like yellow lanterns and its at least nine feet tall.”

“Nine?” Jewel asked incredulously.

Sephon had worked along side Logan and Jewel for nearly ten years. He had never seen Logan hesitant or concerned about hunting down and dispatching a supernatural before. Sephon asked him, “So it's the size that is causing you so much pause?”

Logan shook his head, “Not how big it is but the sheer hatred of it, the fury that it radiates. Most Werewolves are already savage enough but this one is evil, with a burning anger that seems to empower it's behavior. For some reason, I keep getting the sense that it's not alone. It has help, allies or something. I think we're going to have our hands full.”

Jewel and Sephon were silent in contemplation for a few minutes.

“What sort of help do you think the aberrant is getting?” Jewel asked him.

Logan shrugged, “I'm not sure but we're going to have to be very careful.”

“I have a bad feeling about this hunt,” Jewel admitted. Sephon and Logan wanted to know if she could foretell anything about the hunt and she said not yet. She rarely received hunches, her visions of foresight were very clear and overpowering, not something she had to guess about. Until now, she had never been nervous or afraid of going after an aberrant. Yet, she could feel something in the pit of her stomach, a dread that was nesting there, growing larger and more frightening by the hour.

Twenty minutes later, The Three arrived at the abandoned school. The FSB agent was there, looking like a cliché old school KGB agent. His clothes were professional but they were old, thin and a little shabby. His eyes were droopy but he radiated a fierce perceptiveness not found in most people.

Dragomirov seemed very happy to meet them and overjoyed that they were already on the creature's trail. He emphatically shook each of their hands, “I will use the full force of the local police department, such as it is, to enforce a strict curfew to provide as much privacy as I can,” Dragomirov assured them. The Captain spoke perfect English. No accent at all.

“We're going to need you to limit the range of your patrols as well,” Jewel said, “I'm going to set up perimeter alarms with motion-sensing cameras all along the treeline so we can get right on it the moment it strikes. I would really hate any false alarms set off by your police.”

“Very well,” Dragomirov said, “Just so you know, we tried to place Merte Janar into protective custody since her parents are out of town. We can't find her. I'm hoping she hasn't already fallen prey to the lycanthrope.”

“There goes our other lead,” Logan sighed.

“Instead of tracking the damn creature, why don't we track down Merte?” Sephon suggested, “She's the last target. The aberrant will have come to us if we can find her first.”

“That's a damn good idea, Sephon,” Logan said. He asked Captain Dragomirov, “Where was Merte Janar last seen?”

“As far as we could find out, she was at school today. She left when school was out about an hour ago, and hasn't been home yet. I have a few men watching her house for her. We've been asking around. No one has seen her since class.”

“We're on her trail now,” Logan assured him, “We'll find her.”

“I can't thank you enough,” Captain Dragomirov said sincerely, “I've had my hands full just trying to keep the public ignorant and the press away from all of this kidnapping. So far, everyone still thinks these girls are just runaways but its only a matter of time, as long as that damn lycanthrope keeps killing.”

Logan lit a cigarette took a deep drag and blew a large cloud of smoke over their heads.

Dragomirov continued, “The problem I ran into was that there were too many suspects as to who would want to cause the girls harm. I guess those girls were mean to just about every damn other student.”

Sephon asked, “Is there anyone in particular you suspect?”

Dragomirov nodded, “Of course. Except that I've posted patrols at every one of their homes to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. No luck. The suspects were all at home asleep when the girls were still being abducted.”

“Your patrols must have missed one,” Jewel said softly.

“This is a small town,” Dragomirov explained, “I only have a handful of police to work with and we're stretched thin.”

“Why didn't you ask for more help from the FSB?” Logan asked him.

Dragomirov sighed, “The FSB doesn't want to be involved. I was sent here to make the problem go away quietly but I'm in over my head. You're really my only hope.”

Jewel said suddenly, “Tonight will be quiet.” Her voice was monotone, hypnotic, as if she were in a deep trance. Logan and Sephon both recognized that she was having a vision. Jewel said, “We won't have any problems with the creature. Tomorrow night will be the showdown.”

“Pardon?” Dragomirov asked politely.

