(AN: We have now come to the final chapter in this little story. Some things will be tied up, some will be left to be resolved in the next volumes of the Death's Head saga. I for one am simply glad to put this behind me after so many years: I think it was 2005/2006 or so when my brother and I developed the groundwork for the Death's Head, so this story being set in the early 2000s isn't coincidental. That was when it came about. So there is a little bit of relief at having finished something that's been 16 years in the making.)
Thursday night, almost midnight. It was the second time in a week that Officer Dana Susanne Johnson had been called to this very place. There were two other squad cars on the scene with their lights on, but when she came to the church, she could see no visible damage: no fire, no debris, no sign of an explosion. She went to the reporting officer and got the details from him: someone had heard a noise and seen what they described as a "bright light" explode from somewhere near the top of the cathedral.
Bright light, Dana thought to herself. Dr. Lewis?
Drawing her gun, she ran into the cathedral, despite protests from her fellow officers about searching the grounds for explosives. Inside, the lights were all out, and it was nearly pitch black within. Taking out a flashlight in her left hand, she held it next to her gun as she walked into the sanctuary. The first thing she saw, in the middle of the aisle, was a tall man in black with long black hair kneeling over a body that had fallen on the floor.
"Freeze!" she shouted. "Put your hands up and step away from the body!"
"I applaud your diligence, officer," a voice with a thick Middle Eastern accent said in perfect English. "But I must confess I am not your enemy."
"Bullshit!" she replied. "You bastards flew two planes into the World Trade Center. What are you doing in Terre Haute? We have enough problems to worry about as it is."
"You seek the one called Dr. Edward Lewis," the Arab man stated, turning around to officer Johnson with both hands raised to the level of his eyes. "He is here."
"What did you do to him?"
"I reversed the damage that he received from the fall," the Arab replied. "I have paid for it, but it was necessary."
"Fall? What fall? There was an explosion."
"I understand how this may seem to you, but I did not set off the explosion. He did."
"He d..." Dana's words failed her, as into her mind came once more the story of the Marshall incident.
"Now, if you will excuse me, I must borrow something from your residence to keep a promise I made."
"The hell you won't!" Dana retorted, drawing her gun on the Arab and pointing it directly at his head. To her surprise, he took a step closer. "Don't move or I'll shoot!" He moved forward, heedless of her command. Dana squeezed off one round, sure to drop anyone at that close range. Before her eyes, she saw the Arab raise his hand; there was a flash of golden light, and a small cloud of rust and gunpowder fell harmlessly to the cathedral floor. Outside there were cries of "Shots fired!" as the other police officers ran inside.
Once again, another impossible thing happened before officer Johnson's eyes. The Arab held his hand up and golden light, like streams of luminescent sand, poured from between his fingers, enveloping him in a moment. Dana held her hand up in front of her eyes, but when the light faded and she moved her hand the Arab had vanished. Her flashlight pointed down to the body she had seen the Arab kneeling over; Dr. Lewis appeared to be out cold, unresponsive, lying on his back on the ground with eyes open. Just then, the other officers ran inside behind her.
"What's the status?" one of them asked. "Johnson, are you alright?"
"I'm fine," she replied. Her flashlight moved up to the ceiling of the cathedral; there was no hole through which anything might have fallen. Whatever left Dr. Lewis in this state must have done so inside: but then what about the explosion?
"We heard shots fired," another one said.
"It's nothing," she returned. "All clear. Stand down. Go check upstairs to see if you can find out where the bomb went off." The officers went looking for the stairs to the bell towers. Meanwhile, she knelt down by Dr. Lewis' side; there appeared to be no signs of injury, but he was still unresponsive. The real decision was now what to do with him. Once the other officers saw him, they might take him into custody to question him about the explosion. Once his information was run through the police computer system, the jig would be up and he'd be placed under heavy guard and the FBI would be notified. Dana would never know the truth, an innocent man would be put away to cover up the misdeeds of a satanic cult, and justice would not be done.
Putting her gun into its holster, she set her flashlight aside and seized Dr. Lewis by the arms. He was only two inches taller than her, and only a little heavier, being rather slender build himself, but she found carrying his unconscious body to be difficult enough for her. Yet she dragged him toward a side door of the cathedral. What she hoped to gain by this, she didn't know: eventually he would be found, once they had combed the area to make sure there were no remaining explosives. But she knew that it was the right thing to do.