“You see something, Jewel?” Logan asked her.

Jewel blinked, partially recovering from her vision. She nodded at Logan, “Yeah, the aberrant already met its quota for today. It's resting, hiding from us. There won't be any sign of it until tomorrow night.”

It met its quota?” Logan asked her.

Jewel nodded at him but her gaze was distant again. She was focusing on the vision. Her voice was airy, soft as if she was talking more to herself than the men present, “For some reason, the aberrant wants to spread out the killings, one on each night. No, that's not right. It has to spread out the killings. The souls were promised, one for each night. Zhenya Teshin has already been killed for today, so the beast is done until tomorrow night.”

Dragomirov sighed miserable, “So Zhenya's already dead. Damn. Another family to console.”

Logan stared at Jewel, watching her closely. He was very protective of her, like a little sister.

When Jewel was a young girl, her parents and younger brother were killed in a head on collision with a drunk driver on a dark wintry night along a remote highway. Jewel was the lone survivor and was trapped in the car with her dead family all night. She wasn't found and rescued from the wreckage until the following afternoon.

Since the crash, Jewel had begun see visions, like still photographs, of the future in her mind's eye. While viewing these photographs, Jewel also received information, like Morse Code, very concise but easy to decipher. Utilizing both the visions and the trickling information, she could deduce what would happen in the near eventuality. So far, Jewel had never been wrong. Both Logan and Sephon had learned to never doubt her.

After he could tell that Jewel's vision had passed, Logan said, “At any rate, we can at least relax for tonight.”

Dragomirov said, “If the showdown will be tomorrow night, I want to be there. I want to help you, in anyway I can. My Lieutenant is reliable and I trust him. He and I are available to you.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Sephon said.

“We'll find it and kill it,” Logan said confidently, “We have your phone number and we'll call you if we need any other help. It was nice meeting you, Captain Dragomirov.”

“Likewise.”

The Three left the abandoned building and headed directly over to the high school.

The Tuhloon High School was a four story building, painted a strange aqua color, bleached white by the sun and weather. It looked almost as abandoned as their meeting place, with some of the windows boarded up, the doors were faded and sagging. When they walked in, the floor was cracked and some of the tiles were completely missing, but what was left was clean and highly polished.

The principal wasn't happy that three strangers were asking about one of his students. While Sephon and Jewel worked to smooth things over, Logan went to Merte's locker and touched the handle with his bare hand. He received images of Merte, where she was going and what she was doing. He could only perceive everyday romantic concerns, classes, tests and the latest gossip from her, the mundane goings on of a teenage girl. He could sense nothing about where she was going after school. Her mindset when she last used the locker was too casual. Logan was surprised that Merte wasn't in turmoil or stressed. She should be in much more mental disarray, considering her best girlfriends were all missing.

Strange. Normally, Logan could sense intentions but there were none, almost as if Merte was purposefully shutting out her emotions. It was highly suspect. Logan wondered if Merte was somehow involved with the murders.

The Three were patient. Years of hunting elusive prey had given them the perseverance of a fishermen at a known good fishing hole. They were systematic, leaving nothing to chance, overlooking not one detail.

The Three left the high school and headed to Merte's home. The neighborhood was higher class, with manicured yards, freshly painted fences, newer street signs and larger properties. Merte's house was one of the largest on the block, beautiful and also empty. The doors and windows were all locked. No one was home.

The weather was turning colder. There were gray clouds sweeping in and the temperature was dropping steadily. It was either going to rain soon or maybe even snow.

Sephon sensed a darkness inside the home. Something bad, but he couldn't determine what it was.

Jewel gave windows and the backdoor a quick check, “There's no security alarm in place. Do you want to break in?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Logan said.

Within seconds, Jewel had picked the lock at the back door and The Three entered Merte's home.


 


 

* * *


 

Serje had not gotten a good night sleep in days so despite the drama with his grandfather and Tonja, Serje collapsed into a catatonic slumber almost immediately. As he slept, he had an odd dream.

He was in a dark place, a cavern, maybe an old mine. It was cold, wet and dreary with very footstep he took followed by echoes. The tunnel stretched on like a massive beast, yawning through rock and earth for what seemed like eternity.

Serje became aware that Merte was in the cavern with him. She was at the far end of the tunnel, waiting for him. Something was very wrong: Merte was smiling at him. As he watched her, he realized that she had started the entire ordeal. His decision to commit murder, his being branded by the dark mark, losing Tonja and striking a deal with the devil. Everything could be blamed on Merte because she was such an insufferable bitch.

“Hi there, rat face,” Merte greeted him. Despite the cold wetness of the dark cavern, she was wearing a tight tank top and shorts.

“I don't have anything to say to you, bitch!” Serje said coldly, “You're already dead. You might as well enjoy the few hours of life you have left.”

Merte shrugged at him, casually, “Okay. Whatever. Just listen to me, Serje. There are people here to kill you, professional hunters that travel the world killing supernatural beings like yourself. They are very dangerous and they are close to finding you.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Serje asked. He was glad she finally called him by his name but it was overshadowed by the fact that Merte knew about his dark mark, She knew he was a lycanthrope? A supernatural? How was this possible?

“Shut up and listen to me!” Merte snapped at him. The smile had vanished, her lovely face had assumed her regular bitchiness. She spoke rapidly, impatient, “When you wake up, you're going to find a small black stone next to your bed. It allows you to travel to the Dreaming Realm, where we are right now. It's the only way to keep out of sight and to keep the hunters from finding you.”

Serje was reeling. What in God's name was Merte rambling on about?

“Its simple to use,” Merte continued, “Just hold it in your hand and imagine a door opening for you. Even an idiot like yourself should be able to figure it out. All you have to do is go inside the portal and wait until tomorrow night.”

“Why are you helping me?” Serje asked her, “Tomorrow, you're my prey. I'm coming to kill you”

Merte smiled and shook her head, “No. I have so much more to tell you, Serje.”

“I know that you can use magic,” Serje said, “It's probably how you're communicating with me in my dreams, but your magic isn't going to help you. I'm going to torture you slowly, Merte, rip you to pieces and eat you.”

Merte giggled. Her large breasts bounced deliciously as she moved, “Fine. Just remember to stay within the portal and out of sight until tomorrow night.”

“Why should I trust you?”

Merte said, “The place you're going in between the Dreaming and the Waking Realms. It's going to look just like reality except hidden in shadows. You can explore around where the stone will take you, which is the third level. I'm warning you in advance, though. Whatever you do, do not descend. The lower levels are very dangerous.”

Serje was still suspicious, “And how do I get out of this Dream world once I'm inside?”

“You use the stone to enter and exit. I made it just for you. It took me almost a year to craft that damn rock, so don't lose it.”

“I can't wait to taste you,” Serje said coldly, “I'm going to lick the skin right off your body and watch you bleed.”

Merte openly laughed at him, “We'll see, rat face. We settle our score tomorrow night. Don't die on me until then.”

Serje woke up. He immediately switched on his bedside lamp and spotted a large smooth black stone the size of a big marble just as Merte had described in the dream. It was shaped like a hard boiled egg sliced in half lengthwise except all of the edges were rounded evenly.

Son of a bitch!

How was Merte able to get this stone so close to him while he slept? Apparently, she could enter his bedroom at will, come and go as she pleased. Did this mean she was toying with him? Was he going to be like a lamb to the slaughter when they faced off? Could Merte simply crush him like a bug at any time she wanted? If so, why had she allowed him to kill all of her friends? Why didn't she stop him days prior and spare the poor girls' lives?

Merte was thoroughly involved somehow, Serje was convinced. Not only had she started everything from the very beginning, but now she was manipulating him, like an animal trainer over a circus animal, pulling his leash, snapping her whip, guiding him through the motions until it was time for the big show.

Through the ceiling he could hear his grandfather walking around. He was probably pacing, worrying about his grandson. Serje felt a stab of guilt. Maybe he should go and at least eat dinner with his grandfather. He should spend time with the old man, since it may be for the last time but he decided against it. If he was indeed being hunted as Merte had insisted, then he needed to hide.

There was a knock on the front door, overhead. The police? No. He recognized one of the voices from early in the day. It was the priest. Serje needed to move.