She pushed open the side door: they opened from the inside and hadn't been locked yet. Slowly but surely she brought Dr. Lewis out onto the south side of the church. By this time, she could hear Dr. Lewis stirring from his sleep. Kneeling down at his side, she slapped his face a couple times.
"Get up, you fool!" she said. "Go, before they find you!"
"Huh...what?" he murmured groggily.
"There's no time!" she hissed. "Go, and don't tell me where you've gone!"
Dr. Lewis' eyes opened and he saw the police officer standing over him. He pulled himself up and began to glow with a white light. Dana took a step back, fearing that something might happen. Dr. Lewis turned into a pillar of light that shot upward into the night sky, and then he was gone. She looked after him in wonder, her mouth gaping open. Just then the CB radio on her belt chimed in from the others on the tower, calling to her.
"I'm up at the spires, where the report said the explosion was seen. But, uh...there's no damage. Both towers are intact."
Officer Johnson sighed. "Confirmed. Let's call it a night and wrap it up." She wanted to crawl back to bed now, but she knew that there would be little time for that. She had a report to lay on the desk of the chief tomorrow, come whatever may; and she would have to be up all night to get it ready.
Friday morning. Officer Johnson reported in to the police station with a folder of her own. She walked in to the chief's office and placed them on the desk in front of him. Pausing from his morning coffee to look at the contents, he saw the name on the file: Dr. Adam Salem.
"What the hell is this?" he asked. "I told you to drop this case, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did, sir," Johnson replied. "But before you suspend me, I think you should take a look at the contents of that folder."
Taking his reading glasses from the desk, chief opened the folder and examined some of its contents. "And what exactly am I supposed to be looking at?"
"Testimonies, sir," she replied. "Dr. Adam Salem did not kill himself; he was murdered by a gang of satanists. I have a list of names involved in the killing, and a witness who can testify, given a plea-bargaining."
Chief sighed. "This isn't the 60s, Johnson. Nobody cares what a bunch of drugged up kids are doing after dark."
"Unless somebody dies as a result?" she asked. "There's enough evidence to close the case, and even get a few prosecutions."
Chief looked at the contents again, carefully reading what was written thereon. "I see. Well, you certainly seem to have done a bit of homework. I'll have some guys follow up on those names. In the meanwhile, I want your gun and your badge on my desk by noon: you can have them back after Christmas."
Dana did not expect anything less; but her mouth still hung open in shock just the same. Suspension, even after all that she had done. It was the last straw; her faith in the justice system had been finally broken. Quietly she removed her badge and placed it on the desk, then reached for her holster. But as she did, she paused and sighed.
"If I may speak freely, sir," she asked. "Do we let criminals get away with murder now? I mean, this isn't Detroit or New York: this is Terre Haute."
"I've done my hard work, Johnson," he replied. "Now let me give you a little piece of advice while you haven't got any gray hairs. Nobody gets to the top clean; there are some things that are best left alone, and what you've done here is stir up a hornet's nest. Now I'll have the ACLU and the Satanic Temple breathing down my neck for investigating this; plus we still haven't found Dr. Lewis, and once his connection to Dr. Salem is known, the FBI will be on top of me as well. You've caused this department a whole lot of damage control, Johnson."
"In the pursuit of justice?"
"We live in the real world," chief stated. "Nothing is black and white and nobody believes in justice anymore. Even a small town like Terre Haute isn't immune to the problems of these days. Now unless you have something else to say, I'd ask you kindly to step out of my officer and leave your gun on my desk before lunch."
Dana said nothing as she turned around and slowly walked away. She would stay until noon to clean out her locker and see if any follow-ups were made on the case, but that would be the extent of what she would do. Before noon, the officers chief sent to check out the names on her list came back with bad news: of the four names on her list, only Noelle had turned up. Stacy Williams of Indianapolis was found dead in the bathtub, with both wrists slashed and blood all around her. Aside from notifying next of kin, who happened to be on the west coast, there wasn't anything else to do. Adrian and Stacy were dead, Collin and Carl were missing, and there had been no sign of Julian or Nick Emeriss, or this mysterious Nicole.