Serje thought about the wolf, instantly calling it to him. Then, he retrieved the wolf belt from its hiding spot. Seconds later, he heard the wolf pawing at his door. Serje let the beast into the basement then, holding the stone in his hand, concentrated on a door being formed. He could hear a crackle in the air, then saw a split of darkness forming in front of him that widened. Soon, there was a shadowy doorway, like a flickering, crackling portal to the unknown right in the middle of his bedroom.

Serje stepped inside the mysterious portal.


 

* * *


 

The Three searched Merte's house, looking for anything that may point them in the direction she was hiding. She left no clues almost as if she were purposefully evading them. Nothing Logan touched revealed her intentions. Merte had either taken everything pertaining to her disappearance with her or she had left hastily from school, leaving no traces of her itinerary behind at her home.

Jewel even hacked into Merte's desktop tower, but found nothing of interest.

Logan's cellphone rang, he answered it. It was Father Vincent, “How are you, Logan?” the familiar friendly voice said.

“Kinda busy at the moment.”

Father Vincent said, “I see. I wanted you to know, I met the Werewolf earlier today.”

Logan sighed impatiently, “And you're just telling me now?”

“He's just a boy, Logan,” Father Vincent said gently.

Sephon and Jewel gathered close, seeing the distress on Logan's face, they wanted to find out what was going on.

“He's killed four young girls, Father Vincent, and he's probably going to kill more,” Logan was angry, “You should have called me immediately!”

Father Vincent's tone never changed. Calmly, he explained, “I first had to pay proper respect to the local patronage and to Our Lord, Logan.”

Logan tried not to lose his temper, “Our priorities have always been hugely different, but we're talking about life and death!”

“His name is Serje Niko,” Father Vincent said, “He's scared and, I believe, he is full of regret. We may still be able to save him, Logan.”

Logan said gruffly, “We're hunting him, Father, not trying to bring him back safely into the fold. We're not here to save him, we're here to kill him.”

Father Vincent was as patient as always, “Every soul is worth saving, Logan. You, above all others, should know that.”

When Logan's father had died, he and his mother had struggled to make ends meet. Although his mother was practically a saint, Logan had become wayward teen, getting into fights, brushing up against the law and selling drugs. When he had reached the bottom of the barrel, when all hope for a future had escaped his grasp, Logan had wandered into a church. He had no where else to go. A rival drug dealer, armed with a handgun, was looking for Logan to kill him. A priest had protected him, putting himself in harm's way between the killer and Logan. The priest managed to talk the killer into sparing Logan's life but also began to mentor the young man, showing him the errors of his ways. That priest had been Father Vincent.

Logan didn't just turn to the priest for blessed weapons, but also for advice. He owed a lot to the priest; Father Vincent was the only father figure he ever had. Logan had a lot of respect for the priest and a lot of love, admiration. Still, what the priest had done was very foolish. Logan said, “So we're going to counsel the kid, Padre? Try to get him to mend his ways?”

Father Vincent's tone was slightly admonishing, “Don't get sarcastic with me, Logan.”

Logan sighed, “Sorry.”

Father Vincent continued, “Serje has sold his soul, accepted a dark curse to use for vengeance. A full exorcism is going to be needed to save him.”

“You're still at the local church?” Logan asked.

“Yes.”

“We'll be there in a few minutes to pick you up.”

On the way to the church, Jewel located Serje Niko's residence. They picked up Father Vincent from the church and headed straight for Serje's house. The home was in a poorer part of the township, most of the homes were basically shacks. Even the roads were in bad shape; the potholes and dirt patches were numerous. The small cluster of homes in this neighborhood were at the foot of the great forest, like a stepping stone into the mighty trees beyond.

Serje's grandfather answered the door, very worried about the three fierce strangers. Then he saw Father Vincent and relaxed. The priest smiled at him and said, “Good day to you, sir.”

Prosti?” The elderly man said.

Logan asked, “You don't speak English?”

The grandfather shook his head no.

Father Vincent said, “We are looking for Serje.”

The old man asked them something in Russian. Father Vincent did his best to answer him but it was clear that the grandfather was worried about whatever trouble his grandson had gotten into. The Three waited patiently for the old man. Finally, the grandfather nodded and came outside past them, out into the front yard and pointed to a door around the side of the house. “Serje,” he pointed.

The group went to the door and knocked. No answer. They knocked again. Still no answer.

Logan tried the door. It was open, so The Three entered.

Father Vincent waited with the grandfather, testing his limited Russian language on the kindly gentleman.

“He's not here,” Logan said frustrated, “Are these kids literally running for the hills? Hiding in the woods away from us?”

“They seem to be one step ahead every time,” Jewel said.

Sephon was quiet, his eyes closed. Then he said, “There is something foul hidden here. Something that has been used to grant the aberrant his strength. A book.”

“Where?” Logan asked.

Sephon didn't move, his eyes were still closed, “The bed.”

Logan tossed the mattress and underneath they saw the dark book. It was missing its front cover but even still they could see that it was very old and foul. When Logan reached for it Sephon said loudly, “Don't touch it!”

Logan snatched his hand back, “Jesus Mary! Is the fucking thing going to blow up or something?”

“You're too attuned with psychic powers to touch it and not be infected by it,” Sephon said, “And I'm too attuned to the spirits. The only one here who can safely handle it is Jewel.”

Jewel sighed. She looked back and forth at her companions, “Thanks guys.” Grimacing, she picked up the book with two fingers as though it were covered in feces, “Now what?”

Sephon was resolute, “We have to destroy it.”

Logan lit a cigarette and took a deep drag, blowing a large cloud of smoke out when he said, “How about we burn the fucking thing?”

Sephon nodded, “That will work.”

They took the book outside. When Serje's grandfather saw it, he was heartbroken. Even at a distance, the book's foulness was easily visible. Father Vincent did his best to comfort him.

Logan pulled out a small bottle of ronsonol lighter fuel that he used to refill his lighter. He squirted a good amount of it all over the pages then lit the book on fire and watched it burn on the sidewalk. Only after the book was completely reduced to ash, did they consider the job done.

All of them were surprised to a see a young pretty girl suddenly speed into the driveway riding a dirt bike. As she took off her helmet, Serje's grandfather rushed to her side, speaking to her in rapid Russian. The girl seemed to be trying to calm the old man down then she looked at Father Vincent and said in a strong accent, “Grandfather tells me you found the vile book.”

Father Vincent nodded solemnly, “Yes, we have.”

Her expression was pleading, “Whatever Serje has done, know that he is a good person. He does not deserve to die!”

“Who said anything about dying?” Logan said, “Who are you?”

The girl said, “My name is Tonja Niselsko. I am Serje's best friend. Please, you have to help him.”

“He's committed murder, Tonja,” Sephon told her gently.

“We'll try to help him if we can,” Jewel assured her, “but if he doesn't want our help or turns on us, we're going to have to defend ourselves.”

Tonja's face was already swollen and her eyes were red from shed tears. Her voice cracked several times as she translated their words into Russian for Serje's grandfather. She said, “You are sure that Serje killed those girls?”

“We already found the bodies,” Logan told her. The Dhelfoi were going to have to swear both the girl and the old man to secrecy or alter their memories after this was all over with.

Tonja told the old man what Logan said and both of them started to weep heavily, leaning onto each other for support. After a few minutes, they collected themselves, speaking to each other in Russian. Tonja finally turned to the others, “As long as you promise to try to help him, that is all we can ask. If Serje has chosen a path of doom, we do not blame you. Just so that you know, Serje would rather talk than fight. He would always stop and pick up litter to throw it away. He loves animals, raising and feeding the babies until they were old enough to be released into the wild. Serje is normally a very shy and gentle person. Whatever evil was in that book has changed him. His grandfather and I are hoping you can help him, but if not, we are ready for the worst.”

Logan didn't know how to respond, so he just nodded and said, “Okay.”

“We can pray for his soul together,” Father Vincent said.

As if they were entering a funeral home, Tonja led Serje's grandfather into the house with Father Vincent close behind them.


Submitted: December 28, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Cthulu45. All rights reserved.

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