Three dead, five missing. The chief would have a difficult time of it indeed; but not so difficult as their families.
Before noon, Dana Susanne Johnson removed her police CB radio, gave it to the dispatch officer, and walked out of the precinct. She would not be seen back in there; she did not leave her gun on the chief's desk.
Back at her house, Dana made a quick examination, in case the Arab man had tried to break in. The windows were intact, the door was still locked, and once she got inside, everything looked exactly the way she had left it last night. After getting out of her police uniform, folding it up and placing it in her dresser, she began packing up, ignoring any calls from the police station. She had enough money to purchase a passport, and possibly a plane ticket to the location that Rabbi Wasserman had translated on the seal: the Caspian Sea, somewhere in Western Asia according to a hasty search on the internet. Without Julian or the others, the case of Dr. Shalmonov had reached a dead end; now she would have to seek out Dr. Lewis all on her own. For what reason she did not know...or perhaps she did and did not wish to admit it to herself? For something to distract her, she put on the tape of Dr. Shalmonov's video diary from last night, rewinding it to the beginning so that she would not miss what the explosion had taken. Just about that point, she paused in her packing to pay close attention to what was onscreen.
"...as crazy as this sounds...I think it's entirely possible that this Nick Emeriss could in fact be Mastema. If this is true, I will have to give this information to Ed as soon as I am able. If the devil really does exist, then maybe Someone else exists too. I know, this is crazy. But I'm not one to doubt something just because it's bizarre: it might actually be real. If so, then I repeat what I said before: the Death's Head must be reformed."
The tape ended. Dana went for the last one; the final message. It was then that she realized that the last tape was missing. The words of the Arab man came back to her mind, almost forgotten by the orderly state of her apartment when she arrived. Suddenly there was a flash of golden light coming from the bathroom. Picking up her gun, she slowly made her way over to the bathroom and turned around, hoping to catch the intruder. But there was no one, not even any sign of forced entry: all that remained was a piece of paper taped onto the bathroom mirror. Upon it was written four words in English letters: St. Benedict's Saturday morning.
Dana did not get a wink of sleep for the rest of that night. Instead she lay awake on her bed, listening for sounds of intrusion, with her gun safely tucked away underneath her pillow.
Saturday. Dana's lack of sleep from the inexplicable appearance of the note in her apartment meant that she slept through her alarm. Cursing herself for not waking up on time, she quickly made herself presentable, dressed in a blue pant-suit, and made her way back to the zenith of her problems for the past two weeks: St. Benedict's Cathedral. To her surprise, she found it open and slowly made her way inside. She passed the font of holy water at the front; it was strange to her Baptist upbringing, and so she gave it little heed beyond a quick glance.
Towards the front of the sanctuary, kneeling down before the altar, was a black figure. Could it be the Arab? Her gun was hidden in a pocket of her suit's jacket, and she placed her hands on it in case he tried anything. Step by step she approached, quietly and taking soft steps: the vaulted ceiling did her no favors in trying to muffle her approach. The closer she came to the altar, she noticed that the hair of the figure kneeling in front was not black, like that of the Arab man.
It was white.
Dana froze. Could it be Dr. Lewis, after all this time? Had he really come back to this place? What was he doing here? Where had he been? Why had he chosen to re-appear now? Her grip relaxed against the gun and her right hand fell to her side.
"Dr. Lewis, I presume?" she asked.
"If you're here to arrest me," came the voice of the good doctor. "I'm afraid I can't allow that; not this time."
"Would you believe it, I'm not here to arrest you," she replied. "I should, though. You've caused my department quite a lot of stress."
"It was not my intent."
"Well, it happened, intent or no. Like, here's what I don't understand: why did you suddenly reveal your secret to me after all these years of keeping it hidden?"
At this, Dr. Lewis lifted up his head. "I've been thinking about that this past week. I guess I was in a vulnerable position and needed an ally, after the death of Dr. Salem."
"And you thought I was going to be your ally?"
"You were my only option."
Dana sighed. "A fat lot of good that did both of us."
"What do you mean?"
"I've been suspended for my work on Dr. Salem's murder."
"'Murder?'" Dr. Lewis asked. "Then you believe me?"
"Yes, I believe you," Dana sighed. "Got a confession from one of his killers this Thursday: the rest are either dead or fled the country. You wouldn't believe some of the things I've seen and heard about this week."
"I can barely believe it myself. I thought I had it all figured out; but then this mysterious person, Nick or Nicole Emeriss, appears out of nowhere. Dr. Salem seemed to think that he was the devil."
"You know her?"
"She broke me out of prison."
"Now why would the devil help you?"
"She wanted to pit us against each other. More than that, I'm as much in the dark as you are."
"Maybe not," said Dana. "You and Dr. Salem had a long correspondence; I pulled video diaries from his apartment. How much did you know about his secret research? Just who or what is this Death's Head that keeps popping up everywhere?"
At this, Dr. Lewis rose up and turned around to face Dana. He was wearing his sunglasses, and his mouth was curled in suspicion. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I think you might know," she retorted. "And I'm getting to the bottom of this, one way or another. I want to know who you are, Dr. Lewis, where your powers come from, and why this person who may or may not be the devil was trying to pit us against each other."
"I'm afraid I have no answers to your questions, officer," Dr. Lewis replied. "And I have my own questions that need to be answered."
"Is that right?" she asked. "So where does that leave us, then?"
"It leaves you here, officer, where you belong; in Terre Haute."
"And where does it leave you, doctor?"
"East? Like how far east? Delaware? New York? The Caspian Sea?"
"If you're not going to arrest me, officer, I ask that you please leave me in peace," said Dr. Lewis. "I've suffered enough this week already." She turned to leave, but then he told her to wait.
"Who killed Adam?"
"A group of satanists," said Dana.
"And? Have they been apprehended?"
"One of them was killed in an altercation earlier this week, another killed herself; three others are missing, but the one we did find is going to make an appeal for a plea-bargain to get a lighter sentence."
"You should not make deals with these people, officer. They are the worst kind of scum around."
"That may be, but Noelle Smith was just a confused kid who got in with the wrong crowd. She doesn't deserve a life sentence."
"But Dr. Salem wasn't the only person these people killed," said Dr. Lewis. "There's a body in a refrigerator in the basement of the Immanuel Lutheran Church; I would bet anything that they killed it and hid it there to cover their tracks."
"I would love to help, but I'm not in any position to be coming to the police. I didn't turn in my gun when I was put on suspended leave. I'm sure chief will have my ass for this, but it's necessary."
"Necessary?" asked Dr. Lewis. "These people do not fear bullets, officer."
"And just what will they fear? You?"
"I don't know. I don't have any answers, and that's why I'm here."
"You think God is going to help you out here?"
"He gave me these gifts, there must be a reason why."
"Okay, let's say that, for argument's sake, you're right. I mean, if there's a devil, then maybe there's a God too." Dana could scarcely believe the words that were coming out of her mouth; after one week, she had gone from a staunch nonbeliever to an agnostic. "Why can't He just snap His fingers and fix your problems for you? Why does He need you or me?"
Dr. Lewis sighed. "Fight and God will grant the victory."
"Is that from the Bible?" There was a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"Joan of Arc," he replied. "I always loved whenever my class would come to the 15th century: I'd spend a few weeks about her. Always my favorite."
Dana said nothing. She felt as though she had spoken too soon with her discussion with Dr. Lewis. There were things she had to do for herself before she was in a position to depart in pursuit of him. And she knew so little about Joan of Arc that commenting would only make her seem foolish. Instead, she turned once more to leave; but again Dr. Lewis stopped her.
"You were wrong, you know. You said that my opening up to you did neither of us any good. It brought you back to God, and that's good enough in my book."
"I'm not back, doctor, just...open to the possibility, that's all. What about you? What good did opening up do for you?"
"We'll see," was his cryptic response.
At that he turned around and walked over toward the altar. Dana did not leave: she wanted to see where he left from in order to know which way her pursuit might take her. He knelt down behind the altar and, to Dana's surprise, brought out a video-tape. She took a step closer to get a better look: she could have sworn she saw something written on the label; it might have been 'Last Words.'
Then, before her very eyes, Dr. Edward C. Lewis departed in a flash of white light and was never seen in Terre Haute again.
As it turned out, flying from the United States to Azerbaijan was not as easy as one might think. Turmoil in the east made air-traffic a nightmare, therefore he decided to go by way of Turkey, then run across Anatolia until he came to Shahdagh; there his search would begin. He had gotten himself a passport years ago, operating under the name of Edward Lipsee - his mother's maiden name. After the encounter on Thursday night, he had spent Friday in fervent prayer, only stopping for a few brief moments to purchase plane tickets online. He would be able to depart at a moment's notice, and as soon as he had found the tape, he took it back to his apartment, stowed it into his backpack - his only bag and therefore his carry-on - and hightailed it to the Indianapolis International Airport.
Into his backpack he had also stowed his in-flight entertainment: a portable VHS player with a tiny square screen. It had been stowed beneath the altar at St. Benedict's along with the tape. Putting a pair of headphones he had gotten from one of the flight attendants into the jack, he put the tape into the player. He gasped: on the screen he saw Dr. Adam Shalmonov, his best friend, alive one last time.
"Hello, Ed. If you're watching this, it means that I have died. Your friend Faruuk gave me some of the details; almost like he knows what has been happening. He says there's no way to avoid it, and that there's no future in which you do what you need to do if I survive." He sighed. "So I'm going to level with you about the Death's Head.
"Even for the records my family has kept, they're incomplete. The trail runs cold around the time when Azerbaijan was assimilated into the Soviet Union, with fragments right up until the Germans invaded during the Second World War. Before that, there's hints, fragments, from all over Eurasia; the earliest dates I could find were from the early 6th century AD. According to legend, they're a group of demon-slayers who used the Book of Raziel to grant seven of their leading members with untold power...but at a terrible price. More than that I can't say, but they're supposed to have a monastery in Azerbaijan, over the place where the Blood Legion were buried.
"When the seal was unearthed in Hungary, I translated it and found your name written on it along with several others, including that of Faruuk. What this means I don't know, and unfortunately I don't have the time to look into it for myself. You will have to go east to find the hidden monastery of the Death's Head and make sure that the Blood Legion are never released. I have a theory about who they might be: according to legend, our mutual 'friend' Mastema struck a deal with God after the Flood. You see, the demons survived and there were thousands of them and they were plaguing Noah and his family, so Noah prayed that God would get rid of the demons. And as He was about to, Mastema asked that one third be allowed to remain and tempt humans: the others were sealed away and have never been heard from again. I wouldn't like to imagine the literal hell on earth that would happen if they were ever freed." At this he took off his horn-rimmed glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"I told you to keep testing your powers, Ed, and I still hold to that. But if it turns out that you got your powers because of the Book of Raziel, I want you to promise me that you'll take the greatest caution and restraint with them. Legend has it that the more the leaders used their powers, the more they 'became what they wielded' and lost who they were. I have no idea what this means, but it doesn't sound good at all. You're a good friend, Ed; I know I've been focusing so much on you, what with researching your powers, but I want you to know that I value our friendship. You were the first real friend I made when I moved to America. Faruuk didn't tell me anything about what you will do, only what happens to me and what I must do: but I can tell that you will do great things. I am proud of you already, even though I will never see you do the amazing, brave, and probably incredibly stupid things that will happen. Shalom, Ed...and Godspeed."
The tape ended, leaving Dr. Edward Cecil Lewis in tears. He sighed, then looked out the window of the plane. A bright day and a future of uncertainty, but he would be facing it with the blessing of his dear friend. It was enough.
(AN: The first steps have been taken, and now a new adventure awaits in the east. What will Edward find when he leaves for Azerbaijan? Will Dana Johnson follow him? Who is the woman in black? Have we seen the last of Julian and the others?)
(Well, I promised when I wrote about the Ringwraiths on the fan-fiction website that I wouldn't delve into the dark side for a while, and I broke that rule today to finally get another part of this epic saga done. It deserved to be told, after sitting in development for sixteen years [yes, you heard that right]! I hope that it won't take another eight years for me to publish the second part, now that I've gotten names down and have a decent grasp on story-telling and have at least some idea of where I want to go. Conversely, to keep from being too bogged down in the dark side, I have another epic that I've been thinking about doing that I might do first instead of the third part. Until then, fiction-press readers, stay safe and stay well.)